Ford Fry got real about The Optimist, which was just named the best new restaurant of the year by Esquire; his future plans for the Nava takeover, Fry's Buckhead Colonial American-style spot which will open in March and will be named after a character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; and where he likes to eat in the city in an interview with Steak Shapiro last night at an early screening of Atlanta Eats. The chef also revealed that he's thinking Mexican for a future concept— maybe the Alpharetta restaurant that will open in 2014? Read on for the interview.
Tell us about The Optimist.
The Optimist was all about— with any restaurant that we do, I think it's about— bringing something to Atlanta that I think we don't have, it was kind of about bringing that vacation experience where you can go and you can get really quality food, but you don't have to dress up, you can wear shorts and flip-flops, like I normally do. It's about this cool feel like you're on vacation.
How is the restaurant scene in Atlanta perceived compared to other cities?
You know, it's coming up. It's not a New York and it's not a San Francisco, but I think it rivals any of the other cities. I think it's in a transition time, where there's a lot of local, chef-owned and operated restaurants, and everyone's really passionate about sourcing locally. You know, the pig has been really popular. Over the past few years, everyone eats pig and pork and pig ears.
It's a hot pig time.
Well, now it's hot fish time.
You're taking over a great, legendary space, Nava. What are you doing with that?
It's got a little American, classic literature element to it in the name. People ask me what's the cuisine, and I say it's really not a cuisine or a concept, it's more about a cooking technique. You'll see, we've pretty much gutted the whole space. [Now] it's got this massive fireplace. We're kind of going way back in time and cooking inside this fire. We're cooking everything— we're cooking meats, we're cooking vegetables, we're cooking fish, but it's coming out of this massive wood-burning hearth.
Quite honestly, Buckhead has been known for a lot of higher-dollar restaurants, but I think that [part of our restaurants' success is] about value, and I think it's cool to be able to have something in the heart of Buckhead where people can go and get an amazing burger or they can get amazing big côte de boeuf. Dining is about that experience where you can go every day or you can go once a year, it doesn't really matter.
What's a perfect day for Ford Fry eating out in Atlanta?
Well, I've never been a big breakfast guy, but typically, my thing is going to Waffle House with my boys. My youngest one loves waffles and bacon; he gets that every time. Lunch— you guys are going to be surprised, but I'm not that frou frou— I love Nuevo Laredo. It's just great Mexican. Well, I've got that in the works too, so? I also like barbecue, too. I typically like Community Q. Dinner, I've always been a big fan of Floataway Café, I think it's a very California approach. Late night is about grub, right? So The Majestic, or if you haven't had dinner, Octopus Bar can be a fun spot, but I tend to go pretty casual.
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