When visitors ask a local for restaurant recommendations, they should receive more than strictly gastronomic guidance. They need a sense of place with their meal. In Atlanta, where dining often transpires in flashy but meaningless surroundings, I’m glad I can send people to the Georgian Terrace, across the street from the Fox Theatre. The ten-story hotel, completed in 1911 in an elegant Beaux Arts style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A renovation completed in 2009 culminated in the opening of the ground-floor restaurant named after Livingston Mims, a Confederate veteran and Democrat who resided on the northeast corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue—where the hotel now sits—when he was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1900.
Livingston’s two-story dining room has a suave yet remarkably unforced period look, with a sweeping floor plan, curvaceous staircases, Art Deco sconces, and a kitchen framed like a big window overlooking comfy brown velour sofas. The original lobby chandelier, now surrounded by tacky shimmering fabric, begs to be freed from its contemporary frippery.
Last summer the restaurant’s opening chef, Gary Mennie, left the kitchen in the hands of his sous chef, Zeb (short for Zebulon) Stevenson, a Midwesterner who grew up in rural Indiana. His easygoing, seasonal, American-style menu charms with starters such as a juicy homemade chicken bratwurst on shaved radish salad, a crisp pulled duck flatbread with arugula and violet honey, and a nuanced artichoke soup with basil seeds and lemon zest.
Herbs and vegetables infuse life into Stevenson’s attractive entrees. Fennel and baby vegetables lighten up a thoughtful presentation of beef short ribs with Moroccan spices. Dumpling-like shrimp ravioli with crunchy water chestnuts bob in a light mushroom broth. Succotash is reinterpreted to include the latest vegetables from the field (recently it was fresh peas and golden beets poached in Champagne), and spinach is tossed with parsnip cream. Fried pies with apricot wink at the more traditional peach filling.
The crowd can be a bit unpredictable. It’s mobbed at times with those bound for the theater, snapping up the $29 menu (two courses and a glass of wine or dessert), yet it can also be a quiet sanctum—the better to savor the moment. 659 Peachtree Street, 404-897-5000, livingstonatlanta.com
Photograph by Christina Wedge