13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Molly Gunn is the owner of the Porter Beer Bar.
Your first restaurant job was at Babette’s when you were a teenager. What did you do there?
I bussed tables for their Sunday brunch and one night a week. I learned I loved moving fast and the hustle and bustle of restaurants. But I broke so much glassware that they asked me if I wanted to work in the kitchen that summer. I made salads and plated desserts.
You’ve lived in Philadelphia, D.C., and Boston before returning to Atlanta. What made you come back?
I knew I wanted to open a restaurant in a community where people knew me and would support me. My father was at Emory for 25 years as the chairman of the physiology department, and I grew up at the edge of Toco Hills, so I knew I could get Atlantans to come out and support me—or at least my friends would. I moved back in 2005, and I opened the Porter in 2008. I was 26 years old when I opened the Porter, so I don’t think I could’ve done it any sooner.
Sour beers are popular right now. What beer do you predict will hit it big next?
We’ve been going in this direction of more extreme flavors, so it would be nice to see a natural return to more subtle beers, like German-style lagers.
What would be your death row beer?
My favorite style is the porter, which is why I named my bar that. There’s this one from Finland Sinebrychoff. It’s a Scandinavian-style porter, so it’s dark with a little bit of a sesame taste to it. It would go well with food, but you have a little sweetness.
What are the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field of beer?
The assumption I run into is that I am not the one who shapes the beer list. If people assume my husband made the beer list but still drink at my bar, it’s irritating but it doesn’t affect the business much. But we don’t have any female-owned breweries in Georgia, and traditionally beer was women’s work. Now, you get these beers that are crazy out there; I bet that is a guy’s beer trying to one up another.
Who would you say is the most influential woman in the Atlanta food scene?
Anne Quatrano. Any woman who wants to open her own restaurant should go work for her. She does it all and runs all of her places with an iron fist. I worked for her at Bacchanalia and Quinones Room.
What’s your snack food guilty pleasure?
I will drink really terrible truck stop coffee. Sometimes just gas station coffee is going to get you what you need more quickly than a fancy latte.
What was the last TV show you bingewatched?
The coven season of American Horror Story. It has Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange, amazing actresses.
When you aren’t running the bar, what do you do for fun?
I love to see movies in a real movie theater. I love Midtown Art Cinema because they have a great beer selection and popcorn. And now that the Atlanta BeltLine is open, I can bike there. Unfortunately, the last movie I saw was Entourage. I also love paddleboarding at Stone Mountain Lake.
Do you have a hangover cure?
I get the worst hangovers. I wish I had a better hangover cure. Hair of the dog really does work; it does not, of course, work for people who are trying to function. My staff has been trying Pedialyte, but I hate the taste. It makes me want to throw up even more because that’s my problem, the nausea. I am definitely a big fan of bitters and soda water. It’s all about trying to rehyrdrate.
Not including the Porter, what are you favorite bars around town?
Of course the Brick Store—they were our inspiration to some extent. They were the only beer bar in town when we started. Manuel’s—I love the feeling and the vibe. They have a decent craft beer and draft list and bottles, so I always find something I want. I just love seeing the old guys watching the Braves, and no one recognizes me there. My other secret vice is I play pinball. I never got into video games, but man I love a good pinball arcade.
What do you think Atlanta still needs as a city?
I wish Atlanta had good ethnic food in Atlanta. I have to drive 30 minutes to get to Buford Highway. You have to go so far away for good Chinese and Mexican, like Chef Liu; Stone Bowl; So Kong Dong Tofu House; El Rey Del Taco, which are my favorite tacos ever. Nam Phuong is my pho place.
What is your favorite city to visit on vacation?
Copenhagen. It has an amazing food and beer scene. Denmark is one of those countries where everyone speaks English. There’s also an aesthetic about Denmark. It seems to be a very balanced life style; they work hard, but the Danes have their fresh bread in the morning, great childcare, and parks. They’re relaxed but serious.