What was once a private events space at Staplehouse became a cozy cocktail bar called Paper Crane Lounge at the end of 2017. Hidden above the restaurant’s buzzy dining room, the 2018 Eater awards Bar of the Year winner quickly became a darling on Atlanta’s cocktail scene.
The skillfully concocted drinks here incorporate flowers and herbs from the restaurant’s garden out back and are listed by descriptors on the menu, adding a bit of mystery to the mood they try to evoke.
To understand the motivation behind Paper Crane Lounge, one must first understand the origins of Staplehouse. The story behind both is bittersweet.
Co-founder Jen Hidinger-Kendrick and her late husband chef Ryan Hidinger ran a small, underground supper club called Staplehouse years ago from their home in Grant Park. Each Sunday, the couple hosted groups of ten for dinner. It was a labor of love for the Hidingers, who hoped to eventually turn it into a restaurant.
In 2012, those plans changed when Hidinger was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. Despite his illness, the couple were determined to open Staplehouse with the help of family, friends, and the Atlanta restaurant community. Hidinger passed away in January 2014 at the age of 35.
Shortly before his passing, the Hidingers helped co-found restaurant non-profit Giving Kitchen. The organization provides crisis grants and assistance to restaurant workers throughout metro Atlanta. In 2015, Hidinger-Kendrick, along with chef Ryan Smith and Kara Hidinger, opened Staplehouse. It would become not only an award-winning restaurant, but the for-profit arm of Giving Kitchen.
Like Staplehouse, Paper Crane Lounge carries on Hidinger’s legacy. Here are five facts to know about Paper Crane Lounge.
There are two stories behind the lounge’s name. During his battle with cancer, Hidinger twice received 1,000 paper cranes from different groups of individuals. The gifting of the thousand origami birds are a reference to an old Japanese folk legend and said to be a good luck charm, granting the recipient happiness and long life or a quick recovery from illness.
Hidinger told his family and friends he would send them a sign following his death. Two mornings after his passing, a large crane landed on the chimney of the Hidinger’s Grant Park home. The majestic bird perched there for over an hour as the family took photos. Hidinger’s sister, Kara Hidinger, snapped a photo of the crane. It became the inspiration for the tattoo on Hidinger-Kendrick’s right arm.
Make a paper crane for the lounge
Upon hearing the powerful story behind the lounge, people often create paper cranes from the menus or scraps of paper. Some may be displayed throughout the space as good luck charms and messages of hope and peace.
“Selling moods, not just drinks”
Cocktails, which are listed via suggestive adjectives, are ever-evolving here and organized on the menu by flavor intensity and strength. They often incorporate bitters and syrups made from herbs and edible flowers from the Staplehouse garden. Paper Crane bartender Brandon Reily says the lounge is “selling moods, not just drinks.”
It was once a boarding house
The 1906 building was once home to a grocer downstairs (the Staplehouse dining room) and a boarding house for nearby railroad workers where Paper Crane now resides. The space takes cues from its former life, meant to resemble more of a living room rather than a cocktail bar. It’s adorned with “Charlie Brown Christmas lights” and kitschy trinkets collected over the years by the partners, including a few childhood pieces which hold special meaning to Kara Hidinger.
Two four-top tables from the Staplehouse dining room were repurposed for the lounge. The original private dining room’s Skylar Morgan square tables were cut down by chef Ryan Smith to create the cocktail rounds for Paper Crane.
No reservations required
Unlike Staplehouse, Paper Crane Lounge doesn’t require a reservation. It’s first come, first serve and open to anyone who wants to pop in for drinks. Make sure to check in at the host stand at Staplehouse to gain access, as the lounge only has one bartender on duty and seats just 20 people.
Nominations for Atlanta’s best new restaurants are now open for the 2019 Eater Awards.