Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder at Kimball House

posted on July 14, 2014 at 8:50 am

Miles Macquarrie works his liquid magic. Photo by James Camp.

Every few months, a certain type of food porn starts trending on local social media. A couple of years ago during the Neapolitan pizza craze, it was upskirt crust shots flashing char marks. Currently, the hot photos feature platters of oysters at Kimball House — the more levels, the better.

Before the Decatur restaurant opened in September 2013, Atlanta had standard oyster options. Kimball House, however, is determined to make Atlanta a bona fide oyster town. On most evenings, the oyster menu runs 20 deep with varieties from Georgia, British Colombia, and elsewhere. Each oyster is presented on the menu like a wine: “citrus, ripened tomato, charred scallion” describes the Howland’s Landing of Duxbury, Mass. The oysters are served on glistening, ice-packed pewter trays decorated with pieces of dark green seaweed. A wedge of lemon and a tiny brown medicine bottle filled with mignonette are all that’s needed to bring out each briny bivalve’s distinct qualities.

Over the last decade, the Decatur train depot has been home to a series of unsuccessful restaurants. The late-1800s building seemed destined for haunted real estate status. That was until Matt Christison, Miles Macquarrie, Bryan Rackley, and Jesse Smith — who worked together at the Brick Store Pub — came up with a plan to open a bar. With guidance and financial backing from Mike Gallagher, Tom Moore, and Dave Blanchard, who own the Brick Store Pub and Leon’s Full Service, the group transformed the old depot into a love letter to cocktails, oysters, and the hotel restaurants of yesteryear.

The space borrows much of its romantic and masculine aesthetic from those old American hotels. In fact, the restaurant was named after Atlanta’s Kimball House Hotel, which spanned an entire city block near Five Points, 1870-1883, until it was destroyed by a fire. A second and larger Kimball House was built in 1885, but was razed in 1959 to build a parking deck.

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