Restaurant Review: Revival

posted on February 16, 2016 at 12:47 pm
 Carolina catfish smothered in low country tomato gravy Photo by Erik Meadows

Carolina catfish smothered in low country tomato gravy
Photo by Erik Meadows

Kevin Gillespie‘s mosaic of Southern cooking influences can be traced back to the food both of his grandmothers cooked when he was a kid. His mother’s mother, Coylene Higgins, was old Atlanta and cooked, in Gillespie’s words, “high society indulgent food prepared with ingredients only the rich [had] access to like cream, butter, and flour.” His father’s mother, Geneva Gillespie, was from the mountains and prepared Appalachian “country cooking,” where no ingredient is spared.

Higgins, who encouraged Gillespie to become a chef, also instilled in him the importance of the family meal. She is one of two reasons Gillespie named his latest restaurant Revival. Since she was a very religious woman, he thought the name would resonate with his family. His restaurant also revives his family’s Southern traditions, such as the thank you-note that comes with the bill.

Revival is Gillespie’s second restaurant since departing Woodfire Grill. Gunshow, an experiment in chef-driven small plates served dim-sum style, opened in 2013 to much acclaim. When I reviewed Gunshow in 2014, however, I found improper serving temperatures, seasoning imbalances, and lofty price tags to be the restaurant’s downfall. At seven-month-old Revival, Gillespie accomplishes much of what he set out to create — a Southern, family-style restaurant that resembles an upscale version of the historic Colonnade. But the same errors that plagued Gunshow also crop up at Revival.

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