Kevin Gillespie, the founder of Gunshow, Revival, and Gamechanger, is opening a bar he describes as “very unlike a bar” along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail on July 4. Called “Cold Beer” after a nondescript pool hall Gillespie used to see while camping as a child, the chef promises seasonal cocktails and shared plates in an environment that, while jet black on the outside, is light and bright on the inside.
“I hate the idea that a bar is a place people wallow in pity, or where it’s dark and broody and no one takes pride in their space,” Gillespie says. “I like the idea of a bar as a place where people are celebrating all the time.”
The 7,000-square-foot spot in Inman Park will be led by chef de cuisine Brian Baxter (formerly of Bastion and Husk in Nashville) and Red Beard Restaurants beverage director Mercedes O’Brien (who you likely know from Gunshow). Located in the new Edge complex near Hazel Jane’s Wine & Coffee and Shake Shack, Cold Beer will have a BeltLine-facing patio and a rooftop deck. A biergarten under the Edgewood Avenue bridge may come later, Gillespie says. It will be open for dinner Tuesdays through Fridays and for brunch through dinner on the weekends.
We spoke to Gillespie to learn more.
What inspired this restaurant?
[I wanted to find a] sister restaurant to Gunshow. I always intended to build out the space next to Gunshow and call it Cold Beer, but then we were told we couldn’t knock down the wall between the two spaces, and I ran out of money, so it never happened. [A Gunshow sister] needed to be cut from the same cloth with same values but interpreted differently.
What should we expect to see food-wise?
The food is super eclectic and really interesting—not what you’d think of as bar food. (There won’t be a burger.) There will be 15 dishes each night (changing weekly), with no delineation between appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It’s more like modern small plates, but not on a toothpick. Everyone can share everything. And it’s not focused on Southern food; it’ll be wherever we find inspiration.
Who’s writing the menu?
Brian and I are writing the menu together alongside Mercedes and Wes Gray, a long-term server at Gunshow. He’s really into beer and has always written our beer lists. He’ll be an assistant manager at Cold Beer. We’re trying to make sure the food and drink menus are super cohesive, which is why we sit down as a group and write them. Usually in a bar atmosphere, the food and drink have nothing to do with each other, and we like the challenge of having to work cooperatively instead of in a vacuum. We talk about using similar ingredients [in the food and drinks] and having drinks that make a dish better.
So will the menu have pairings on it?
Not pairings in formal sense because that betrays our mission of being very casual. But the staff will be very knowledgeable and be able to recommend drinks to go with your food and vice versa.
And for brunch?
Brunch will have a completely different, more traditional menu. It’s what people want for brunch: something sweet, something with eggs, something more lunch-y.
What kind of “cold beer” will you serve?
We’ll have 12 beers on tap, plus bottles and cans, all focused on great beers whether they’re from Belgium or Kennesaw. We want the beer to be reflective of the season. There’s no beer that’s off-limits, and the list will change frequently.
What’s Mercedes working on for the cocktail list?
There’s about 15 cocktails. They will be brand new drinks in the vein of what we’re doing at Gunshow. They’ll have a classic aesthetic with a feminine quality. They’ll be seasonal and include ingredients for the food that you’re eating, so right now, for example, Mercedes and Brian are preserving hundreds of strawberries.
What kind of wine will be served?
There won’t be much wine because of Hazel Jane’s [wine bar] next door. We’re trying to have a different direction from them, and we built Cold Beer to give Mercedes a promotion. My wife is a certified sommelier, so she’ll choose what we do. We’ll have fewer than 10 wines, all by the glass. They’ll be wines that go with the current menu.
What will the decor be like?
I want Cold Beer to not look like a bar as much as possible. It’s extremely minimalistic modern Australian and New Zealand architecture. There will be a lot of open space, glass, geometric lines, and natural light with a strong juxtaposition between the exterior and interior. The exterior is black. It’s intense. I like the mystery of walking the BeltLine and not knowing what this building is. And the entrance is marked by a structure that looks like a 5-year-old’s house drawing—I was trying to be funny.
The inside is soft and welcoming with white, silver, and gray tones. There’s also a green wall with plants. It’s the color birch tree leaves turn when they are just about to come off the tree, that kind of bright green/yellow. It represents new life and rebirth. I’m going through that now [Gillespie had a kidney removed last year after being diagnosed with renal cancer]—I feel like I’ve been given my life back.
The focal point is a 13-foot by 11-and-a-half-foot painting of a polar bear. My wife and I try to be art collectors. We commissioned artist O.M. Norling to paint it. Years ago, my wife commissioned a painting of a polar bear in our home to be representative of me, so I asked the artist if he’d take that idea and represent my journey.
Why a polar bear?
I find animals easier to relate to than people. I like being outside and in nature. I think [polar bears] are a misunderstood animal. They are solitary creatures, but that doesn’t mean they’re standoffish. They are intelligent. I feel a connection to them.
What kind of music will be playing?
We have heavy metal at Gunshow because the kitchen controls it there. At Cold Beer, the controls are in the bar, so it’ll be whatever Mercedes wants to listen to. Something upbeat, not as intense as Gunshow, but not freeform jazz either. Some form of rock. We love early 2000s emo music.
What will the patio and roof be like?
The patio touches BeltLine and will have large picnic tables and European café-style seating, with everyone facing the BeltLine. You’ll see tons of people, and that energy alone will draw you in. The rooftop is wide-open and has a bar and kitchen for food and drinks.