Some O.G. foodies remember the days before Fountain Square’s buzzy transformation, back when Shelby, Virginia, and Prospect converged in front of a scruffy little wine bar called Deano’s Vino. People loved it, but that probably had a lot to do with its prime location. When new owners gutted the 114-year-old building in 2015 and rebuilt it from the subfloor up, they added a polished dining room that morphs into a live-music venue on Friday nights, a beer garden, and a professional kitchen where Lane Milburn landed in 2016. The chef gave Pioneer’s wayward menu a northwestern Italian overhaul—in addition to rustic pasta go-to’s (spaghetti pomodoro, rigatoni with rabbit sugo, and linguine tangled around littleneck clams), Milburn introduced a meatball appetizer with tomato-rich Sunday Supper Sauce, dry-fried chicken wings with Calabrian chili oil and ribbons of fresh mint, and a lusty cast-iron strip steak with smoked guanciale. Serious cocktails include the Strega-laced Stay Level, its herbal bitterness meant for someone who knows what they are sipping. Indeed, from the minute you step inside the clubby dim space to that final swig of Underberg, Pioneer is simply intoxicating.
NEW THIS YEAR
Weekend brunch is now served.
“Something that flies under the radar is how aggressively priced our wines by the bottle are. We also have 15 draft lines that are marked down for Wednesday pint nights.”— JB Andrews, general manager and beverage director
1110 Shelby St., 317-986-6761