Chris Watkins, Thrillist
Kevin Gillespie inside his new Gunshow restaurant in Atlanta.
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Atlanta’s Gunshow Shoots from the Hip

Lynn and Cele Seldon / July 12th, 2013

Kevin Gillespie has embraced his inner Southern-ness at his new venue, Gunshow, in East Atlanta’s Glenwood Park. From Gunshow’s unusual name and truly wide-open space, designed by ai3, to the lighting, music, food, and service style, Gillespie has Gunshow firing bull’s-eyes.

Everyone asks about the name, and the story is pure Gillespie—and pure Southern. The big bearded chef grew up in Locust Grove, a Georgia trailer park, in what he says most folks would call a “white trash environment.” One of his fondest memories was going to gun shows with his father, so Gillespie feels the name evokes everything about his oh-so-Southern background in one word.

“Everything, from the name to the food we’re serving, represents my version of the South. It’s important to me that diners have more control over their meals, so I wanted to eliminate ‘menu anxiety’ by letting people see exactly what they’re getting and to give people a place where they can get great food without spending hours at dinner.”

Gunshow is football stadium–bright and –loud, thanks to dozens of chattering people, lively waitstaff, energized chefs in the kitchen and at tables, and a mix of music made not just for diners but also for the chefs. In fact, two of the restaurants’ many speakers are pointed right at the expansive, open kitchen. The hyper animated atmosphere is enhanced by the complete lack of separation between the kitchen and dining area, with the only noticeable doors being the front door, the bathroom doors, and the walk-in.

The menu is posted on Mondays and actually evolves during each night and day of service during the week. Almost everything is served dim sum— and family-style and, generally speaking, the chef who prepared the dish brings it to tables on a cart or tray when it’s ready. Diners may or may not see that dish again during the evening. The waitstaff keeps tabs of what’s consumed on the table’s menu. Gillespie says he didn’t know about similar service style at San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions or Copenhagen’s Noma when he was creating his dim sum–meets–churrascaria concept.

The menu certainly has Gillespie’s Southern signature. A recent evening saw the team of chefs, including Gillespie, presenting choices like locally sourced trout with shaved asparagus and brown butter, braised short ribs with lemon spaetzle and mushrooms, and slow-smoked heritage pork with German potato salad. Cheesecake with fresh strawberries was the dessert of choice for good reason. The restaurant seats 52, including Kevin’s Table, a reservation-only six-top, where guests enjoy a tasting menu tailored specifically for them by Gillespie. Pricing for Kevin’s Table starts at $1,000 and includes all food, beer, wine, tax, and gratuity.