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Owners Matt Christison, Bryan Rackley, Miles Macquarrie and Jesse Smith in the Square Feet Studio-designed Kimball House.

House Rules

by Austin Holt | Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee | Men's Book Atlanta magazine | May 28, 2014

The popularity of the city’s newest cocktail mecca, Kimball House, is evident as I wade my way into a well-heeled and enthusiastic crowd of foodies, and I’m eager to try it all. Set in a repurposed train depot a couple of blocks from Decatur’s main square, Kimball House’s masculine sensibility is drawing crowds. And the towering wood-and-brass bar is king.

The ambience suggests a time when ingenuity was served in a highball glass, accompanied by a chaser of vintage charm. We’d say they don’t make bars like this anymore—although, apparently, they do.

As I wait for the next available table (reservations are cordially not accepted here), I order a Diablo Rojo from Miles Macquarrie, co-owner and the affable man behind the bar who has helped Kimball House garner a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist nod for Outstanding Bar Program this year. At first sip, it’s apparent that this H&F alum has exceeded his own hype—the sharpness of mezcal and tequila is tactfully cut by the citrusy tinge of orange seltzer and lime, and a spicy tap of liquefied ginger. A single Campari ice cube, I’m told, would transform the flavor spectrum by the time I reach the halfway mark, so I should take my time to savor. The guys behind Kimball House have crafted a damned extraordinary bar.

Later, seated in a quiet corner, a remodeled gin and tonic (dubbed the Queen of Diamonds) accompanies a corpulent selection of oysters, individually plucked from some of the finest estuaries in North America and Canada. I recall a friend in Seattle romanticizing about these mollusks: “It’s the only food,” he said, “that tastes like where it comes from.” Atlanta’s on an oyster kick right now, but it hardly gets better than the a la carte selection in this well-appointed space. A tricoastal representation—with notes of melon, milk, brine and black pepper—accompany the cocktail list splendidly. The menu’s oyster descriptors are conversation starters in and of themselves: “creamy, acidic vegetal and petite.”

Having sufficiently extolled the virtues of the raw bar, I arrive at the winning ways of the kitchen. The menu changes daily, tailored to take advantage of ingredients’ availability and freshness and includes a carefully curated list of meat, fish and vegetable plates. This night, a duck leg confit shines with subtle hints of orange, celery root and fiddlehead fern. Impeccably grilled trout with root vegetables and sonora wheat berries is sweet and earthy. A plate of roasted sunchokes with oyster mushrooms and hazelnut puree offers a pleasant change of texture, which cleanse the palate before I dive back into a silky beef tartare and another round of victuals from the raw bar.

A few more oysters, 30 grams of caviar and a selection from the absinthe service later, I float out the door having indulged in the most refreshing, casual fine-dining experience I’ve had in ages.

Kimball House
303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur, 404.378.3502

What to Drink: Let Macquarrie be your guide, but you can’t go wrong with a Diablo Rojo. That, and the absinthe service is like watching a well-choreographed dance.

Who’s There: A neighborhood catchall. Turner Broadcasting executives, cardiologists, fellow restaurateurs, cocktail enthusiasts, oyster junkies, suburban adventurers and aficionados of anachronimity are all commingling.

Dress: Neither suits nor jeans are out of place here