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The Optimist Brings the Seashore to Atlanta

By Elisha Neubauer

If there's one thing that Americans love, it's the beach. One of the greatest things about a visit to the seaside is being able to enjoy the fresh, decadent seafood restaurants littered around the sandy shores. Even those in landlocked areas still enjoy a great seafood menu once and a while, regardless of the lack of sand and surf in their immediate vicinity.

For those landlockians in Atlanta, Georgia, there is an equal substitute. The Optimist, a Chef Ford Fry restaurant, is aimed specifically at bringing a seaside fish camp experience to the area. This gorgeous little restaurant made its home in an old ham-aging house just off Howell Mill Road back in 2012. With its minimalist wall dressings and exposed rafters, the stark white walls and weathered wooden flooring help set the mood for a sea-worthy meal of the freshest oceanic creations.

"I had a strong passion for a non-corporate, casual yet super high quality, seafood inspired restaurant heavily influenced by the classic fish houses of the Northeast coast without limiting ourselves to the the Gulf and Southeastern waters near us," explains Chef and owner of The Optimist, Ford Fry. Aiming to only serve the highest quality sustainable seafood, Fry exclusively works with the country's best suppliers to furnish meals such as fresh oysters from the Alabama coast, Maine sea scallops, and whole roasted Georgia trout.

When asked where The Optimist sources their seafood, Fry responded, "Any Northeastern fish and shellfish comes out of Boston ? but from the waters all around there. The rest comes from the Gulf and Low Country waters as we have fisherman pulling up to our back door with fish we just can't say no to." Keeping their acquired product fresh is no worry to the seafood temple, as they have to order 150-200 pounds of fish each day just to keep up with demand.

As his resume proves, Fry is no stranger to the kitchen, or the business, and has been named Restaurateur of the Year by the Georgia Restaurant Association and Empire Builder of the Year by Eater Atlanta. The Optimist is the third of five Fry-owned eateries, which range from refined Southern food to elegant Italian. The Optimist, however, has been referred to as 'Fry's best effort to date,' winning titles and awards from the moment it opened, including Reader's Pick Best Restaurant to take Visitors and Best Seafood. They have adorned lists such as 70 Best New Restaurants in the World, Best of Atlanta, 5 Best Restaurants for a Celebration in Atlanta, and Atlanta's 50 Best Restaurants, just to name a few.

If you take the plunge and find yourself sitting at one of the cozy wooden tables of The Optimist unable to make a decision on what to order, perhaps take the suggestion of Executive Chef Wesley True. "I would definitely have to say oysters," boasts True. "We source oysters from all over the country and we sell between 17,000 and 25,000 oysters a month- that's a whole lot of oyster shucking!"

Photo Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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