Nàdair space
Photo by Dominique White, courtesy of Nàdair

The RundownAtlanta

At Nàdair, Chef Kevin Gillespie Weaves a Story of His Scottish-American Heritage


A 70-seat restaurant tucked away in the North Druid Hills area, Nàdair is set to make its debut with Scottish-inspired cuisine. The cozy, intimate dining room, decorated in earthy blue, green, and brown hues, will feature a unique menu informed by chef Kevin Gillespie’s past experiences and background, plus a drinks program underpinned by his affection for Scotch whisky.

Previously, the celebrated former Top Chef finalist and veteran of the Atlanta dining scene is known for his imaginative approach to cooking at previous ventures like Woodfire Grill and Gunshow and can also count a James Beard win and hit cookbook to his name. Scottish-American is how Gillespie describes himself; from an immigrant family, he carries their traditions with him in new ways. With this restaurant, “we are trying to conceptualize everything through the lens of honoring ingredients and the stories of people who brought them to us.”

What’s in a name? Well, a lot, apparently. Nàdair comes from Scots Gaelic (the first language of Gillespie’s ancestors), and literally translates to “nature,” so it only makes sense that this project includes cooking over open fire. Nàdair means “every living thing — from the rocks, water, sky, and heavens — is interwoven, and it requires every one of us to recognize that and our obligation to one another. It’s all-inclusive,” he says.

Nàdair will also mark the chef’s return to restaurants after a battle with cancer, and feels all the more intimate as a result. “It’s about the mark you leave on the universe with the actions you choose to take,” he explains. “And so, for me, Nàdair represents both the food we want to make and the way we will approach the hospitality of this restaurant — with a tremendous amount of humility and intentionality.”

Back to basics. In this edition of the Resy Rundown, here’s what to expect from one of the year’s most anticipated openings.

Diver scallop at Nàdair
Diver scallop with Stornaway-style black pudding at Nàdair. Photo by Angie Mosier, courtesy of Nàdair
Nàdair interior
Photo by Dominique White, courtesy of Nàdair

The neighborhood and space have plenty of history.

Nàdair is opening in the former Floataway Cafe space, where Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s restaurant operated for over 20 years. Gillespie calls it “a stalwart of California cuisine”. Back in the day, he would go there for dinner and loved that it was tucked away and had plenty of trees and birds all around. When the space became available, he knew he wanted to reinterpret Floataway’s vision of staying connected to ingredients and authenticity, but in a way that stayed true to his culture, upbringing, and Scottish-American heritage.

The new restaurant might seem like it’s in an obscure location, but it’s also right in the middle of Atlanta, equidistant from most big neighborhoods in the city — in other words, a true hidden gem. And parking will never be an issue. Accessible via car, the restaurant is housed in an old factory building with “literally hundreds of parking spots,” according to Gillespie. Valet isn’t necessary and isn’t currently an option, but if it’s ever added it would be free to diners and more of a comfort amenity for rainy days or special events.

The Scottish-inspired menu is prepared over open fire and led by Georgia’s seasons. 

The menu at Nàdair aims to honor the kitchens where Gillespie has worked (Atlanta and the Pacific Northwest) and his family’s rich ancestral history (Scotland, New England, and the American South) for “reimagined Scottish” cuisine that’s authentic and refined — essentially all dishes that fit inside Scottish vernacular and that his “grandma would see and recognize through a modern interpretation and evolution.”

Georgia’s micro-seasons will determine how the menu changes as ingredients come and go. Asparagus, for example, will be used in some of the current dishes, but in just a few weeks, it won’t be available anymore. Gillespie doesn’t buy large-scale commodity products and instead works with about 35 local farmers, foragers, and ranchers to source items like mushrooms, meat, and other fruits and vegetables that are all found in Georgia and other Southern states like Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Notably, much of it will be prepared over a wood fire on an open hearth adapted from the Floataway Cafe’s wood burning oven.

The first week of service will see a three-course prix-fixe menu for $89 (announced via social media), built from Scottish-influenced dishes like a savoury cornmeal scotch pancake with marinated shellfish and Madeira, cinder smoked Berkshire pork loin and belly, and a modern “Dundee” cake with grilled peach sorbet, as well as a six-course tasting menu for $175 that includes a Georgia-style cheese-and-onion pie, Scottish-style fresh cheese dumplings, pan-roasted Maine scallop with Stornaway-style black pudding, and a “tipsy laird” trifle with Georgia strawberries for dessert. The intention is a menu that won’t test boundaries as much as Gunshow, but will instead provide comfort and quality for a more diverse and broad base of diners.

Nàdair interior
Photo by Dominique White, courtesy of Nàdair
Nàdair interior
Photo by Dominique White, courtesy of Nàdair

Let’s talk drinks. At Nàdair, there’s a method to how you should order them.  

Gillespie’s first solo restaurant, Gunshow, opened over a decade ago — and he’s been collecting Scotch whisky for just as long. Nàdair will offer a full bar that includes American whiskey and everyday brands diners recognize, in addition to rare (and pricier) offerings from Gillespie’s personal Scotch collection. A lot of this stuff — he’s made a point to mention it’s all legal — has been in storage for years, some having been purchased from distilleries that’ve been shuttered for decades. Whiskey poured neat and water from the original source (whether it comes from a spring or stream in Scotland related to the region where each whiskey was made) served alongside your neat pour is very important because “plain-Jane tap would mess up the flavor profile of the drink” with some of these expensive and rare bottles. “Our goal is not to throw off the flavor post-dilution by using a water that has a distinct flavor, salinity, or minerality,” Gillespie confirmed. So, Nàdair will be (you guessed it) importing water straight from the source.

The cocktail program, helmed by Angela Guthmiller, who previously worked with Marcus Samuelsson in London, will repurpose kitchen waste like the tops and trim of strawberries. The American-born beverage manager brings a UK sensibility to the cocktail menu here, which will really focus on before and after-dinner drinks. “Our hope is that we can get a cocktail to you when you walk in the door to take the edge off,” and then there’s a “beautiful wine program that matches the food better than cocktails do,” designed by sommeliers Ashleigh McFadden and Catherine Hatch. With a foot in the Old World from a culinary and spirits standpoint, the wine list at Nàdair leans towards sustainable and green winemaking in America, which means you’ll see some younger, newer, and more adventurous wines by the bottle and glass.

Last but not least, craft beers will reflect the best of Scottish breweries as well as, yes, the fabled Tennent’s lager, familiar to anyone who has spent time in the pubs of Glasgow or Aberdeen.

Sustainability is at the core of restaurant’s ethos.   

Green practices have been a long-time initiative for Gillespie through multiple efforts including Defend Southern Food, as a way to support the local economy and decrease food waste. While Gunshow focused on its local area of Southeast Atlanta, the growth of Nàdair will aim to help communities in the direct vicinity of the restaurant and allow expansion of DSF’s vision (not only making sure children are fed, but also getting them the best and most nutritious foods possible from local farmers). Conscious decisions were made in building out the space to lessen environmental impact, like purchasing reused and recycled materials and bringing new life to older pieces. “There’s nothing more sustainable than not making more stuff,” Gillespie said. Other initiatives like diverting rainwater from the building to the community garden next door also play a role in making the 4,300-square-foot space energy efficient.

Nàdair interior
Photo by Dominique White, courtesy of Nàdair
Tipsy laird at Nàdair
Tipsy laird at Nàdair. Photo by Angie Mosier, courtesy of Nàdair

A reservation is necessary – but don’t sweat it if you don’t have one.

Resy will auto-populate availability 28 days in advance, so a new day of availability will open up at 8 a.m. every day. Easy but formulaic, is what Gillespie says of the process. And the decision to be a reservation-only restaurant is not an exclusivity thing, but a way of continuing to be as symbiotic as possible. A learning that Gillespie has taken from years at Gunshow is that it’s important to know how many diners are showing up and what you’ll be serving them. This is the best way to cut down while striving to be a zero-waste kitchen. About the restaurant’s schedule, he explains that being open Wednesday through Saturday will allow all staff to take three full days off per week for better physical and mental health.

If you don’t have a reservation and happen to visit Nàdair, the bar is walk-in only, but do note that it’s small. With just five bar stools and 11 additional seats at two large booths, there’s no guarantee you’ll land a spot, but it could be fun to try. The bar will serve a different food menu, too, “really truly Scottish pubby food,” according to Gillespie, like the traditional sausage rolls of his family’s past.

Storytelling abounds in the tiniest details.

Everything in Nàdair has some sort of symbolism or story to tell, from the serviceware to the chairs to the art, and is meant to reflect the world around us. Featured pieces include a painting by Scottish artist Ellis O’Connor, who was commissioned to portray the hope, joy, and fear felt by Gillespie’s grandmother when leaving the Isle of Skye for a better life in America, as well as original works by Georgia artist Blayne Macauley, who is also of Scottish ancestry. Elsewhere, scenes of rural Maine (by artist Neil Welliver) reflect where Gillespie and his wife live part of the year, taken from Gillespie’s personal art collection and purchased from Welliver’s estate. Gillespie considers New England home just as much as Georgia, and it stands out as a place where many artisans still create by hand.

All chairs in the restaurant are made of sustainably harvested oak by Chilton, a family of woodworkers from a Shaker community that has been in Maine for 250 years, and who are Gillespie’s actual neighbors there. Plates and such were crafted by two separate ceramicists: Myrth Ceramics out of Rhode Island (Gillespie sent the husband-and-wife team photos of the terrain and terroir in Scotland where his family is from in order to create something that felt like home) and Haand out of North Carolina. The crests featured in the restaurant are all Gillespie’s family crests, honoring both maternal and paternal sides, extended families, and the “bajillion cousins” in his lineage.

Allison Ramirez is a bicoastal, Atlanta-based (for now) freelance journalist. She has over a decade of experience writing for publications like Travel + Leisure, the Daily Beast, Liquor, Thrillist, and others. Her recent work spans art, architecture, travel, and food & beverage stories, focusing on diversity within those spaces in the South and beyond. Follow her on Instagram here. Follow Resy, too.