By Molly Morris, contributor
In between midterms, projects and trying to have a “normal” life outside of SCAD, my fiancé and I finally made time for a date night. We got our tickets to the Gunshow (well, reservations, but you get it), and let me tell you — it was worth the shot. Located on a trendy corner of the Glenwood Park neighborhood, Gunshow is a hidden treasure within the perimeter. We struggled to get a reservation for anything closer than two weeks out and finally landed a Saturday night at 9 p.m. as our first available option. It was a good thing that we made a reservation too; people were waiting for a table the entire length of time we enjoyed our dinner. This is not just a popular place because of its location — the head chef and mastermind of this restaurant is Kevin Gillespie, celebrity chef and former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” reality show.
Gillespie and his team have created a rare environment at Gunshow; the restaurant name is a dedication to Gillespie’s father who worked seven days a week to provide for his family. On the occasional Sunday off, his father would take him to a gun show for some manly bonding. The restaurant features a wide-open floor plan, with the kitchen in plain sight of its diners, creating a sense of transparency — what you see (great food, incredible culinary skill) is what you get (bold flavors and satisfied taste buds). The food is a fusion of southern flavor, Brazilian BBQ and an Asian influence, all with a Chinese Dim Sum presentation style. Each of the chefs prepares a dish for the evening, and brings around their offerings to each set of guests, explaining the flavors and inspiration. The guests can choose to accept the plate or graciously decline. Drinks are brought around on a cart and made to order (for those of us 21 and up). At the end of the evening, desserts are made fresh in the moment to complete a heavenly experience.
One thing my fiancé, Sang, and I realized is that it’s incredibly hard to turn down an offering from the Gunshow menu. Not only do you feel guilty that you might offend them (and you could if you make a sour face, or do so unapologetically), but also, everything looks like a dish out of “Bon Appétit” magazine. And, if you care at all about your credit card statement, you may have to decline a few options, or you’ll walk out with a bill nearing $200 for two people like we did (clearly we don’t have any self restraint).
First we started with Thai Pork Belly Larb, which in my opinion was the champion of the evening. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with a little southern spice that met the mildness of the fall-apart-in-your-mouth pork. We then chose Okonomiyaki, which was a Japanese-style pancake made of shrimp, bacon and yams. It had a sauce drizzled on top that reminded me of Yum Yum sauce. Personally, I thought the pancake was a little too fishy, but the presentation and experience made me swallow my texture issues and enjoy it. Next up was Shakshouka, an Israeli dish of spicy tomato puree, sunny side up egg and pita. The dish was just spicy enough to clear out my stuffy nose, and I appreciated having that fresh tomato flavor to clear my palate after the seafood pancake beforehand.
Like I mentioned earlier, my fiancé and I have a hard time saying “no.” We ended up with three more dishes and a few drinks — partially out of the guilt of turning these amazing chefs down, but mostly because we just couldn’t get enough of the new, distinctive flavors. We tried the Soft Shell Crab n’ Chips, which was a spin-off of the traditional fish and chips entrée. The “chips,” which were actually thick-cut potatoes, made me dream about them for the next few nights. Fried to perfection and doused with malt vinegar, they gave new meaning to the French fry category. The Kobe Beef Tartare Like You’d Have In Saigon was an interesting choice, as it was a meal I’ve been offered before at Sang’s aunt’s house, who moved here from Vietnam about three years ago. It was similar in texture to sashimi and mixed with basil and lemon. Our final choice was Housemade Ramp and Goat Cheese Agnolotti. I am a goat cheese lover, and second to that, I am an onion lover. Ramp is a wild leek with beautiful, long green leaves, and the chef brought one around with the dish so people could see it (I may or may not have thought we could eat the raw ramp … embarrassing).
Dessert was, without a doubt, the highlight of the evening. They brought over a tray of all the desserts so we could see them and choose one (or three). We chose wisely, in the words of the knight from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” White chocolate mousse and banana cake, with a dolce ganache and — the magical element — passion fruit gel. Dessert at Maggiano’s will never be the same. This dessert was made on the spot in the kitchen by one of the bakers on staff. It was neat to watch them whip up their culinary designs — but it was even better to devour them.
Gunshow’s waitstaff and chefs are all outgoing, free souls; and it appears that having a sleeve of tattoos is a must to be on the team. Be prepared to splurge financially when you come here — it’s worth it to pay a little more and explore, rather than to leave wishing you’d just tried that one dish you turned down. Buy a t-shirt and cookbook. If you come on a night where Kevin Gillespie is cooking, make sure to get a selfie with him (and don’t you dare turn down his food). Whether this place is your graduation celebration spot, or an impress-the-first-date location, I can guarantee that Gunshow will not disappoint.