I’ve been trying to get to LLoyd’s since it opened six months ago, but friends have resisted it as “just another gastropub” in our hard-drinking city. I thought this was bullshit, considering that I don’t drink but became an instant fan of the owners’ first spot, the cheap and quirky Victory Sandwich Shop when it opened in Inman Park nine years ago. That was followed by a second location in Decatur and two other oddities — S.O.S. Tiki Bar and Little Trouble. Besides pub grub, all of these, but especially the new LLoyd’s, share one rather gay feature: irony.
Generally, LLoyd’s employs irony’s sub-category of campy, retro devices to comment on the absurd pretensions of the present. Thus its website contains language like, “What not to expect: craft beer, good looking people, cool music, or anything fussy.” It doesn’t offer a complicated cocktail program and it promises to be a place “where nobody knows your name.” The hetero-campy décor includes lots of knotty-wood paneling, bits of pleather and velvet, and beveled lit signs above the bar that go back, like, as far as the Majestic. My friends and I instantly loved the feel of the place, even though we violated the claim that no good looking people would be present.
The challenge of irony in all its forms is that if you’re taking a swipe at present-day inanities, your retro alternatives better werk, girl. LLoyd’s décor scores. But the menu falters with its entirely prosaic resurrection of mediocre diner food. The point is to produce something so deliciously nostalgic that you will pound the table with your fist and curse the day you spent $20 on a tapas plate of organic micro-greens atop the braised antennae of free-range escargots. LLoyd’s did not come close to pulling that off the evening I visited with two friends. A very meh baked and griddled meatloaf — the star of every retro menu —was served with a repulsively sweet ketchup sauce. My eternally ravenous friend ordered it because it came with all-you-can-eat mashed potatoes. They were dry and tasteless. I remain unconvinced they weren’t instant. My order, the fried chicken sandwich, was frankly an insult. The menu described its breast as “buttermilk-brined, secret-spiced, and deep-fried.” Then it was allegedly coated in “melted cheddar, gruyere cheese, and hot honey mustard.” Nope. The breast was topped with enough tasteless lettuce and tomato to turn the sandwich into a towering pillar. I appreciate the drama, but no flavor was there. (Compare it to the fried-chicken sandwich at Little Rey and you’ll see that the theatrical can also be delicious.) My side of mac and cheese was drier than your mama’s three-day-old leftovers.
The evening’s winner was the blue-plate special of roasted chicken whose charred skin was coated in a sweet glaze. My friend chose sides of elote — grilled corn on the cob drizzled with crema, Mexican style — and broccoli grilled to the point of blackened sweetness. I hope you’re noticing the pervasive sweetness of all these dishes.
LLoyd’s hosts snow-crab, prime-rib, and fried-chicken specials respectively on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. The restaurant is open only for dinner daily, except Sunday when brunch is also served. That menu features a dish called Bologna Benedict. It includes fried beef bologna, a split and griddled biscuit, a poached egg, creole mustard hollandaise, and chives. Now that sounds like the kind of craziness I love at Victory. I’d order it.