The Optimist – Atlanta, GA

For the last couple of months, a lot of the buzz around Atlanta has been about the opening of the Optimist.  One of my friends and I were talking on the phone and he was telling me that had gone for dinner with his family on the previous Saturday night and had to wait for quite a while, but really enjoyed the food.  We immediately made plans to meet for lunch so that I could give it a try.  I floated a couple of dates out and he and his business partner agreed on the following Wednesday and I made the reservation.
I beat the the two of them there, as 1) my drive was from a slightly greater distance and 2) I’m moderately compulsive about being on time, so I waited at the (empty) bar.  The view above looks into the restaurant from the oyster bar area, which I understand is fairly hopping at night.  One of the interesting points outside was a very small putt-putt course, which I’m sure is quite active as well in the evening.

Once we were seated, the first thing I noticed was the overall “lightness” of the place.  In a building from the turn of the last century, the place is all wood, beach-y colors, high ceilings and light.  It feels coastal enough that I expected to see water outside the windows.

The view above is from our table, looking at the massive dining room bar. 

When I was a kid, one of my favorite jokes went like this:

At the table, I’d ask the question: “Do you like seafood?”

Then I’d shove food in my mouth, chew a bit and open my mouth and say, “Aargh!”

See.    Food.    Get it?

Much funnier when I was nine, but I’m thinking about breaking it out again. Anyhow…

That was the extent of my delight in seafood.  My tastes have changed since childhood and occasionally I feel the compelling desire for fresh fish, without heading to the beach.  One of the few low points on the massive Atlanta foodscape, in my opinion, is good seafood spots.  There are a few notable exceptions (Kyma comes to mind and I’ve heard good things about Going Coastal), but more seem to be like Atlanta Fish Market, okay but over priced.

We started with whole Georgia white shrimp a la plancha (a method of grilling on an iron plate), served with “sopping” toast, arbol chile and lime.  The operative word there was “whole”.  Skin.  Heads.  Tails.  The whole shebang.  And they weren’t particularly large, so it was a lot of work for a relatively small quantity of food.  It was good, but not good enough to fight with/for a second one.  Since there were five shrimp, I deferred on a second and let the other two have those.

For lunch, I ordered the day-boat flounder, served with summer corn succotash and marinated tomatoes.  The waitress told me that it was “filling and light’.  Oxymoronic description, but oddly on target.  It was restively low-cal, but I wasn’t hungry two hours later.  The succotash was corn, potatoes, onion, carrots and garlic.  I always thought succotash implied beans, particularly butter beans, so that’s what I was expecting.  When I Wiki-ed, the definition said that it was a dish composed primarily of corn and lima beans.  This version was definitely skimping on the limas.

My compadres had the lobster roll and fries and the Maine lobster cobb salad.   Each said that there meal was good.  Overall, it was a really good seafood meal to be so land-locked.  I imagine that we’ll be heading that way soon for dinner.

The Optimist on Urbanspoon


  1. […] Another day, another trip to Ponce City Market.  We were heading in town to meet someone passing through and looking for a place to grab lunch around 11:30.  PCM seemed like a good choice, as there are at least five places I still want to try.  My suggestion of fish was shot down, as it was before noon, and apparently you don’t eat fish before noon (unless you’re at the beach).  El Super Pan isn’t really open yet, so I turned to Brezza Cucina.  Brezza Cucina is celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman’s Italian concept, partnering with executive chef Adam Evans, formerly at the Optimist.  […]

  2. […] restaurants.  With a string beginning at JCT, through (not in order) King + Duke, No. 246 and the Optimist, they seem to continually take dining in this town “up a notch”.  For the meal, Jo […]

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