We were travelling through Atlanta on our holiday and were supposed to meet my boyfriend’s colleague for lunch and he suggested we go to the Optimist as it had been getting great reviews recently. We went to the Optimist which is located somewhat outside of the center of Atlanta in a separate building, something like an abandoned warehouse and there was a huge writing in blue letters “The Optimist” on the outside of the building guiding you to the restaurant. The Optimist calls itself a “fish camp and an oyster bar”, and seafood is very much their specialty as they offer oysters from both east and west coast (the west coast ones are smaller and meatier apparently as the waitress explained), and also shrimps, lobster, and other type of seafood and fish in various different dishes. The inside of the restaurant feels like an American brasserie. I went in and though it looked like a bigger version of “Automat” (a restaurant in London), but then I realized it was probably because Automat calls themselves an American brasserie and it is trying to be somewhat like the Optimist which is a true American brasserie. But the interior felt very warm and welcoming and I loved the high ceilings of the place.
My boyfriend and his colleague Mark had some oysters (6 from the east coast and 6 from the west), and as I don’t east oysters I did not try any but my boyfriend tells me they were great. They also brought you some oyster crackers to go with the oysters, which I tried and which were nice, salty and firm, and some ketchup and another spicy sauce. Note I was enjoying myself at this point so much I forgot to take any pictures of the oysters until they were all gone, so you can see a picture of empty oyster shells below. As a starter I ordered a little gem salad which the waitress recommended with some lemon anchovy dressing and croutons and parmesan cheese. The salad reminded me a bit of Caesar salad, just with a slight hint of anchovies and I loved the salad, although I found it quite strange how they had left the ends on the little gem lettuce (I would usually cut these off when I prepare my own salad) and as the ends were too hard to eat I left them. But if you like Caesar salad, you would have liked this. My boyfriend had the smoked white fish chowder with oyster crackers. The soup had a very strong flavour, I tried a bit of it, and my boyfriend really liked it. It was served with the same crackers just smaller size that we had with the oysters. For the main course I got a shrimp loaf that was served with fries. It was a bit difficult to eat as the sandwich was so big and it was hard to fold it and put it in your mouth also I was a bit disappointed that they had not stated that it would be deep fried shrimp as the lobster rolls and all the other fish sandwiches were served in a healthier version without the deep fried stuff, but nevertheless it was very tasty. The fries were super super thin and nice although probably not the healthiest once again. Mark had “fish and chips” and the fish was haddock (ale battered) and it was served with malt vinegar and aioli, and it looked very much like something you could have had in an upscale fish and chips restaurant in London apart from the fact that once again they used the thin fries. My boyfriend ordered a “blackened redfish sandwich, vinegar slaw, fries” which looked very similar to the dish I ordered just the bread was a burger shaped bun and it was filled with fish. I really liked the fish and just the whole sandwich thought it was very tasty. To go with our meal we also ordered some “corn milk hushpuppies, “beignet style,” cane sugar butter” as Mark suggested we them after we told him we have never had hushpuppies before, and they were interesting but very sweet so I could only manage a few. We also ordered some brussel sprouts with picked peppers and bacon and these are the nicest brussel sprouts I have ever had. I am one of these people that does not like brussel sprouts and does not understand why British people would want to eat them for the nicest meal of the year – Christmas dinner – but here they were so well prepared and the bacon and picked peppers added such a nice flavor next time I cook brussel sprouts I will add these few things to make them bearable.
I really enjoyed The Optimist and what I liked the most were the prices. Main courses would cost $12 on average and in London in this type of place (like Automat) you would also pay 12, but that would be pounds and the fish would not be as nice and delicious. Also I loved the selection of the dishes, the seafood was great and very high quality and I loved it how they had mixed it with burgers, sandwiches and fries, and it was just interesting high end street/man/casual food. I wish there was an Optimist in London as I would go there for brunch a lot
Location: Atlanta, US
Price for 3 people with 2 bottles of wine: $160 (and we left $40 service charge)