Friday, October 12, 2012


Really anticipating a great meal at THE OPTIMIST!  It took my son, who lives and works in Chicago, to tell me about it.  Don't know how it escaped my restaurant radar, especially since I'm in love with JCT Kitchen, but after checking it out online, and then reading reviews, I'm racing over!

Photo Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee via the Optimist

Normally I find it quite annoying when you go to a website and are bombarded with sounds - music, talking, or whatever.  However, I absolutely LOVE that when you go on their website, you listen to soothing ocean sounds.  That's my favorite sound on the Planet!  I seriously kept the page open while I was working, just so I could continue to fantasize about sitting on the beach!  Furthermore, the website has such a great feel - gorgeous photographs of their food and the interior of the restaurant, and the site is visually appealing and easy to access as well.  Again, not something I normally ever comment on, but I'd recommend checking it out before you dine there.

The Optimist
914 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, Georgia  30318

Chef/Owner Ford Fry (who also owns JCT Kitchen, and No. 246) has created this restaurant to satisfy Atlantans' seafood cravings.  Their website offers that Executive Chef Adam Evans flies in Maine sea scallops and fresh oysters from both coasts, along with items such as whole-roasted Georgia trout to garlicky clams. And to give you an idea of how this restaurant appears to be doing, I attempted a weekend reservation to no avail, so I'm going on a Thursday evening, and the only time slot available is at 5:45PM!

Here's a Sample Menu from their website:

east coast oysters, fresh horseradish, mignonette / 2.5 ea
peel & eat ga white shrimp, “come back” sauce & lemon / 12. per 1/2 lb.
snap & eat jonah crab claws, mustard sauce / 12. per 1/2 lb.
seafood gumbo, “pot luck” garlic bread / 9.
frothy she-crab soup, shrimp toast / 9.
smoked white fish chowder, oyster crackers / 9.
simple salad, shaved celery & herbs, banyuls vinaigrette / 7.
little gem salad, meyer lemon anchovy dressing, croutons, parmesan / 7.
arugula, feta cheese, muscadine vinaigrette / 8.
garlicky tiny clams & pork belly, hand-torn croutons / 9.
mussels, green curry broth, birds eye chile, picked herbs / 9.
fried oysters, smoked paprika mayonnaise, house pickles /9.
whole ga white shrimp a la plancha, “sopping” toast, arbol chile, lime / 11. …(messy, but worth it)
crispy long beans, sea salt, buttermilk-dill mignonette / 7.
fried clam roll, kimchi vinegar, house pickles / 9.
grilled bacon-wrapped figs, toasted almonds, aged balsamic / 10.
spicy glazed spanish octopus, watermelon, coriander / 12.
black grouper, low country boil, shrimp / 24.
alaskan halibut, garlic cream, celery, calabrese peppers / 26.
seared yellowfin tuna, charred octopus & potato salad, harissa / 26.
fish & chips, ale battered haddock, malt vinegar aioli / 18.
sea scallops, oxtail marmalade, brown butter-chicken jus / 28.
duck fat poached swordfish, green papaya, crispy country ham, peanuts / 24.
speckled trout, charred okra, pepper jelly / 24.
fish & chips, ale battered haddock, malt vinegar aioli / 18.
red snapper, lime broth, herbs / 25.
cioppino, sofrito, tomato broth, mussels, oysters, fennel / 24.
black bass, charred scallions and peppers, pickled shiitakes / 20.
john dory, summer corn, basil / 24.
wood roasted half amish chicken, almost boneless, salsa verde / 18.
glazed pork shoulder, palm sugar baked beans / 22.
skirt steak, romesco sauce, beef jus / 24.


So, my husband and I dined at The Optimist last night.  I'm (almost) at a loss for words to describe how much I love this restaurant.  From the exterior, the lounge (Oyster Bar), the putt putt golf out front with seating, the servers, the bathrooms (yes, they were stunning too!) and oh yes, THE FOOD!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's start with driving up, and quickly a valet greets us.  We then walk over to the restaurant and are immediately commenting on how cool this place is!  Then, once you enter the restaurant, you feel like you're a special guest.  It's just so inviting and warm and totally current with rustic, industrial chic decor with an open kitchen.

We then were seated and almost immediately met our fabulous server, Jonathan (who had another server, James, who was shadowing him).  We were perusing our menus, and another guy brought us these scrumptious little yeast rolls topped with sea salt.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

We then chose our drinks from their newly updated for fall drink menu.  My husband went with a version of a Dark and Stormy, called Release the Kraken.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
All I can say here is, "Wow!" It was so delicious!  It was smooth and tasted like a Coca-Cola with a kick.  We were fighting over it actually! ;0)

I ordered an Old Salty Dog.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
It was good, but the great thing about it was the salt rimmed glass, as it included ginger, which was yummy.

We knew we wanted oysters, and we've loved the oysters at their sister restaurant, JCT Kitchen.  Jonathan personally hand selected small west coast oysters for us after discussing what kind of oysters we like.  They were so amazing, that we almost forgot to take a picture!  Here is the final oyster about to be gobbled up!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

These were just so good.  They were served with a great mignonette sauce, cocktail sauce, fresh horseradish, lemon and these wonderful hard cracker/toasts.

Next we chose a first course.  My husband went with the true star of the evening.  He had (at Jonathan's recommendation) the octopus - spicy glazed spanish octopus, kalamata olives, peppers, coriander.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

This dish is just a flavor explosion in your mouth!  We both LOVED it!  I'd go back there tomorrow and order that for lunch, as I'm craving it already.  Yum!

I went with their Simple Salad.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Normally, it's not too sexy to wax on and on about a bed of greens.  But let me tell you, this salad was just perfect.  Everything was fresh and the dressing was fabulous.  It was, for me, the perfect first course - especially given the fact that we were sharing a bit, and did I mention that I'm in love with the octopus?

For our main courses we went with Halibut and Tuna.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
This halibut (alaskan halibut, garlic cream, celery, calabrese peppers) was wonderful.  The calabrese peppers added just enough punch to nicely offset the creamy white fish and sauce.  Loved it!

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
This tuna was great!  The picture of it (seared yellowfin tuna, charred octopus & potato salad, harissa) doesn't do it justice, but the harissa (I'm a big fan) was such a nice flavor change from the usual soy sauce concoction.  And the bits of charred octopus and crunchy little potatoes were a great accompaniment.

We were too full for dessert, but next time, I'll try and save some room.  Check out this fabulous menu:

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Check out the middle of the dessert menu - a TO GO section!  Why has no one ever thought of this idea before?  I'm always stuffed right after dinner, and it's rare that I even consider dessert for that reason.  The Optimist has a solution - a small sweet to take with you.  The 2 options on this evening were a Chocolate-covered Frozen Banana or a Key Lime Pie Push Pop.  I just love these options!

Hat's off to Ford Fry and Adam Evans for creating an innovative, beautiful restaurant.  I realize that this review is just ridiculously glowing, but I honestly can't say anything bad about it.  In fact, it may be my new favorite restaurant in Atlanta!  It's a MUST GO TO place!  I cannot wait to go back!

Finally, a shout out to my son - THANK YOU FOR SENDING ME TO THE OPTIMIST!!!

***Follow up visit:
I went back to The Optimist last night prior to going to a Georgia Tech basketball game, and we just enjoyed The Oyster Bar.  It was just as fabulous as the restaurant!  Kumamoto oysters, Lobster Roll and Lobster Fritters - all simply devine.  Great service, and such a fun atmosphere.  Loved it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


My husband and I made the trip to Babette's Cafe recently as guests of my mother and her husband to celebrate my husband's birthday.
Photo Credit: Babette's Cafe
573 North Highland Avenue
Atlanta, GA  30307
Ph. (404) 523-9121

Chef/Owner: Marla Adams

While I've been to Babette's Cafe a couple of times before, each experience has been a bit different. The food has been good, but the service has been a little inconsistent in the past.

However, on this evening, the service and the food were outstanding.

When we walked in the door, we were warmly greeted by the Chef/Owner, Marla Adams. Ms. Adams was previously with the Peasant Restaurant group as well as Buckhead Life Group.  She opened Babette's in the fall of 1992.  She and the restaurant are celebrating 20 years in Atlanta!

As you look around the restaurant, you will immediately feel transported to Europe. The restaurant is in an old house on North Highland Avenue, and it is decorated with attention to detail so that you feel comfortable and relaxed as soon as you are seated. And while our last visit, we were not too pleased with our server or the wait for our food coming out of the kitchen at times, on this visit, the server, Robin, who is an 8 year veteran of Babette's, was very good. He was knowledgeable and helpful with navigating the menu.

We sat down and were immediately presented with a wonderful baguette with fresh butter to nosh on.  It was great, and I just loved the rustic presentation in a galvanized bucket.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

We started with cocktails which included my current fav - Moscow Mule. Unfortunately this drink wasn't the highlight of our evening. After I "sold" it to my mother, she ordered one as well. The bartender was a bit heavy handed with the lime, and each sip of the drink caused the pucker factor. Once the ice melted it was drinkable, but they need to work on those ratios.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

The menu is beautifully presented, and it was tough to make a decision, as so many items were appealing.  The menu provides, as their website states, "very traditional peasant dishes done with an up-to-date character and flavors."

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

They also offer a Prix Fixe supper menu that we didn't choose, but it looked fantastic:

The first course was very good, but we gobbled it up so fast that I was unable to take any pictures. But 3 of us ordered the following:

*a romaine and arugula salad with shaved parmesan and a creamy dressing - Romaine and Arugula Salad with shaved asiago and lemon thyme dressing

*a bowl of beer cheese soup - Beer Cheese Soup with Brioche Croutons

*a seasonal beet and pear salad - Roasted Baby Beets with Goat Cheese and D'Anjou Pears

The green salad was delicious - light with a nice marriage of flavors. But the real hero here was the soup! It was fabulous - not too heavy, but the seasonings were just right. The beet and pear salad was (to quote my mother), "Just OK." Babette's is my mother's FAVORITE restaurant in Atlanta, and she's ordered another beet salad they've had in the past and loved it, but this one didn't fit the bill for her.

Then we moved on to the main courses which fortunately were all very good.

The birthday boy (my husband) ordered a beef filet with gorgonzola sauce - Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Saucewith horseradish mashed potatoes and spicy onion rings, and it was out of this world. The meat was cooked to perfection, and the cheese was just right and not overpowering. I'd stack it up against any of the big pricey Atlanta/Buckhead steakhouses any day.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

I ordered the veal piccata - Veal Piccata - strauss free raised: with lemons, capers and butter sauce, seasonal vegetablesand I will tell you - it might be the best veal piccata I've ever tasted! It was pounded very very thin, so it was tender and not chewy, and with each bite you could taste the richness of the butter with the saltiness of the capers and lemon. Loved it! It came with a side dish of mashed
potatoes, french green beans and diced sweet potatoes. Those were very good as well.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

My mother got the sole - New England Sole with Grilled Fennel and Orange Compote,with organo potatoesand her's was strangely prepared I'll have to say.  It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't delicately prepared the way the French prepare sole.  My mother's reaction was tepid at best.  Maybe the fennel bothered her?

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
And finally, my mother's husband ordered pork medallions - Sauteed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin
with a whole grain mustard sauce and grilled asparagus, and he loved them.  I didn't have a taste, but the dish looked great.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

We were very full, so we only had an order of homemade pecan ice cream for dessert.  Wow!  Delish!  It was served in a Sundae glass along with 2 shortbread cookies.  Very nicely done.  My husband had a cappuccino with Bailey's that was devine.  Next visit I'll HAVE to have the chocolate bread pudding or creme brulee - both sounded amazing.

All in all, it was a fabulous dining experience.  So glad they fine tuned the kitchen timing and waitstaff.  But the real reason to go there is the food and atmosphere.  Marla Adams is a gift to Atlanta for sure!