A cozy fire, comfy chairs and books in “360 surround” pull me into the Fairview Inn’s Library Lounge like a magnet, and make it just as hard to leave.
A bar’s in the corner, a menu’s within reach and there’s plenty to chat about and read on shelves packed with Mississippi books. Author photos smile in silent encouragement. Check out the Libations menu; inspired craft cocktails — the Belhaven “Eudora Welty” and Basil Gimlet “Margaret Walker,” for instance — draw on that same spirited, creative well.
It’s an intimate setting, but that’s just one vibe. In the next room, cushioned benches and TVs flash a younger feel. A big magnolia offers in-the-trees enchantment out on the patio. Kick back Southern style in white rockers on the front porch. Or, in the contemporary and casual 1908 Provisions, settle in for dinner’s upscale twist on seasonal Southern favorites.
The Fairview Inn, a boutique hotel in a 1908 Colonial Revival mansion in the heart of the historic Belhaven neighborhood, has all those settings for folks who, depending on timing or mood, want to tuck into a beer, wine or craft cocktail, lunch, small plate, weekend brunch or weeknight dinner.Executive Chef Corey Ellison is a Jackson native. She got her culinary training on the job, the hands-on way, in the kitchen at Underground 119 with self-taught Chef Tom Ramsey as a mentor. She followed at Sophia’s (previously at The Fairview) under the tutelage of former Executive Chef Gary Hawkins, who’d trained at Memphis Culinary Academy.
Ellison likes to explore culinary horizons, she says; a seasonal focus and specials give her that chance.
“Our menu is pretty Southern-rooted, but doing the nightly feature gives me a chance to explore different cuisines” and try new things, she says, with inspiration from the Mediterranean, Spain, Asia and more. She’s a dedicated steak fan, but really enjoys working with fish, such as the recent herb-crusted salmon with Mediterranean salad that’s won fans. Another of her favorites was a deconstructed pot pie, playfully called “chicken not pie.”
“It’s good to see people take to something that I’ve created,” she says, embracing a challenge to keep the menu lively.
The Library Lounge’s gastropub feel is a draw for millennial’s and local professionals, and Tuesday’s Trivia Night has proved popular. Grad and professional school teams duked it out over the summer, and as many as 17 teams descended on the spot (spreading out to the foyer and garden rooms) for a Tacky Christmas-themed contest, says marketing and sales manager Melinda Meeson. Paws on the Patio is another winner, held several times a year to raise funds for ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) of Mississippi. “It’s not just for people,” Meeson says. “There aren’t many places in Jackson where you can bring your pet to come hang out with you.”
The Library Lounge was formed 2012 to bring guests together with neighborhood and city locals, says innkeeper Peter Sharp. “It’s really become a neighborhood hangout, and a place to have a lot of conversation.”
1908 Provisions, formerly Sophia’s, opened in 2014 with a casual fine dining menu focused on Southern classics, “with Corey’s own twist,” Sharp says. Local pianists will add musical ambiance on a regular basis. “We don’t just want it to be special occasion. … We’re not like that anymore,” he says, with dinner menu selections that swing from flatbread to fresh oysters for starters, a burger to pecan crusted salmon for mains.
The Library handles lunch. And, while each has its own focus — craft cocktails and small plates featured in the Library and martinis and full meals at 1908 — at night, there’s no reason you can’t hit both once the sun sets. “If you want a complete meal, we encourage people to start in the Library, have a cocktail, then go down to 1908 for dinner and come back here for an after-dinner drink,” Sharp says.
Cocktail hour is still a ways off and with a busy afternoon ahead, I settle for a light (and sober) lunch. Ellison’s Mediterranean mention still fresh in mind, I go for the Mediterranean plate’s edamame hummus, savory olive tapenade, salad, grilled vegetables and triangles of warm pita.
That knocks out my five-a-day in one fell and tasty swoop. I can hardly stop dipping into the lovely-hued hummus with its tease of cumin.
It tastes like an invitation to come back.