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100 Hottest Restaurants 2015
By The Editors | Photo: Angie Mosier | With contributions from Alison Abbey, Wendell Brock, Austin Holt, Stephanie Davis Smith and Chris Watkins | January 16, 2015
Our new-and-improved rundown of the most talked-about restos of the moment!
8. KIMBALL HOUSE
303 E. Howard Ave. | Decatur | 404.378.3502 | @kimballhousebar | $15-$29 | P
There’s something indescribably fascinating about watching a true mixologist at work. A thousand barkeeps can whip up a satisfactory Manhattan to be sure, but there’s a line drawn when housemade tinctures and liquor-infused ice cubes begin populating the back bar. At this intersection, the traditional idea of bartending goes out the window. Alchemy is a more suitable term.
Such is the thought process involved in watching Miles Macquarrie at work. Kitchen aside (we’ll get to that in a moment because it’s exemplary), the floor show behind the bar is part of the reason we keep showing up at Kimball House. In the glass tonight: La Sorciére, a dangerous, but sultry combination of absinthe, apricot, strega, lemon and sauternes. We are many, many miles away from a simple recreation of an old standard at this bar. In this vaulted, ancient room along the rail lines of Old Terminus, magic is happening on polished mahogany.
For a while, we were afraid this defunct train depot just on the outskirts of Decatur Square was cursed. Notable restaurants would come, and they would go—such a shame for such a cool location. Then came Kimball House, and our curiosity was sparked. This wasn’t a collective of budding restaurateurs, after all. The men involved—Macquarrie, Matt Christison, Bryan Rackley and Jesse Smith—had a dream to realize and came into town gunning with the collective street cred to get it done.
The kitchen rests on the shoulders of chef Jeffrey Wall, who has crafted an ever evolving selection of bucolic meats and fresh, local veggies, prepared with pinache: We’ll leave the final decision to you, but start with the creamy lobster bisque, and make sure an order of the tannic roasted sunchokes finds it way into the mix.
Unless, of course, your tastes lead you to a more Old World experience: The raw bar at Kimball House boasts an absurd selection of oysters from all three coasts and pairs perfectly with the eatery’s absinthe service, as meticulously assembled as one would find in the most understated backwater bar in Montmartre.
Kimball House is a collective of qualities forged together, almost chaotically, but never unintentionally so. It’s a pristine recapturing of a distant age: of a time when food was lovely; service unpretentious yet luxurious; and the drinks, meticulous. And, if such a time never existed, it does now, here.
Start with: Lobster cocktail or beef tartare
Main course: Smoked duck breast
Sip on: Bottled Old-Fashioned
End with: Absinthe service
Try the three-course Kimball House steak dinner featuring 6 oz. filet mignon, 12 oz. New York strip, celery root soup, grilled escarole caesar salad, potato gratin, charred broccoli raab and sauce bordelaise.