Communion, Kevin Gillespie’s beer garden, opens Friday behind Revival

Gillespie also hints at the location of his next restaurant in Atlanta, plus an update on Terminus City
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Communion
Communion

Courtesy of Communion

Just in time for patio season, Kevin Gillespie is opening an outdoor beer garden called Communion. Located in Revival’s backyard in Decatur, it will seat 75 people and serve German beer and wine, as well as punch, alongside pretzels, brats, obatzda (Bavarian beer cheese), and more. Everything will be made by the Revival staff—led by executive chef Andreas Muller—and served from a stationary food truck. The garden will be open Thursday through Sunday, weather-permitting. Gillespie reveals more details below, including

Why a beer garden? I opened Communion because I think the beer garden culture is cool. Everyone knows my fondness for communal dining and triumph of quality over superfluous stuff, and a beer garden is all of those things. I also know how much people down here love dining outdoors, and I share that as well. The final push is I don’t feel like European-style beers are getting enough representation. People undersell them in the craft beer market, and it made sense to pair them with the food that goes with them.

How did you choose the name Communion? My wife picked it. We were opening Revival almost a year ago and I was saying I wanted to do a wine bar in the backyard. I like the double entendre of communion wine and pairing it with Revival. A beer garden is a communion of people together from all different walks of life. It’s where rich and poor sat at the same table.

What’s on the menu? It is largely Bavarian. We have pretzels. We’re making them the traditional way with malted barley syrup and an old Bavarian recipe. Sausages are made by Pine Street Market using our recipes and the Bavarian Sausage Kitchen in Wisconsin. The varieties will rotate. We’ll start out this week with a basic German/Wisconsin brat. We’ll also have a weisswurst, a traditional white sausage. We’ll have a currywurst as its own freestanding dish: a fried brat on top of fried potatoes and covered with a curry sauce. It’s one of my absolute favorite street food dishes in the world. We’re doing potatoes deep fried in beef fat to produce a very delicious French fry. We’re doing kartoffelkage, which translates to potato cheese. It’s potatoes cooked until very soft and aggressively mixed with cooked garlic so it’s essentially a puree with chives, caraway seeds, white pepper and Quark (a German style cross between cream cheese and yogurt). We dunk the rye bread in butter, grill it, spread potato cheese on it and top it with pickled onions and herbs or smoked rainbow trout.

Instead of liquid beer cheese, we have obatzda, the Bavarian equivalent. It’s much stronger. I like to think of it as the German version of pimento. It’s camembert and brie mixed with red onions, mustard, and beer. It’s served alongside pretzels. The pretzels come with that, mustard and soft butter. We also have German meats and cheeses—salumis, cooked and dried, with obatzda and a German hard roll. You can get brats on a sandwich or plate with sauerkraut and deep fried potatoes. Everything ranges from one to four tokens in price point.

What do you mean by tokens? A funny quirk of beer gardens is they don’t want to have to transact business all of the time. We are modifying their system. When you come to Communion, you will buy tokens–brass Communion coins—for $5 a coin. Coins are exchanged for food, drinks and games. All the food comes from the food truck. You take your tokens up to it when you order. Tokens never expire. You only pay one time and the price includes tax and gratuity.

Is the included gratuity bit a throwback to Danny Meyer? It is a little bit. I am a supporter of him. I’m in the boat that somehow we need to crack this system of how people get paid in the restaurant industry. But the main reason for the tokens was not to make a political statement but for ease. At bars, people go dutch but then the servers have to remember who bought what. This is all self-service. You order drinks from the bar and food from the truck. The people walking around in the backyard are just there to bus things.

What drinks will Communion offer? There are four draft beers—all European or Euro style, plus five bottles—not very high alcohol. Wines consist of four reds and four whites, all by the glass, exclusively European, and almost all Austrian. There will be a lot of varieties people have probably never heard of. The European wines and beer are more food friendly than their American counterparts. Any of them you pick will go well with the food you pick. We’re doing two punches – batched cocktails served over ice. One is kind of a sangria using an Austrian-style red wine as its base. The other is its lemonade fortified with basil and vodka. Eventually we’re going to experiment with bringing in schnapps and German liqueurs.

What kind of games will be offered? Darts, corn hole, horseshoes, giant Jenga. We’re not trying to make money off them. We just want to make sure one person doesn’t hog them all day long. We want them to make it a communal experience. Basically you rent these games for the hour.

Do you envision Communion as a separate destination from Revival or do you see the crowd spilling over from one to the other? Both. There’s an occasion for saying it’s a nice day, let’s go have a snack and some drinks. A lot of time when people go out to eat, they make dining an occasion and want to show up an hour or two early or stay late. Normally the place is busy and you have to give up your table. I hope people dining at Revival will use Communion as a pre-dinner or post-dinner drink spot, and also come by to watch the football game on the weekend.

What’s the latest on Terminus City? God only knows. We found the sweet spot, which is using it for special events. The next big event is for 4th of July. We’ll be doing a big event at Revival and Communion working with a local veteran’s organization. I don’t know if we’ll ever build a brick and mortar. It feels a little like Bizarro Superman—it just pops up every now and then.

Do you have any other projects in the works? We have a lot of irons in the fire for 2017 but none of them are far enough along that we can nail down a timeline or certainty to it. It’s definitely going to be another restaurant. We need to show a little love to West Midtown or push closer to Buckhead. We have a lot of fans over there, and I’d like build something closer to them.

We also have big projects with large public venues that people frequent—not the Braves. You can do the math from there. I don’t know how many more [restaurants] in Atlanta I’ll do after that. The goal was to reach the three restaurant mark. I’d like to look at underserved markets in the U.S. [like] Kansas City and Salt Lake City. Those are more fun. They fit my personality better. You can get to know people in those markets more.

I’m working on another cookbook. It will probably take me another few years. It follows the cuisine of Revival, built on the idea of my family’s recipes and those community cookbooks. My goal is to make a cookbook that is very homey with a bit of tradition and some of that Kevin Gillespie we don’t take ourselves too seriously vibe.

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