Atlanta Classics: Livingston puts modern twist on Georgian Terrace history

Mallard duck breast with speckled yellow grits, braised turnips, and rhubarb orange 
Glaze.
Courtesy of Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

Mallard duck breast with speckled yellow grits, braised turnips, and rhubarb orange Glaze. Courtesy of Brandon Amato

Livingston Restaurant and Bar has been a part of the Georgian Terrace’s rich history since opening in 2009, but the 10-story hotel building has been an Atlanta fixture since 1911.

The Georgian Terrace was designed by New York architect William L. Stoddard, with an array of elegant architectural details, including floor-to-ceiling Palladian windows, crystal chandeliers and white marble columns.

But, by the early 1980s, the Georgian Terrace was in serious decline, and nearly was demolished before it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The Georgian Terrace Hotel, seen circa 1965, sits at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue. Courtesy of Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

The hotel was renovated in 2000, and again in 2009, when chef Gary Mennie of Atlanta restaurants Canoe and Taurus opened the first iteration of Livingston.

Because of the pandemic, Livingston closed for nearly three years, before reopening in February.

“Among the types of hotels Stoddard built, mostly throughout the South, this was the one he envisioned as very Parisian,” Georgian Terrace Managing Director Antonio Jones said. “He also built several other buildings in Atlanta, but I think most people believe the Georgian Terrace was one of his top accomplishments.”

Jim Bennett, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, noted that there was another major figure in the history of the Georgian Terrace. “The land was owned by Livingston Mims; hence, the name of the restaurant,” he said. “He was the 37th mayor of Atlanta.”

Through the years, the Georgian Terrace has been home to many different restaurants, along with other unique destinations, such as Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom, a music venue that was located in the former Grand Ballroom.

“Where the restaurants were located in the hotel has changed a lot over the years, but certainly the structure hasn’t changed,” Bennett said.

Livingston's halibut is served with green herb puree, watercress, baby arugula, Meyer lemon and grilled asparagus. Courtesy of Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

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Credit: Brandon Amato

Right now, Livingston is open for breakfast and dinner, and its companion bar and casual restaurant, Edgar’s Proof & Provision, is open for dinner.

“We wanted to not just reopen; we wanted it to be something very special,” Jones said. “What we really want to do is to bring respect to the history of the Georgian Terrace. But, also, it’s 2023, so we really want to bring in a fresh, modern twist to what we do.”

Both Bennet and Jones said they were lucky to land new Executive Chef Steven Meese, whose duties include manning the chef’s table and teaching cooking classes.

“I like challenges, and this was a good fit,” Meese said. “I’m old-school and new-school in the way I handle myself, manage a restaurant and cook. So, I would honor Larousse and gastronomy from France, and also Grant Achatz at Alinea, who does mind-blowing things.”

From left to right, Olivia De Havilland, Vivien Leigh, and Vivien’s then-husband Laurence Olivier at a press party at the Georgian Terrace Hotel for the premiere of the movie, "Gone with the Wind" in December 1939.
Courtesy of Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Since he’s been in Atlanta for such a short time, Meese still is trying to get a handle on his audience.

“Midtown is a very unique place,” he said. “It’s not Buckhead. It’s not busy all the time. You’re busy when the Fox Theatre is open. So, you’ve got to ask, what am I going to do to attract people? I want to respect Georgia, but also respect the French training I’ve had.”

Among the dishes on Meese’s spring menu, you’ll find smoked white asparagus soup with a peekytoe crab croquette. And, there’s a crusted duck dish with a rhubarb orange glaze and crispy yellow grits.

“We smoke things. We cure things. We ferment. We do some molecular gastronomy with foams and gels,” he said.

As for how the past and present come together at the Georgian Terrace, Jones said, “I can’t tell you how many people have told me they’ve stayed at the hotel, or went to a wedding at the hotel. It has so many memories for so many people.”

Livingston. 659 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-897-5000, thegeorgianterrace.com/drink-and-eat.

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