2012 has been an exciting year for Atlanta restaurants, after a rather hum-drum 2011. High profile restaurants have been opening up at a rapid clip and it’s been tough to keep up. Personally, I’ve been writing about new Atlanta businesses for Citysearch.com – an old-school site in terms of the web that’s in the middle of a relaunch. I was pretty excited when I’d been given an invite to check out The Optimist on the Westside when it opened recently.

The Optimist dining room

As Ford Fry & his crew did when he opened No. 246 in Decatur last year, tips about the new restaurant filtered out through their tumblr site over the months preceding the opening. What were the keys for? What would the oyster bar look like? How exactly would this big, hulking structure turn into an intimate restaurant worthy of our hard-earned dining dollars? Those questions and more would be answered in short order. I enjoyed watching some of the design elements by graphic designer Alvin Diec and construction photos by Andrew Thomas Lee.

As for the restaurant itself, it’s quite the stunner. I’m afraid that my photos might not do the place justice. I did have the advantage of arriving at an AARP-approved hour while the restaurant was still close to empty, and had a bit of freedom of moving around the restaurant to take advantage of the light streaming through the tall windows. Oddly enough, I chose a time when the aforementioned Alvin & Andrew were there to capture images for the restaurant’s full website that recently launched, in addition to an Atlanta Magazine photographer snapping shots for a preview.

The Truth As We Know It.
Bitter Truth Pink Gin, Dolin Blanc and Angostura’s bitters, with smoked salmon/ caper berry garnish

The food and drinks themselves? I really enjoyed everything executive chef Adam Evans had to offer. When asking friends online about their favorite dishes, the garlicky tiny clams and pork belly dish was mentioned quite often and I’d have to agree. My friend Katie, who recently started a blog, loved her beachy Port Antonio cocktail, complete with tiny umbrella. Our server Christopher, who also has a background as a freelance writer,  was a lot of fun, and gets a big plus for being open to his photo taken. I’d definitely ask for him again on a return visit.

It was a nice surprise on my visit to see Taria Camerino of Sugar Coated Radical preparing desserts for the aforementioned website photo shoot. She’s preparing desserts for all of Ford Fry’s restaurants including JCT Kitchen down the road. The mimosa flowers on the grapefruit tart I enjoyed were foraged by Taria herself. I don’t believe the dessert is currently on the menu, but a friend who visited a week ago mentioned that the desserts he enjoyed on a recent visit were first rate.

seared rare tuna, charred octopus & potato salad, harissa

As with any new restaurants there can be some hiccups along the way. I found it odd that on a return visit there were only two types of oysters offered to a friend & I at the main bar and on a separate trip I’ve had some friends report some less than stellar service. John Kessler notes that the menu items are not exactly cheap when ordering a full meal.

The Optimist is a place that I was excited about leading up the opening, and still have the same excitement for now that it’s been on the scene for a few months.  The photos here just touch the tip of the iceberg as patrons can partake in a bit of outdoor golf, and chill out with appetizers and punch at the accompanying Oyster Bar. Smith Hanes, who also designed the new iteration of Watershed in Brookwood Hills, has done a masterful job with the space. I can only imagine what Ford has up his sleeves for his next undertaking uptown.

wood roasted soft shell crab, pickled ramps, garlic broth

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