Liam’s Restaurant of Thomasville, GA
by Raven Edwards | Photography by Dave Barfield
Nestled in the heart of downtown Thomasville is a restaurant with uncommon vision and the freshest, choicest ingredients around. I recently sat down with Rhonda Foster, amidst the atmosphere of rustic dark wood, artistic photos (the eponymous Liam makes appearances in some of the photographs), cookbooks and an eclectic collection of food related artifacts and objects. We discussed food, the Liam’s philosophy and why it is so special.
Liam’s features cozy nooks, a shady candlelit courtyard and a dining area spacious enough for a party—but is still intimate. They also have a lounge and cheese shop adjoining the dining room to meet the needs of a diversity of food lovers. If you value food, drink, cheese and a celebration of taste, Liam’s is an experience you won’t want to miss.
17 years ago Scott, Rhonda and their son Liam Foster moved to Thomasville. They came to bring their creative talents to work for another restaurant but after a few years they realized they needed to have their own place where they could develop their own vision. What resulted was Liam’s: a restaurant which celebrates the best things about food, and which opened in December of 2002, one week before Victorian Christmas. They weathered that storm of customers and chaos and have been going strong ever since.
Liam’s is a group of dedicated people who love food and bringing the very best ingredients together and honoring them, authentically. The restaurant is like a family, tight knit and close, but still with differences in taste and mood. They are all bound to each other and what they do, and each individual brings his or her own experiences and interests to the restaurant.
The main folks who make it all come together are Scott and Rhonda Foster and their chef, Tyler Bailey. Rhonda manages the restaurant, making sure everything runs smoothly, researching new ideas and bringing in exotic cheeses—a passion of hers. Scott and Tyler create the food, combining the freshest local ingredients, fish, poultry and meats from small sustainable farms, and a clarity of vision which honors the integrity of the food above all. Tyler has been with the Fosters for seven years, developing and polishing his craft, and enhancing Scott’s talents with his knowledge of Asian and Mexican cuisines. The Fosters believe in encouraging the creativity of the kitchen; “Chefs innately make food for their own palates” and that keeps things new and interesting. Rounding out the team are servers, bartenders and kitchen staff with the same professionalism, dedication and commitment to quality.
In the beginning, the emphasis was on Southern dishes and French cooking, but now it has evolved to incorporate Mexican and Asian influences as well. It starts with the ingredients: only the best. Their meats and vegetables come from local farmers and fishmongers. Since they prefer local, in-season produce, their menu changes often to highlight and celebrate the ripest, freshest ingredients there are. Some of their local suppliers are White Oak Pastures, Rabbit Run Farm, Orchard Pond Organics, and Artful Artisans Farms. Currently they are showcasing Seminole pumpkins from Turkey Hill Farms. Other offerings now are fairy tale eggplants, zucchini, yellow squash, arugula, sunflower petals and flower hearts, and local carrots and radishes. Rhonda brings in cheeses from 14 countries and countless artisans, and she possesses special expertise in selecting and pairing them for your sampling pleasure. Liam’s also offers special edition cheeses from Sweetgrass Dairy and coffees from Grassroots Coffee Company. Every bite of every dish sings with the flavor of the ingredients, always simple and elegantly presented. Their philosophy is to be respectful of the farmers and fishmongers, those who raise the beef and poultry for the restaurants. Rhonda feels that restraint is important, “what is the point of using the best if you can’t see it through what’s over it?” she says.”We really care about what we’re serving.” When a dish does need accompaniment, even the condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce are housemade as are the awesome breads. Rounding out the whole experience is a sophisticated and decadent selection of desserts, from the brown butter cake with housemade peach ice cream, to the classic and perfectly delicious crème brûlée. Whatever desserts are featured when you come in, they are all memorable and sensuous.
The Lounge, which features a sophisticated and varied assortment of craft beers, wines and spirits, opened recently so that the Fosters can offer their patrons a relaxing place to await a table or meet with friends. “It was a matter of evolution,” explains Rhonda. They have spirits and wines from over 20 countries, and some choice domestic offerings as well to choose from. It’s all very convivial. The bartenders are talented and creative. Liam’s has its own signature cocktails for your enjoyment such as the Tell Tale Heart; made with Bourbon, PX Sherry, Angostura bitters and an Absinthe rinse, or the Envy; a special take on Gin and Tonic, plus many others.
The Fosters believe in creating and collaborating with other local businesses. On Wednesday nights they offer a “Wine and Pizza” night when customers can buy any bottle of wine for half price to pair with a pizza to go from AJ Moonspin. There was also a whiskey and pie evening inspired by a book being featured at The Bookshelf, offering one savory and two sweet pies, each paired with a custom designed whiskey drink, and a copy of “Pie and Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter and Booze,” on December 5th. And they are hoping to offer a Dickens themed Christmas event with a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol courtesy of The Bookshelf. They also offer cheese classes and a beer club, which meets in The Lounge on Mondays.
Whatever you choose to try at Liam’s, you’re in for a sensual, authentic experience. A passion for the best things in life drives this restaurant and it is obvious in everything they do. For all of these reasons and many more Liam’s is an unforgettable destination—be it for a luxuriant brunch, a casual and nuanced lunch, a meet-up for cheeses and drinks or a full dinner of exquisite taste and creativity. It’s always a memorable experience.