Whether you’re a born-and-bred Southerner or whether you just like to chow down like one, the esteemed tradition of big Southern suppers and buffet lunches is something every good eater can appreciate. In this vein, chef and professional pork fan Kevin Gillespie went with a throwback for his new venture: Revival, a family-style restaurant a few short miles outside Atlanta city limits in Decatur.
With plank floors that creak comfortingly as you walk through the restored rooms and family photos on the cornflower-blue walls, Revival calls to mind a bygone era but isn’t stuck in the past. It’s gracious but not stuffy or formal; it’s heritage but not hoary. The cocktail list is a rundown of classic libations, tweaked here and there: burnt sugar syrup in the toasted Old Fashioned, allspice dram in a winter version of a Negroni, or oolong tea in the Chatham Artillery Punch. (Stay tuned to Good. Food. Stories. for more on this venerable punch, by the way.)
Weekend lunches offer the meat-and-three Blue Plate Special prix fixe—in this case, the third being a thick wedge of smoky cornbread infused with bacon drippings alongside a main and two sides. The slab of juicy, tangy bacon-wrapped meatloaf hefted onto my dish was one of the most compelling examples of the genre I’ve forked up; at the table to my right, I watched as another guest poured thick, creamy gravy onto piles of craggy country fried steak.
There’s no precious chef plating apart from a swipe of BBQ sauce rimming the plate; sides are dished out as if they came off the cafeteria line. A plate of “Closed on Sunday” chicken sandwiches (geddit?) is just that, but it’s all it needs to be: two slider-sized buns wobbling vertiginously from the chunks of tender chicken and crunchy pickle rounds inside.
At dinner, choose your meatloaf (or crispy cornmeal-coated catfish, or fall-off-the-bone roasted chicken) and mac n’ cheese a la carte, or bring a group and go family style: everyone chooses their entree and dessert, while the kitchen pulls together a prix fixe parade of starters, sides, and lots of that Gillespie family recipe cornbread to go around.
And if I may offer a professional suggestion, do what you must to make sure you get a taste of the lemon icebox pie. Again, simply presented—just a wide, thick round of pie in the center of an otherwise unadorned plate—the trio of buttery crust, cool and tart lemon curd, and airy, sweet whipped cream is Supremes-level sublime in its three-part harmony.
If you’re not ready to leave yet, or if you’d rather lounge about having snacks in the sunshine, feel free to head behind the house to take Communion. That’s the name of the brand-new (as of about a month ago) beer garden that stretches lazily down the length of the backyard. If you were sporting a seersucker blazer inside at Revival, you’ll want to doff that and loosen your madras bow tie out here.
Load up on $5 tokens at the booth near the entrance and dole them out any way you choose. Grab a pretzel or a pile of thick fried potatoes from the food trailer, splurge on a big three-token pour of Wild Heaven White Blackbird saison, or pace yourself with a one-token glass of wine. Spend an hour, spend an evening. You’re welcome to do what you please and you’ll always feel welcomed at Revival and Communion.
Revival, 129 Church St., Decatur, GA. 470-225-6770. Hours for both Revival and Communion vary; check the site for details.