The two met haphazardly about seven years ago when Born was performing at a striptease fundraiser at BJ Roosters.
“I had a ton of ones in my hands and [Cam] was walking through and I looked down and saw this set of tits and just shoved my tips in,” Born laughs.
The two are more like brother and sister than fag and hag, he says.
“It’s difficult to run a place with your best friend. There are lots of challenges,” Born adds. “When you’re looking at two people whose dream it was to do this — take a chunk out of the American dream — everyone has strong opinions. We work on coming together to find out what works best for both of us.”
Both share a history in Atlanta’s gay nightlife. You might recognize Born from his nine years behind the bar at Woof’s and Murphy from several places around town, including Jungle.
While the pair had varying visions for their restaurant venture, it was Murphy who wanted a piano bar.
“If it was to up to me, we’d have country music blaring on the radio, but I was like, why not? I’m not a big showtunes fan, but I’m starting to like it.”
The Fifth Ivory now hosts live pianists for background or sing-a-longs six nights a week.
Slinging drinks behind the Fifth Ivory’s cozy bar is Born’s favorite duty, but his decidedly Southern menu has drawn fans as well.
While his favorites include the restaurant’s Ivory Wedge salad, salmon salad and Vidalia onion bisque, Born, who is trained in culinary arts, says his regulars can’t get enough of the pimento cheese fritters and fried chicken.
Oh, and don’t forget the bottomless mimosas on Saturday and Sunday brunches 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Part of the soul in Born’s food comes from his involvement in Atlanta’s LGBT community. He’s personally supported AIDS Walk in the years following the passing of a good friend, and Fifth Ivory has worked with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, For the Kid in All of Us and the Big Gay Game Show.
This weekend, the restaurant hosts a brunch to raise funds for Lost-n-Found Youth, Atlanta’s grassroots LGBT homeless initiative.
“Giving back is about projecting a spirit that you want other people to catch a hold of,” Born says. “You treat your community the way you want to be treated. You give back. You take care of each other.”
With an attitude toward community and menu of family favorites, the “leap of faith” he took with the friend he calls a sister has made Born stronger, he says. But if he wants anything from his guests, it’s a clean plate and one parting thought:
“Oh my god, I’ll be back.”
Top photo: Aaron Born and best friend/business partner Cam Murphy opened Fifth Ivory last year. (by Bo Shell)