Man wearing white chef jacket and black apron pouring a white cocktail into a glass



Ember is the Hot New Design District Restaurant. These Six Dishes Prove the Hype is Legit

Published June 2nd, 2019 by Ember

interior of Ember restaurant


A brown earthenware bowl of mashed potatoes arrived at my table at Ember, and they looked so plain I didn’t even bother taking a picture — not with fried chicken topped in caviar butter, a 30-layer lasagna and curled escargot shells already crowding the table.

The swirled soft serve off-white cream was topped unironically with a pat of butter.

Then I smoothed my spoon into potatoes so creamy they evoked crema Catalan, the texture itself a luxury. Folded inside was a smoked gouda cheese foam and roasted garlic that infused the dish with the warmth of childhood.

The lesson: Brad Kilgore’s comfort food will make you gush over mashed potatoes.

That’s the sleight of hand Kilgore has managed in his week-old restaurant in the Design District, where he applies the advanced cooking techniques that made him a James Beard award finalist for best chef in the South to dishes diners recognize.

Poutine. Beignets. Beef Stroganoff. Mozzarella sticks. It’s a far cry from his groundbreaking Wynwood restaurant, Alter, a concrete laboratory, where the dishes resemble art installations with names to match. Ember may just be a gateway drug to his other restaurants.

The portions are generous. The tables all seat at least four. The restaurant encourages you to come as a group and share — just like a family dinner should be. People are clearly interested: Thirty five reservations were booked on Open Table on a recent Wednesday alone.

Ember is a throwback. The curving terrazo and marble floors are designed to evoke a 1920s train station. The playlist was all 1980s, from Prince to Tears for Fears. And the food is an ode the dishes that Kilgore grew up loving as a boy in Kansas City.

The ‘80s called — and Kilgore is sending out dishes we wish we’d had.

These five dishes remain with me and make me wonder how Kilgore would handle a TV dinner.

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