The OPTIMIST ATL - A Restaurant Review

 The Fabulous Ford Fry's newest establishment will not fail you! 

This man is accomplished, to say the least.  With the successes of other wonderful Atlanta eateries (JCT, No 246) under his belt, I was nothing but OPTIMISTIC when I was told we had gotten a reservation at Ford's new sustainable seafood place, during my latest visit to Atlanta! Optimistic ... AND excited!   The Optimist is everything it promises to be - upscale, yet comfy.  New.  Innovative.  


THE ATMOSPHERE:  Smith Hanes did a wonderful job with this project.  The main dining area and bar are open and bright, yet still cozy.  Definitely "date night" quality.  The Oyster Bar is more casual.  Isn't it great when you can get a little of both at one place, Atlanta?  For a moment you believe you're in the up and coming warehouse district of Atlanta, but then you feel like you're at your favorite watering hole.  The scene is hip.  It's a "true" hip though - one that you know is here to stay.  And with so many restaurants coming and going in Atlanta, that MUST be a good feeling for the famed Ford Fry.  And, "stay" they want from you - When I sat down, I felt I was in for the long-(gastronomical) haul.  It was  comforting to to know that they want you to come in, sit for a spell and "enjoy" your meal - and "enjoy" I did - BOY oh BOY did I ENJOY!  COuld it be that I was dining with some of my favorite folks, one of whom just happens to run the largest seafood distributor in the SE?  I think not.  I think that's just how they do it here - there was no special treatment for me (other than I got a first hand narrative of what was yummy on the menu that night).  Ford and his team want you to feel comfortable and enjoy yourself - simple as that. 


I can only think of the words "upscale beach" to describe the Oyster Bar (think: Hamptons and Old Seagrove collide, gracefully).   It's definitely be beachy, and makes you feel like you're on the waterfront somewhere.  Just writing this is making my mouth water for some more of those oysters - YUMMMMM!

THE BAR:  ohhh yesssss ... the bar.  Where it all began.  For starters, it's gorgeous - a towering wall of glass and bottles.  And it's comfy for "a drink at the bar" kinda evening.  It also serves up some crafty cocktails: The Truth as We Know it martini of pink gin and bitters, the Port Antonio, which is a couple different rums, Kahlua and cinnamon, The Old Salty Dog , which was my first choice of the night, and, as it always goes with this group, BUBBLES!  They've also got some tasty craft beer behind the bar, and if that doesn't do it for ya, well, order yourself a Miller High Life!    Now, for the good part ...

THE FOOD:  Ohhhh ... where to start, where to start, where to start?  Of course seafood was in my repertoire for the evening, whether I was eating from my own plate or from the plate of others at the table!  We started with the oysters - In fact, we liked those so much we got a dozen ... then some more, and they were served with these homemade crackers that were absolutely to die for (I will settle for nothing less while eating oysters now - Guess I better let the folks down at AJs know before next my next beach trip).  We had all three salads: Simple Salad with the shaved celery and herbs (my plate), a Little Gem Salad with the meyer lemon and anchovy dressing, and a spicy arugula salad with the peaches and Farmer's cheese - all were absolutely tasty and beautifully presented.  Since the papa-bear didn't want a salad, he indulged in the Angels on Horseback, which are fried oysters with pork belly, and served with these amazing little "toast points" - a decadent griddled piece of bread (like grilled cheese without the cheese - they needed their own top billing on the menu, IMHO). One of the young ladies at the table ordered the mussels with the spicy green curry broth, and I have to say that I'm thankful I was seated directly to her left - so I could taste that TOO.  

All of that yumminess was followed by our main dishes:  Alaskan Halibut, plated with grilled Hen of the Wood (mushroom), a red snapper dish, the roasted Georgia trout, served with marcona almonds and a pickled celery, the Fish & Chips (three cheers for my choice), which was ale battered haddock (traditional), and for the one meat-eater at the table, the skirt steak with a romesco sauce, which was out of this world.  Not a complaint at the table.  

As if that wasn't enough, we still wanted more, believe it or not.   However, we needed a little break in our consumption activities, and decided to utilize the 7 minute drive home for that very purpose.  But we took home one of each of the FIVE items on the dessert menu that evening - the buttermilk donuts (served with sweet corn ice cream and pepper jam!) were my favorite, but the chocolate "cloud" was a wicked treat, too!  (As is this little tart over here to your right)  mmmmm! 

Executive Chef Adam Evans - who hails from THIS side of the time zone, (Muscle Shoals, AL), went to Auburn and worked his way around the Craft family of restaurants after he left New Orleans and the Brennans - will not disappoint!  He KNOWS his seafood - He's been with Ford since the conception of The Optimist and he's a fisherman!   (And He's a super sweet dude to boot!!)

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:  (nothing to report) :)

So, if you get the chance, when you're next in the ATL - visit my new friends at the Optimist.  And be prepared for one of the very best seafood meals you've ever had.  Follow them on TWITTER, here, to get a good look at what's on Chef Evans' table!

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