The Optimist takes spot number seven on Bon Appetit's "Hot 10" list of the ten best new restaurants in the United States. The restaurant from Ford Fry and executive chef Adam Evans opened in May 2012 in West Midtown, and it's been winning best new restaurant awards ever since then (see here and here). New Emory Point restaurant the General Muir was also on this year's shortlist of the top 50 new eateries in the country.
Per Bon Appetit, there's no "exact science" to what constitutes a new restaurant; a representative for the magazine told Eater that it's usually from June to June, but last week, Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton tweeted that Kevin Gillespie's Gunshow— which opened in mid-May of this year— was "too new" to be considered, and the Optimist has seemed to sneak in just under the wire. See what Atlanta native Knowlton has to say about the restaurant and catch a video below.
On paper, I shouldn't like The Optimist. The seafood-centric menu is as big as the Atlantic, and the dining room is similarly vast--180 seats huge. Out front, there's a putting green where you can practice your golf game until your table is called. This high-volume playland is the exact opposite of the small and quirky places I'm usually drawn to. And yet...I love it.· The Optimist Is the 7th-Best New Restaurant in America 2013 [BA]
Named for a kid's sailing dinghy, The Optimist is the creation of Atlanta chef and managing partner Ford Fry, who clearly knows how to navigate a winner: It is without a doubt the best of a growing number of big-name fish houses that have opened this year. (You read me right: Fish is the new steak.) The space, a former ham-aging warehouse, is a beauty, thanks to the vaulted ceiling, the movie- perfect lighting, and a nautical vibe that skips plastic-fish kitsch for sleek seaside sophistication.
As for the food, they've got expertly shucked oysters, which, as far as I can tell, are the way to begin a meal in 2013. Start with a dozen, followed by comforting Southern hits like frothy she-crab soup with homemade shrimp toast, and plump, head-on Georgia shrimp in a buttery chile-lime sauce that you'll want to drink. Heck, the clam and lobster rolls would make even a New Englander proud. Chef Adam Evans has a knack for rich, deeply flavored dishes that will convert the most ardent steak lover. Whatever you do, don't skip the sides, especially the corn-milk hush puppies and basmati "fried rice." Sometimes the best meals happen when you least expect them to. It helps to be an optimist.
· The General Muir, the Optimist Among Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants [-EATL-]
· All Coverage of the Optimist [-EATL-]