SGTC Culinary Arts graduate loses lease and closing long-time fine-dining in downtown Columbus

May 23, 2018
The restaurant’s menu has included gourmet grilled cheese with beef and potato soup. -- - Image from Meritage on Facebook
The restaurant’s menu has included gourmet grilled cheese with beef and potato soup. -- - Image from Meritage on Facebook

By Tony Adams

A downtown Columbus fine-dining restaurant will be closing its doors in a week after a nearly 22-year run that includes about five years at its current location.

Meritage Restaurant & Wine Bar, located at 1309 1st Ave. since 2013, will serve its final meal on May 19, with the eatery losing its lease due to the sale last fall of the building in which it operates.

“We need your support and prayers as we prepare to close our doors and vacate the premises,” Meritage, which is owned by Faye Simmons, said Friday morning on its Facebook page. The lease expires at the end of May.

“We invite you to join us for lunch or dinner over the next week,” the post said. “We still have lots of wine to enjoy and plenty of great bourbons. It’s a bittersweet time but still a time to celebrate years of great times, great food, great wine with family, friends and community. We have loved serving you, our wonderful loyal guests.”

Simmons could not be reached immediately for comment. A wine aficionado who earned a culinary arts degree from South Georgia Technical College in Americus, she purchased what was known as Miriam’s Cafe and Gallery from Miriam Tidwell in 2004. Tidwell had launched the restaurant in 1996 in The Village on 13th, a shopping, dining and service center on 13th Street near Lakebottom Park.

“Food has always been a passion,” Simmons told the Ledger-Enquirer after acquiring the restaurant. “It’s a great opportunity. Everything will be up to Miriam’s standards or higher because I’m a real stickler when it comes to the food and things. (Miriam’s) got the flair and creativity and she’s comfortable doing lots of the decor, but my comfort zone is in the kitchen and management.”

Simmons later renamed the eatery to Meritage, eventually relocating it to 1309 1st Ave. in the summer of 2013, opening in a location that previously was home to eateries called Uptown on First and The Market.

Columbus real-estate executive Reynolds Bickerstaff said Friday that he sold the property in October to local businessman Frank Lumpkin after owning it himself for about 11 years. No specific plans for the 6,771-square-foot building have been disclosed. Constructed in the year 1900, the property has a market value of just over $400,000, according to Muscogee County tax records. Back in the 1980s, it was home to a German restaurant called Emmy’s Schnitzel Haus.

The Meritage dinner menu includes Andouille Crusted Chicken Breast, Seared Breast of Duck, Pasta Primavera, Shrimp & Grits Succotash, Seafood Risotto, Bronzed Diver Scallops, Fillet of Salmon, Rack of Lamb and House Fillet Mignon of Beef. Its lunch fare includes a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps.

“She has great food. Her lunch is fabulous … I would love to see her in a space the size of Plucked Up — a little wine bar with some tapas, small portions and little appetizers,” Bickerstaff said. “She’s so fun to visit with and hear her talk about wine.”

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To learn more about a Culinary Arts degree from South Georgia Technical College visit the college website at or contact Chef Ludwig Watzlowick at 229-931-2558 or