James Beard award-winning chef Terry Koval is opening a new restaurant and bar in Decatur next spring, the AJC first reported. Fawn joins Koval’s restaurants the Deer and the Dove and B-Side, taking over the former Sweet Seed Salad space next door to Cafe Alsace and bringing downtown Decatur its first wine and amaro bar.
Fawn will offer the same vibe as the early days at B-Side, adjacent to the Deer and the Dove, when the Sycamore Street bakery-cafe opened in the evenings for wine and bar snacks. The pandemic ultimately shut down B-Side’s popular nighttime service, but its return has always been in the cards.
Led by longtime the Deer and the Dove beverage director, Matt Watkins, Koval says Fawn is where B-Side late night grows up and moves into its own space. The wine bar is the baby sister to the Deer and the Dove, sporting characteristics from both the Decatur restaurant and B-Side.
“We’ve looked at spaces over the past year, and every time Matt is like, ‘You should open a wine bar here’,’’ Koval says. “Our landlords called us recently and told us they needed a tenant ASAP in a space just around the corner. Matt and I walked over, and the idea of a wine bar just fit there.”
With Koval’s wife and business partner, Jenn, fully on board with the space, they signed the lease the next day. Fawn was born.
At 40 seats, Fawn will be cozy, moody, and low lit, similar to the wine bars found all over Italy and Spain. An arched wall will separate the long bar on one side, with a European-style open kitchen on the other side. The tight kitchen will also inform the food at Fawn, which should include around six dishes and possibly a tasting menu. (Think house-made charcuterie with local cheeses, crudos, fresh breads and pitas, and caviar.) Koval says he hopes Fawn attracts people looking for a drink before or after dinner, maybe some dessert, or just a spot to relax over a bottle of wine and some light bites with friends.
Watkins is focusing on wines from volcanic regions from around the globe, including by the glass and bottle selections from the Canary Islands, Crete, Campania in Italy, and Verne in France. While there will be a few familiar wines on the menu at Fawn, Watkins really wants to showcase the variety of wines coming from volcanic regions throughout the world.
Like the wines at Fawn, Watkins plans to offer amari from several countries on the menu, including from the United States. For Watkins, education is key when it comes to drinking amaro — a broad aromatic spirit category with flavor profiles ranging from sweet to herbaceous and bitter. Flights are a likely possibility, giving Watkins the opportunity to offer different amaro options to help people determine their preferred flavor profiles.
“We have a decent number of people here at the Deer and the Dove coming in who are curious about amaro,” he says. “I love talking with them and helping them choose. I’m looking forward to doing this at Fawn.”
Koval sees Fawn as another gathering space for Decatur — a community he and Jenn love and respect and have lived in with their family for many years. The pride in being a resident and business owner in Decatur was something he felt deeply the night he won Best Chef: Southeast from the James Beard Foundation earlier this year.
“The win was so unexpected and overwhelming. Winning saved our restaurant. We were able to pay off our small business loan and have been pretty busy ever since,” says Koval. “The award put some sunshine on Decatur, too, and Fawn came about so naturally because of it and will hopefully allow the food scene to grow even more.”
Opening spring 2024. 119 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur.