By George, the all-day French restaurant from chef Hugh Acheson (Empire State South), hopes to breathe new life into the historic Candler building on Peachtree Street as it becomes an elegant 17-story boutique hotel today.
Located on the first floor of the circa 1906 building, By George resides in what was once the Central Bank and Trust. Mindful of the building’s historic significance to Atlanta — it was designed by Coca-Cola founder and former Atlanta mayor Asa Candler — Acheson chose the restaurant’s name to pay homage to the original architects: George Murphy and George Stewart. At one point, the building was the tallest in Atlanta.
Acheson is keenly aware the stately flatiron structure survived becoming yet another victim of Atlanta’s development boom and its wrecking ball. The Candler is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“I think downtowns are really interesting. There’s a lot of history here, especially in south downtown,” the chef says. “I chose to open in the building because the Candler was, and still is, a vibrant part of downtown Atlanta. The Candler is a beautiful example of Beaux-Arts era design.”
Beyond the gleaming white marble lobby and grand staircase, By George itself is filled with imported gray marble columns standing like monoliths in the dining room. Brass and crystal chandeliers punctuate the room. The original bank vaults lie beneath the restaurant near the kitchen. One vault weighs close to 10,000 pounds. Rather than remove it, Acheson and sommelier Steven Grubbs repurposed the vault as wine storage for By George. Acheson says the nearly airtight interior is “perfect” for wine.
Between tables and three banquettes, the dining room and bar seat just over 100 people. A small lounge area resides to the right of the bar. Furniture leans clean, modern, and unobtrusive, melding into the original design details of the space.
“The Miller family purchased the Candler, which is part of Hilton’s “Curio Collection,” with the idea of bringing it back to its magnificence,” Acheson explains. “It’s amazing what people cover up over the lifetime of a building like this, like the round Tiffany windows in the interior of the restaurant. Why would anyone cover those up?”
Acheson realizes downtown Atlanta has often failed to attract local diners and city dwellers to the area over the years, but credits George State University and the preservation efforts by local activists for helping to change that. More people and local businesses are moving into downtown Atlanta — and those people need to be fed.
The chef says he wants By George to complement the Candler Hotel, while also being its own entity — much as he’s done with Empire State South at 999 Peachtree in Midtown. Toward the back of the room, a 30-foot communal table is set up for those who wish to work, read, or simply meet a friend for a quick drink or bite to eat.
“I don’t want this to be a luxury restaurant or destination dining. I adore running Empire because I’ve positioned it as a restaurant that welcomes people in at 7 a.m. all the way through dinner,” says Acheson. “You can pop in at 3:30 for a bite to eat and a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and not blow the mortgage on a massive meal. By George is structured in the same way, whether you’re staying here at the hotel or come in off the street. The more the merrier!”
By George and the Candler Hotel are accessible via the Peachtree Center MARTA station one block north, the #40 MARTA bus line along Peachtree Street, and the Woodruff Park stop of the Atlanta streetcar one block south.
Open daily. Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
127 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta. curiocollection3.hilton.com.