Chef Ford Fry’s Atlanta seafood entry, The Optimist, was named Esquire magazine’s 2012 Restaurant of the Year by food and travel correspondent John Mariani. The last time a restaurant in the Southern city received this top honor was in 1998 when Mariani gave it to Guenter Seeger’s eponymous restaurant, Seeger’s.
“I was completely caught off guard when I found out that we had been named Restaurant of the Year,” says Fry. “It’s a moment of validation for me; The Optimist is passion of mine and executive chef Adam Evans.”
Fry opened The Optimist in Atlanta’s West Midtown neighborhood in May 2012 and hired Evans to helm the kitchen. The menu includes fresh fish and seafood prepared simply, much of it in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. Here landlocked Atlantans dine on everything from sustainable Alaskan halibut and whole-roasted Georgia trout to yellowfin tuna and fresh oysters from both coasts that Mariani described as “cooked with old-school expertise.” The beverage program includes wines from coastal regions around the world, and draft beers from American craft breweries in port cities such as Baltimore, Boston and San Diego.
The Oyster Bar at The Optimist adjoins the main dining room and is a more casual and laid-back “fish camp”-style space with raw bar, outdoor patio and two-hole putt putt golf course. The menu focuses on fresh oysters that are served chilled or roasted, and a stellar cocktail selection, including its signature fish house punch—Gosling’s black rum, Hennessy V.S. cognac, black tea, sugar, lemon and Leopold Bros. peach whiskey—and a few oyster backs.
Photo Courtesy of The Optimist