As most of you know by now, my universe of steak houses has three orbits around perfection. The inner orbit, closest to perfect, has only one establishment in it, Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi. The second orbit, a little more distant from the sun of perfection, includes the likes of Folk’s Folly in Memphis, Tico’s in Jackson, Mississippi and the Crescent City in New Orleans. The Hunter’s Pub falls into a much larger third group of very good steak purveyors including the likes of Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s, Fleming’s and Smith & Wolensky.
There are certain aspects of ambience and location that I find interesting, such as the case of Doe’s which is in a modest old grocery store in a transitional area of town. This can make a trip to Doe’s an interesting experience, but I’m really all about the steaks. I like good salads and potatoes as much as anyone, but I still judge a steak house on the quality, preparation and presentation of their steaks.
The Hunter’s Pub is located on a country crossroad about fifteen miles from Columbus, Georgia. The surrounding land is mainly hardwood forest and is home to a variety of local hunting clubs. The Pub started out as a country store that attracted an after-hunt crowd of beer drinkers and snackers. Over time, the owner decided to add hamburgers and such and this eventually led to somebody suggesting that he grill some steaks.
On my first visit to the Pub, I was totally unprepared for the Saturday night mob scene. We arrived about 6:30 in the evening and there were cars and trucks jamming the parking lot and lining the road for a quarter of a mile in all directions. When we finally made it to the concrete block building, there were dozens of people waiting on the porch. I had a sinking feeling that we should have had reservations, however, I later found out that there is no such thing as a reservation, only a waiting list.
The young lady managing the waiting list was very pleasant and assured us that things moved fairly fast and that a table would be available soon. We went back outside and took our place among the waiting horde. The hopeful diners could best be described as an eclectic group. The attire ranged from full camo to suits. In this part of Georgia, the locals, as is the case in most of the rural south, are mildly amused by the city folk who are clearly out of their element. Throw in the tourists who have seen the Pub recommended in dining guides and you have an interesting cast of characters.
We mingled for over an hour during which probably twenty parties of diners left. A like number were seated and still more came to wait on the crowded porch. I decided to go in and check on our position on the waiting list and found that we were sixteenth in line. The smiling young lady assured us that the wait would not be much longer. I began to notice that people who had arrived after we came were being seated while we were still waiting.
I gave it another hour and went in to recheck our position on the list. We had moved up to twelfth. I pointed out to the young woman that there had been at least twenty parties seated and we had only advanced by four positions. She gave me a forty watt smile and said,
“Of course, we always seat our regular customers before we seat folks who are probably just a one-time visitor.”
“How do you know who’s who?” I asked.
“If someone comes enough for me to recognize them, then I move them up in the seating line, if y”all show up for a couple of weeks in a row, then I’d move you along as well.”
“Well, you seem to have a great many regulars here tonight.” I mused, just a little piqued.
“We always do.” She replied and I went back to the porch.
Normally, I would not even consider waiting for several hours to dine, but tonight the weather was very pleasant, the crowd congenial and I recognized a perverse logic in the Pub’s seating policy. About 9:30 we were seated and by that time I was so hungry that I really didn’t care how good the steak might be, I just wanted it served as fast as possible. I remember the steak being very good, but I would have probably enjoyed the steak at Western Sizzlin I was so desperate.
With my previous experience in mind, Mike and I arrived at the Pub just a little after five on a recent Saturday evening. Cars and trucks filled the parking lot and had begun to line the adjacent roads. There was no one waiting on the porch and we were seated at a table for six immediately. The auxiliary dining room we were in is joined to the main building by a shared kitchen and has its own wait staff. A very pleasant young woman introduced herself and asked for our drink orders.
We both ordered the rib eye, which came with potatoes, salad and Texas toast. I mentioned earlier that I really didn’t care too much about the trimmings and concentrated on the steak. This policy will serve you well at the Hunter’s Pub. The steak was of very good quality and perfectly prepared. I have observed that most country steak houses have a real affinity for Worcestershire sauce and lace their marinades with far too much. The marinade at the Pub is very well seasoned and while there may be a touch of Worcestershire, it was not identifiable in the final taste. Normally I don’t comment on the cost of a good meal, but in the case of the Pub, I feel bound to say that the steaks are a very reasonably priced. When you consider the quality and excellent preparation the Pub delivers, it is a good value proposition.
11269 Highway 219, Hamilton, GA 31811