Forbes Travel Guide “Catching Up With Nashville’s Most Innovative Restaurateur”


article by Forbes Travel Guide written by Claire Gibson

Brothers Ben and Max Goldberg are responsible for some of Nashville‘s most widely acclaimed restaurants — most notably, The Catbird Seat, The Patterson House and the tongue-in-cheek Paradise Park. When these two are not cruising in their customized 1984 Chevy El Camino, they’re scheming for what’s next in the Music City’s culinary scene. On December 4, their company, Strategic Hospitality, plans to open Pinewood Social, a restaurant inspired by The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 exploration into the importance of public gathering spaces. Located in Nashville’s Rolling Mill Hill area, the restaurant will span 13,000 square feet in a historic trolley barn. Complete with shuffleboard, private karaoke rooms, bowling lanes, a 4-foot-deep pool and an upscale beverage program (not to mention Americana-style breakfast, lunch and dinner menus designed by former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger), Pinewood Social is one of the city’s most highly anticipated openings in some time.

Here, Ben Goldberg shares how they brought Pinewood Social to life:

Walk us through the vision of your space.
We have an entire trolley barn and an outdoor green space with a swimming pool that will look out over the Cumberland River and downtown. The inside of the space is broken up into thirds. The first third is sort of a living room area, where people can come in, plug in their computers, work or talk with friends. It’s going to be a whole bunch of low-slung couches, chairs, ottomans, things for people to hang out and be comfortable on. The middle third is a more traditional restaurant and bar space, with a big four-sided bar in the center of the room surrounded by banquettes that face the inner space. And the back third, we’ll have six reclaimed bowling lanes — original wood lanes and wood gutters. It will feel old and antique, nothing like the composite lanes we all grew up bowling on in the ’80s.

Why the name Pinewood Social?
Well, originally, the bowling lanes were made out of pine, so we wanted to carry that name, but more importantly, and coincidentally, our grandfather had a company called Pinewood in Centerville, Tennessee. Once we had an opportunity to have actual pine bowling lanes, we were talking about pinewood a lot with the bowling guys. So, we were like, “Hell, that’s kind of fun. Let’s continue the family business here. Let’s stick with the name.” We still have the funny notepads that say “Pinewood” from my grandfather and that kind of cool stuff. He’s not with us anymore, but my grandmother is, and she’s really happy.

Your concept came in part from Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place. Tell us more about that inspiration.
I was actually given that book as a gift the day I signed my first lease. But I didn’t get around to reading it until a couple of years after that, but I was fascinated by it. Basically, the book talks about how, in America, most people’s lives are centered around going to work and going home. But in other countries, people have this dynamic third space, whether it’s a park, pub or shop — somewhere they hang out outside of their work and their home. The book argues that there’s more to life than going home with your family and going to work with your co-workers and that, if you’re able to find a third space that’s dynamic enough and you can meet and engage with people there, your life tends to be happier.

You’re hoping Pinewood Social will be that third space for Nashville?
Exactly. As my brother and I have traveled, talked and walked out of places, I’ve realized that I personally love the social interaction of working or meeting people in a third space that isn’t a time-constrained restaurant or bar environment. Even if you go to a coffee shop, I’m always so fascinated by everyone else and what they’re working on. All we wanted to do was create a larger environment that was productive and had a few more offerings than a traditional one-stop. We’ll be open from something like 7 a.m. to midnight. We wanted to extend the hours out so people can do lots of things in that one place.

What was it like working with acclaimed chef Josh Habiger to design a comprehensive menu?
Josh is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life. We’ve worked together for several years, a couple of different times now. He moved to Nashville from Minnesota to open the Patterson House with us. So, as the Catbird Seat has grown, I think there was a clear opportunity for us to open restaurants with Josh that are his concepts. So, as we were talking about those opportunities, I got really excited. I work really well with Josh, and we’ve bantered a little about what we’re going to do. We’re looking forward to testing and playing.