Story by: Cait Hitt
Livingood's prides itself on its every-changing wide variety of beers.
Tucked away in the Riverview Plaza sits Livingood’s, a restaurant run by husband and wife team Matt and Jess Ray, who are always serving up a variety of menu items with a side of good times. “It’s a hidden gem in Plattsburgh -- something a little unexpected,” says Marycatherine Jadlos, 20, of Plattsburgh, N.Y. This beautifully designed restaurant caters to the mixture of college kids and adults living in the area. “It’s a great place for date night,” says Amanda Bailey, 19, of Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Livingood’s boasts a diverse menu of items ranging from salads, soups, and sandwiches to steaks, seafood, and pasta. “The menu started with things Matt would make for us at home - all of our favorite things to eat,” Jess says. From there the two continued expanding, adding things like Philly Cheese Steak as a way to pay homage to their birthplace, Philadelphia, PA. Their core menu consists of soups, salads, pizzas, steaks, pastas, and burgers that are available any day of the week; however, each night, Matt, who is not only partial owner but head chef, offers different interesting dinner specials depending on the season. During Lent, the kitchen serves up fish and chips every Friday and Saturday, and all during the month of May they offer Mexican dinner specials with Coronas and margaritas at a two-for-one rate. Everything on the menu has a special twist on it that won’t be found anywhere else. “I've been there a few times and their food always keeps me coming back,” Bailey says. “They change up their menu so you will never be bored with what they offer.”
Livingood’s has made it their mission to not only provide a relaxing and enjoyable experience for guests but to create meals that are delicious and fresh. “Our menu isn't about a particular cuisine or style, it’s about offering a quality meal that is cooked to order and made with as little processed food as possible,” Jess says.
May through October, Livingood’s uses local farm-fresh produce they get from Kimberly LeClaire at Quarry Gardens. “We would like to source more of our ingredients from local sources, but they either cannot keep up with our demand, or the costs are too high to keep our prices competitive,” Jess says. She also added that they would love to offer more farm-to-table style cuisine, but it presents a number of challenges they have yet to overcome. The Rays, along with members of their staff, are hopeful that this will change in the future.
“I've been there a few times, and their food always keeps me coming back."
The bar is stocked with an ever-changing selection of beers on tap that any brewery would envy. Livingood’s bar also has a wide selection of wines, their own specialty red and white sangria and plenty of other choices. Tuesday through Saturday, Livingood’s offers specials on cocktails, such as fifty percent off all wine by the bottle on Tuesdays, $8 Carafes of house-made red or white sangria on Fridays, and two-for-one Sauza Gold Margaritas and two-for-one Sierra Nevadas on Saturdays.
It had always been a dream of Matt and Jess’s to own a restaurant. With their combined restaurant experience and passion for cooking, they made their dream a reality. “We had been discussing our own restaurant/brewpub for years. Plattsburgh seemed like the best fit due to its size and the presence of the two colleges,” Jess says. They opened Livingood’s that October. The name stemmed from Matt’s grandmother’s maiden name, Livingoods.
Matt Ray is the owner and head chef of Livingood's.
The couple had their fair share of challenges upon opening. “My advice to anyone looking to start a restaurant is take all of your projected costs to open and double them. That's the real number,” Jess says. On top of the financial strain, Jess adds that dealing with liquor licensing, obtaining a certificate of occupancy, and the health licensing takes a lot of work and was definitely challenging.
Working in a husband-and-wife team presented its own unique challenges. “The main challenge is keeping work at work,” Jess says. “When you own a restaurant, you live and breathe the business. It's 24/7, even though we are only open five days a week. Matt is there every Sunday preparing for the coming week, and I am there every Monday doing all of the administrative work. So, we never really have a day off. It's hard to find time to do things together as a family.” Just weeks into preparations for opening day, the Rays got a welcome surprise -- they discovered they were expecting their first child.
For Jess, the most rewarding aspect of starting their own restaurant has been thriving in this poor economic climate. “We wouldn't have made it without our core group of regulars (you know who you are). Knowing that people are struggling to make ends meet yet still support our business is amazing,” she says.
“It's hard to find time to do things together as a family.”
Livingood's has a balcony that overlooks the main floor of the restaurant.
Since opening life has been a bit crazy for Matt and Jess Ray. In the future for this culinary duo is, as Jess put it, “catching their breath”.
“The next step at this point is figuring our next step,” she says. As far as an expansion, that’s not in the cards just yet. “Expanding? No. Sure, there are some Friday or Saturday nights that we could use more space, but with the way we craft our food, we can only handle so much volume without sacrificing quality,” she says. Though the two would love to get back into brewing, it’ll have to wait a while. “If/when we do launch a brewery, it would most likely need to be offsite due to the high cost of retro fitting a brewery into our current location,” Jess says. “There are only so many hours in the day. Between Matt's long hours and our two children, we don't see the brewery project happening for a couple of years. But it’s not out of the question.”
Do you prefer restaurants that serve food made with fresh, homemade ingredients?
Send us an email at APNreadermail@gmail.com