The Optimist

$ $ $
914 Howell Mill Rd NW (9th St NW)
Atlanta, GA 30318
11:30am - 2:30pm
5:00pm - 10:00pm
11:30am - 2:30pm
5:00pm - 10:00pm
11:30am - 2:30pm
5:00pm - 10:00pm
11:30am - 2:30pm
5:00pm - 10:00pm
11:30am - 2:30pm
5:00pm - 11:00pm
5:00pm - 11:00pm
5:00pm - 10:00pm

Chef Ford Fry is a Houston native who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute. He has served as a fine-dining chef in Texas, Florida, California, and Colorado, but he chose Atlanta and its environs as the place to build his empire. And he’s done quite a job at that. It all started with JCT Kitchen & Bar, but the chef now has seven restaurants, and it’s The Optimist (named for a children’s dinghy), an exemplary seafood-centric spot in this landlocked city, headed by Fry along with executive chef Adam Evans, that most enchanted this year’s panelists. It’s a modern, roomy space that seats at least 180, with an impressive bar that serves a dozen different kinds of oysters, from New Brunswick Fancy Sweets to Washington Shigokus.

Standout dishes include the duck fat-poached swordfish with crispy pork belly, Florida strawberries, pickled red onion, and basil, and the beer-battered cod with crispy potatoes and malt vinegar aïoli. Of course, at this point, the basmati “fried rice” (smoked fish, curry, peanuts, cilantro, and egg) and the frothy she-crab soup with shrimp toast have become buzzed-about bellwethers. And then there’s the six-ounce, two-patty, skirt-steak-trimming burgers, ground with frozen butter and served with caramelized onions and tangy remoulade (available during lunch only).

— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Restaurants, April 1, 2015


  • Gently poached in glorious duck fat, this swordfish steak is all meaty and supple. It's surf and turf 2.0, and one of CL's 100 Dishes to eat in Atlanta before you die.
  • The she-crab soup is a piping hot bowl of buttery froth is packed with crabby ocean flavor. One of CL's 100 dishes, this menu item is filled with sweet and salty notes of emulsified crab roe.
  • Try a little bit of everything! The gumbo and white fish chowder was fresh. Loved the scallops with Oxtails and brown chicken jus. Don't skip on dessert.
  • The hush puppies were so good I couldn't stand it. I barely see the point in living without them.
  • Must Eat: Soft shell crab cioppino in garlicky tomato broth, potato, clams and corn.
  • A carefully curated oyster selection so fresh you'd think you lived on the water. It's no surprise the raw bar here made Creative Loafing's 100 Dishes list.
  • The hush puppies are MORE THAN AMAZING!
  • Incredible seafood restaurant! Even if you're an oyster noob, the staff is very noob-friendly and gives great suggestions, so try it!! Great for lunch, gotta try the lobster roll!! Excellent flavors
  • Best seafood in Atlanta bar none. Soft Shell Crab is out of this world. And ::what:: the gnocchi side ::might:: be the best gnocchi I've ever had ::again, what?::
  • They have a fantastic oyster menu - the Tatamagouche are wonderful!. Try them! If you don't have a reservation, they have full service at the bar. The bartenders are friendly and attentive.
  • If you're lucky enough, you must do in at this incredible oyster bar! Pickle point & east beach blonde oysters! And you gotta have the halibut!
  • The corn milk hushpuppies are made beignet style and served with cane sugar butter! It's a delicious twist on a Southern classic.
  • The east coast oysters and the shrimp a la plancha were phenomenal! Also the hush puppies beignet style are a must try! Amazing restaurant and service!
  • Great place and guaranteed every time you get your check you'll say.. Whoops!!
  • EVERYTHING is sublime. this place, while pricey, is so worth it. take friends and enjoy.
  • Try the Corn Milk Hushpuppies, Beignet Style - Omg
  • Don't let the airplane hanger-sized dining room fool you, the adjacent oyster bar is plenty intimate. Grab a stool and hone in on whatever chef Adam Evans has on the raw bar menu that night.
  • Sour cream ice cream is great, get it with the brown sugar cake
  • The ginger in the Monday Night FU on draft is a great summer flavor.
  • One of CL's 100 dishes to eat before you die, the Hot Buttered Rum includes actual butter (and rum, of course). Who puts butter in cocktails?! These guys.

Nearby places

1170 Howell Mill Rd NW (at 14th St.)
1198 Howell Mill Rd NW
1198 Howell Mill Rd NW (btwn Huff Rd NW & 14th St.)