Though it’s named for a building on the family-run Hama Hama oyster and tree farm in Washington state, Watchman’s is all about Southern sustainable seafood.
The new restaurant from Decatur’s Kimball House partners Matt Christison, Miles Macquarrie, Bryan Rackley and Jesse Smith opened on June 17 in the former Luminary space in Krog Street Market.
The partners brought Daniel Chance on board as executive chef. Chance previously worked in the kitchens at Bacchanalia, Abattoir and Star Provisions before becoming the opening chef at W.H. Stiles Fish Camp at Ponce City Market.
At Watchman’s, he’s presiding over an ever-changing menu that displays his passion for whole fish, with lesser-known species such as tilefish and wreckfish in the mix, along with Gulf shrimp, Southern farm-raised oysters, and plenty of interesting starters, small plates and sides.
Of course, Macquarrie is well-known as the force behind the drinks at Kimball House, so you would expect the bar at Watchman’s to be a priority. And it is — taking up a good portion of both the menu and the space.
Last week, Macquarrie, Rackley, Smith and Chance sat down at a big table in the corner of the dining room and talked about Watchman’s.
“We started spitballing ideas for another restaurant almost as soon as we opened Kimball House,” Smith said. “And we knew that whatever we did would be dictated by the space. What we liked about this space in general was that it was clean looking, it already had a raw bar, so it steered us toward seafood, and we added our own elements.”
“We built Kimball House around the ceiling fans, and we built Watchman’s around the raw bar,” said Rackley, who is one of the founders of Oyster South, a nonprofit that encourages the sustainable development of oyster farming in the region.
“But here we’re set up to do things that are a little faster and a little bit more rustic. Chef has really interpreted our vision of seafood that’s not pretentious but also not cheap and easy. The driving force behind the menu is our relationship with oyster farmers. This was a golden opportunity to put the spotlight on this burgeoning eco-friendly business.”
Asked about his approach to the menu, Chance agreed that it’s driven by careful sourcing.
“My style is from my travels and the stuff I like,” Chance said. “People can identify it as whatever they want. I take inspiration from everything, really. But what we’re trying to do here is use what’s closest, and freshest, and best, and that goes for the produce as well as the seafood. It’s the right thing to do, and it feels good to do the right thing. It wasn’t hard to jump on board with a concept based on that.”
As far as the beverage program, it’s obviously centered around cocktails, beginning with the namesake martini variation, the Watchman. But there’s a small selection of beer on draft and a respectable wine list, too.
“It’s what makes going out to dinner fun — drinks and food,” Macquarrie said. “We are using a similar approach at Kimball House, but we’re also keeping things a little more casual. We’re still using really nice glassware, but maybe we won’t be garnishing each drink with four things.
“There’s a focus on rum, but not Tiki drinks, at all. We’re doing daiquiris, so there’s an element of what would you drink if you were at a bar or restaurant on the Gulf or on the Atlantic coast.”
Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St., Atlanta. 478-569-7393, watchmansatl.com/
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Watchman’s:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.