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Let’s Eat, Mississippi: Martin’s at Livingston

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

  • The same look, feel, service and selections that have kept Martin’s Downtown in Jackson around for 71 years has come to Madison County.

There are few restaurants in Jackson with the longevity of Martin’s Downtown. Previously known as Martin’s Restaurant & Bar, Martin’s was founded in 1953 by Martin Lassiter. He opened his business on the corner of Silas Brown and State Street, where he served breakfast and lunch.

In 1973, Martin’s moved into the old Anthony’s Steak House on State Street and began serving dinner. A bar was added, serving beer only, and diners were allowed to bring in their own brown bags. Martin met Calvin Stodghill in 1976, who became a regular and a good friend. Even though Martin’s closed at 8:30pm, the establishment applied for a liquor license in 1977.

Martin’s made one last move to its current location at 214 South State Street in 1984. When Martin became ill and had to retire, he sold the restaurant to Calvin in 1997. Calvin’s son, Joseph, took over the restaurant when his dad died in 2012.

Joseph realized the business needed an update. Martin’s already had loyal customers, and the food and bar program was solid. It also had a strong music scene. But some issues needed attention. It was time to spruce the building up, bringing it up to today’s standards while retaining the bar’s historic character.

That included a major construction project to tear down a wall and build a new stage with a second bar in the back. A covered outdoor dining area was added to the north side of the building which added additional seating. People either rediscovered Martin’s or discovered it for the first time. Perhaps the biggest change, and one that convinced people to give Martin’s a try, was the decision to become a non-smoking bar.

Because of its proximity to downtown, the lunch crowd has remained consistent. There are blue-plate lunch offerings daily. Choose from one meat and two sides, one meat and three sides, or a vegetable plate. The line-up never changes: pork chops on Monday, smoked ribs on Tuesday, meatloaf on Wednesday, pot roast on Thursday, and fried chicken on Friday. Choose regular or Mexican cornbread or a homemade yeast roll to go with your meal.

Other menu options include burgers, sandwiches, and po’boys, pasta dishes, and steaks and seafood entrees. The bar offers craft cocktails with daily specials and a huge beer selection.

Now Joseph has taken the same look, feel, service and selections that have kept Martin’s Downtown around for 71 years to Madison County, where Highway 463 meets Highway 22 at the Town of Livingston. 

When The Gathering at Livingston announced they were closing, Joseph saw an opportunity. He lives less than two miles from Livingston, and he realized what was lacking in that area was exactly what he was doing with Martin’s Downtown.

On a recent podcast with Bo Bounds, Joseph says that early on in the process he would walk into the space and think about the ways he could set it up.

“I may have some OCD. Call me crazy, but I started thinking about how it could be set up. It’s one thing to slap some paint on the walls and hang a new sign. What we did is a whole different ball game. It was important to preserve our brand which has been around since 1953. We used the same tables and chairs we use downtown, and the same barstools.”

To add to the ambiance in the new restaurant, Joseph commissioned paintings by a musician/artist friend, Drew McCurture, who painted the outdoor mural at the Downtown location. The paintings in Martin’s at Livingston feature Mississippi blues artists as a nod to the music scene Martin’s has nurtured over the years.

“We don’t have a big stage in the new location, but we do offer live acoustic music.”

Joseph says the goal was to create a space where families could gather – a sports bar vibe that is kid-friendly. The Martin’s at Livingston location offers the same menu as Martin’s Downtown.

Joseph also acquired the attached mercantile store at Livingston and has rebranded it as Martin’s Market. The market opens at 6am daily, serving up fresh biscuits for breakfast as well as fishing and hunting supplies, bait, cold drinks, and local farm-fresh milk, eggs, produce, honey, beef, butter, cheese, and more. He has also purchased the Farmer’s Table Cooking School at Livingston but has no immediate plans to make any changes.

“It is currently leased and will remain the same for now. Those folks are doing a great job.”

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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