West Midtown is home to a gem, and it is definitely worth a visit or five. The Optimist has proven to be one of Atlanta’s hottest eateries. Its fresh East Coast oyster bar reminds me of P-town in the summer, and the delectable menu will satisfy your yearning for all things from the sea.
The ambience is luxuriously rustic with large, open spaces—yet comfortable and intimate. The oyster bar is separate from the main dining hall and perfect for date night. There is also a fine libations bar that is packed with Atlanta foodies and trend-seekers. The outside seating is inviting for after-dinner drinks and conversation. (On the night I was there my group was serenaded by a charismatic blues performer that made our evening complete.)
The menu is packed with delicious choices ranging from Florida grouper with smoked Vidalia onion and horseradish broth; wood-roasted soft shell crab with pickled ramps and garlic broth; seared rare tuna with charred octopus and potato salad; Maine sea scallops with oxtail marmalade and brown butter-chicken jus; and, my favorite, duck fat poached swordfish with pickled sweet peppers and crispy pancetta.
All the main dishes need sides and this is when it gets fun. The choices are brilliant, and you can choose a bunch and share with your table. They include shoestring fries with malt vinegar aioli; buttered spring onion potato puree; an assortment of mushrooms with shallot confit; potato gnocchi with lobster butter; corn-chilled wood-roasted beets with smoked egg, horseradish and apple; roasted farm carrot and ginger vinaigrette; corn milk hushpuppies “beignet style” with cane sugar butter; sliced local tomatoes with Louie dressing; basmati “fried rice” and smoked fish with curry, crushed peanuts and egg; and last but not least, risotto, red wine fish bordelaise.
Well I am hungry after recanting parts of the menu and chances are you will find me there midweek enjoying a beverage and those fat oysters. It is rare that I say “this is a must do” in Atlanta but I am saying it now, the Optimist is a MUST. So call your friends, your lover or super girlfriend because this place won’t disappoint. Happy eating!
914 Howell Mill Road