Originally intending to interview Chef/Owner Aaron Born just for a weekly food column that I write, his passion and authenticity for his community transformed my initial intent into something so much more. So, in a way, I owe Chef Born for the “birth” of The Launch Pad, a column with the ambition to “paint a picture of the faces of your community.”
I knew nothing about the Fifth Ivory prior to interviewing him. It was the house I passed by everyday driving to work, the house full of laughter that always caught my attention walking home. But when I entered on a hesitant Sunday, amidst that unbearable heat wave that one weekend we all have a vague and unforgettable memory of, something about the place resonated. It’s that feeling that you get when you notice a peculiarity—a good peculiarity—but you just can’t put your finger on it yet—and so you find yourself searching for the answer.
The house was empty except for the staff and the one group of four gentlemen who had entered prior. But even in the presence of dead air, these people—friends—staff, whatever you call them—had an amazing ability to tune into some form of inner drum, a beat that really is eternal. They found a way to keep their genuine, friendly demeanor and openness even when all circumstances pointed to a slow, dragging shift with few possibilities of financial recovery. And yet, misery was a foreign word to them. That’s how I knew these people were some of the luckiest: every single day, they go into this house doing what they love to do—invite you in.
From the get-go, Aaron and his staff were incredibly warm as they allowed me to freely roam around the house, snapping pictures of the simply-stunning, upstairs dining-room. It felt like a hauntingly, beautiful privilege on that level by myself, admiring the paintings of local artists and stepping through those footprints of laughter.
When I went back downstairs, Aaron had that eager-beaver mentality of “what can I show you next!” He hastily started to cook Shrimp & Grits, a dish that was oozing with heart and finesse. “How was this guy so calm and upbeat,” I thought? I figured I needed yoga classes or more medication.
As he “showed and tell’d” me how his barbecue sauce was a secret recipe passed down from his grandfather, I broke into laughter when I found this unexpected sentimental side of him when I mentioned that he was the luckiest restaurant out of the three restaurants I reviewed as he had the most diners of all: one table. He quipped, “Oh Thank God! I thought it was just me!”
I continued to sweat, even in a tank top. This man definitely had a loyal, ardent following if anyone was willing to drive during that summer day heat wave that knocked out even Ohio’s power lines. Every inch of my body screamed for “home air-conditioning,” but I had already been seduced by the Fifth Ivory’s charm.
These people weren’t mad for leaving their homes on this scorching afternoon; they had come because they had somehow found the true meaning of “community.” As Aaron had explained the Fifth Ivory’s history, the previous bartender from Woofs had opted out of an initial location at Cheshire for the one here on 5th and Juniper, as it was “Love at First Sight.”
From then on, he and his co-founding partner, Cam Murphy, have been supporting the local gay community with open arms and open house. But don’t ask me, stop in the Fifth Ivory, and ask him yourself. I’m sure he’ll tell you, he was simply “born this way.”
Read the full review for The Fifth Ivory here
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Gabel is a food columnist for Atlanta-Restaurants.Org and a writer of short-stories (Alyson Publishing’s Ultimate Gay Erotica 2009).