Leon’s is a newer eatery in Decatur, well liked by print media and bloggers, long lived on “most talked about” charts and an inducer of enormous quantities of flowery and ornate prose. Something about this place induces people to indulge their writing muse. I’m not 100% sure why. Is it the gently curved walls? Is it the spacious interior setting? Is it Conehead style mass quantities of alcohol? I showed up on a weekday to find out.
One thing I’m sure of is that it’s not the receptionist, whose favorite phrase when I was trying to speak to her was “I can’t hear you.” Leons was indeed noisy and perhaps I shouldn’t complain so, as I’m partly deaf in one ear. But it’s annoying, and while I could see clean tables when I entered, I was told I had a ten minute wait to get to any table. The receptionist here isn’t the fun part of the equation.
I ended up at the bar, in front of a set of bitters and cone shaped measuring cups. Perhaps it was for the best, as the bartender that served me knew his food, his drinks, and was amiable and talkative. Particularly in bars, it’s the busiest people that seem to deliver the best service. I have a lot of trust in good bartenders and Leons appears to have a crew of them. They’re cooperative. If one can’t help you, another will.
Inside, you can actually see how this graceful building was transformed from an old gas station. The doors of the station are easily visible from the bar, as are the rails on which the doors once lifted. The bar itself is a ‘U’ shaped thing, with straight wings on the ends of the ‘U’, and by my count, 13 beers on tap. Behind the bar is a rack of tapped alcohols, so high there is a ladder so that bartenders can reach them. On the very left there is an opening into the kitchen, and above that opening is a rack of alcohol heavily in use.
Some notes about food. If you expect to eat as if you were in, oh, Golden Corral, you’ll be disappointed here. Serving sizes are smaller. The point of a bar, after all, is to drink and Leon’s doesn’t want you so full that you can’t indulge. Not that you won’t get food at Leons, but in all honesty, I was hungry when I arrived and I was hungry by the time I got home.
The beer selection is small but heavy on high gravity beers, and not just high gravity, but the kind of high gravity that could have come from brewing George Washington’s beer. A fair number of the beers had alcohol contents around 10%, and I ended up picking a brew around a mere 5%. Terrapin evidently brews a IPA these days that they call a Terrapin Hopsecutioner, and I had that. It was hoppy but not overwhelming.
Leon’s has plenty of snacks and starters, and I had two of them before the night was over. One were Leon’s chicken liver croquettes, and the other was a currywurst. I really liked the croquettes. I thought the chicken croquettes were better plain than with the pepper mayo, which did more to obscure the flavor than enhance it. The currywurst, though good, was a triumph of flowery language to fancy up a simple side. Not that a grilled fat dog doesn’t have its place, but a $6.00 dog?
The entree I had was a mountain trout. The trout serving was small but good. There was a mound of red greens with the trout and a layering of nuts, the skin was a little crispy and I really enjoyed the entree.
The best part of the evening was a special, the Belgian beignets. The story I had from the bartender is that Leon’s was making Belgian waffles and the waffle iron kept breaking, so they had to do something with the batter. So, they fried up these round treats. They were, in a word, wonderful. Spiced apples were on one side of the plate and there was just a hint of sweet syrup in the bottom of the plate. You could bite off an end and dip the soft off white dough into the syrup, and it was a bit of heaven on earth.
To summarize: Leon’s has excellent cooperative bar staff and it has a lot of smaller plates of food. The idea is to get you to explore the menu and have a good time. Because the items are smaller, you’ll end up spending a bit more than you expect if you come here to eat. But I’d recommend it. Come with an empty stomach and a full wallet. Sit where you can, and if you want a table, hope the receptionist can actually hear you.
Verdict: Fun eatery with good, interesting food and superb bar staff. Highly recommended.
Leon’s Full Service
131 East Ponce de Leon Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030