The the team behind Brick Store Pub and Leon’s Full Service opens its new bar and restaurant in the old Decatur train depot on East Howard Avenue tonight.
Dubbed Kimball House in homage to a pair of historic Atlanta hotels of the early 1900s, the elegantly refurbished space was designed by Square Feet Studio and features a towering back bar area as the focal point, ornate library-like seating nooks and vintage tables and chairs.
Look for a raw bar with a large selection of oysters and a full dinner menu from chefs Jeffery Wall and Philip Meeker. Miles Macquarrie, formerly of Leon’s, is charge of a sophisticated cocktail program that features classics and originals, along with carefully curated wine and craft beer lists.
There are seven partners involved in Kimball House, including Macquarrie and longtime friends and former Brick Store coworkers Matt Christison, Bryan Rackley and Jesse Smith, as well as Brick Store and Leon’s owners, Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore.
All seven were on hand at Kimball House yesterday, working on myriad finishing touches, tweaking the menu with Wall and Meeker and taking note of the feedback from a weekend of friends and family dinners.
Asked about the concept, Macquarrie said they’d always dreamed about creating the kind of place where they would want to hang out on a night off.
“But that idea has changed over the years, as we got to eating and drinking different things and going to different places,” Macquarrie added. “We wanted to have bar hours and a fun environment, but at the same time, we really like oysters and quality drinks and a sexy room.”
Originally, the partners had planned on something far less ambitious and much more modern, Macquarrie allowed.
“At first it was going to be sort of a beer joint with rock and roll and good times. We still want rock and roll and good beer and good times, but now it’s gotten a lot more involved. We found inspiration from the old Kimball House Hotel and then when we found this historic building, we loved the idea of going back in time a bit.”
Though it might seem hard for seven partners to unite on a single concept, let alone all the details, that doesn’t seem to be a problem, here.
“It’s much less difficult than you would think,” Smith said. “We’ve been together so long and we all fight for a common cause. Any disagreements are pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of things. We’re all cut from the same cloth.”
“We’ve been thinking about doing a place together for about six years,” Rackley said. “A lot of the evolution of the concept came with age. Every year we got a little smarter and little more sophisticated about we wanted and narrowed it down to some really specific things.”
Having the experience of Blanchard, Gallagher and Moore, who opened Brick Store in 1997, in the mix has been a big plus, too, the younger partners agree.
“But these guys have been doing this long enough to where they are dialed in on everything,” Blanchard said. “Clearly, you can tell that by looking around. This was 95% them and their idea of the look and feel they wanted to achieve.”
“I would say for the three of us, our sense of pride is in seeing these four other guys have a chance at their dream,” Gallagher said. “These guys are creating something we wouldn’t have done without them. Dave, Mike and Tom would not have opened the Kimball House. We thought Leon’s would be the most involved restaurant we’d ever open. But here we are. We just went crazy, again.”
“We have more bitters on our inventory list here than we had wines on the Brick Store’s first list,” Moore said.
“That pretty much puts it in perspective for anybody,” Rackley said.
“You could also say that we have a larger selection of oysters than we had food menu items when we opened the Brick Store,” Gallagher said.
5 p.m.-1 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 303 East Howard Ave., Decatur, 404-378-3502, cargocollective.com/kimballhouse.
— Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More.