The former Athens Pizza Express at 1788 Clairmont Road will soon be the home of a new eatery. Originally built as an Arby's in 1969, the iconic covered wagon style building was for many years Athens Pizza Express before closing early last year. Now, restaurant veteran Randy Stewart is hoping to create a family-friendly dining atmosphere with Kitsch'n 155. "Kitsch," as defined by Wikipedia, is "a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extantstyle of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value." Stewart mentioned this as being the thought behind the restaurant name as it will be housed is such a unique, yet iconic structure, a style seldom seen in present day restaurant design. The 155 in the name comes from the fact that the restaurant is on Clairmont Road, which is Georgia State Route 155.
Stewart has been the restaurant industry for years, with George McKerrow in the early years of Longhorn Steakhouse, and most recently having spent six years with McKerrow [and Ted Turner's] newer venture: Ted's Montana Grill.
In doing my research for this story and the background on the former Arby's building, I was delighted to discover two new websites that I found most entertaining and informative. One, Not Fooling Anybody, is "a chronicle of bad conversions and storefronts past." Basically, its creator Liz Clayton, like myself, was often fascinated with what becomes of former restaurant structures and how they are retrofitted and adjusted for later uses. The Arby's that later became Athens Pizza Express and now Kitchen 155 was featured on the site and is one of a handful that have been submitted from the metro Atlanta area. I've thought of a few to add to the site and I'm sure you could do the same. Either way, a fascinating site unlike any I've seen.
The second site is more directly related to Arby's specifically. Agilitynut.com's eateries section features numerous retro Arby's and details of what they are today. Both the Clairmont location and another on Buford Highway in Doraville are featured on the site. As of my recent visit, the signature bull and whip tile floor was still visible within the Clairmont eatery, a rarity in retro Arby's buildings.
Back to Kitsch'n 155. The restaurant will feature "Blue Plate Specials" and feature fresh unprocessed foods in a casual environment. With initial pricing set to be around $8-12, Stewart said there are plans to expand the menu in the future and possibly add alcohol. For now, the menu will be fairly basic with burgers and fries, salads and malts. The restaurant will have some indoor dining, making use of the existing outdoor tables, and may even add more dining to the shaded area to the left of the building.
Hoping to open by Memorial Day, Kitsch'n 155 will hopefully be a welcome addition to the Decatur / Emory / Toco Hills communities. A resident of the community myself, and having visited the Athens Pizza Express what seemed like weekly as a kid, I'm eager to see what comes of this landmark of my childhood.