Spent last weekend in ATL and had the most exceptional series of dinners, lunches and cocktails. Here are the top 5 starting with my absolute favorite:
The Optimist (914 Howell Mill Road NW)
- This is my favorite restaurant. Kudos to Ford Fry for coming up with such a winning combination. The Optimist delivers all the essential elements of a great dining experience: phenomenal food, great vibe and ambiance and knowledgeable, friendly waitstaff.
- Another major plus: you can have a conversation with your table mates. The decibel level of the music encourages conversation. Other restaurants, please take note!!
- Here’s what we ordered: ceviche, tuna poke, octopus, kale salad with chorizo and calabrian chilis (amazing!), most of the fish dishes (all wood-hearth roasted). And for dessert, make sure you get the salted caramel ice cream. Also, the Dogwood cocktail is a winner (made with 10 Old Fourth Distillery vodka, Torres orange brandy, house-made orange cordial, lemon, 18.21 Creole bitters).
- The Optimist is located in an old ham-aging house. The outdoors resembles a seaside fish camp – complete with mini golf. It was rainy on Sunday so the outdoors was shutdown but next time!
Read on below for additional favorites including Staplehouse.
Staplehouse (541 Edgewood Avenue SE)
- One of Atlanta’s best restaurants – with a sad but ultimately inspiring backstory (here). We managed to snag a Sunday lunch reservation through our friend, Pamela Berger.
- Staplehouse is outstanding on many levels: the space is gorgeous, the staff is friendly and clearly love what they’re doing, and the food is wonderfully creative. We ordered everything on the menu. It changes frequently but if you see any of these listed, make sure to order: Chicken liver tart with green strawberries, ginger and pecans has to be one of the most delicious – and beautiful – things I’ve ever eaten (pic top left), Ramps with spring onions, celery and pistachios (pic lower left), Halibut, Guinea hen sausage with carrots and nasturtium
- Although the restaurant describes itself as a casual neighborhood spot, I feel it is more special occasion and the food is front and center (i.e. each dish is presented with backstory and you want to pay attention).
- Staplehouse is in an old brick building from the 1900s. The restaurant’s front door is in the back of the space which is accessed through a courtyard. It was designed by Square Feet Studio – who also designed West Egg Cafe, another favorite listed below.
- During our visit, it was pouring torrentially so regretfully, I did not get a chance to explore the building’s outdoors space.
Gunshow (924 Garrett Street)
- Love the vibe and the ambiance here (altho it is WAY TOO LOUD).
- The concept is a mix of dim sum delivery and Brazilian churrascaria-style dining. What this means is that the waiters come around to each table – randomly – with dishes as the kitchen prepares them and you decide if you want to take them. If you do, they check them off on your menu to be tabulated at the end of the meal.
- Cocktails are made tableside via a delivery cart.
- Our favorite menu items included: Beef short rib with truffle and shoyu (amazing!!!),yellow thai shrimp curry (ordered twice!!), chilled vidalia soup (pic top right), coconut mousse, warm old-fashioned banana pudding
West Egg Café (1100 Howell Mill Road)
- Fabulous space in the West Provisions neighborhood.
- Bit of a co-working vibe here as well with lots of people on their laptops at large communal tables.
- Get the shrimp and grits – amazing!!
Himitsu (3050 Peachtree Rd., NW)
- “Himitsu” (which means secret in Japanese) is a quasi private club. You can’t just make a reservation, you need to leave your email and they get back to you and then they give you a secret code to get into the space.
- It’s part of the Umi sushi restaurant group and is positioned as a pre- or post-dinner spot for cocktails. However, they serve the same menu as Umi does.
- Here’s what we ordered: Black Cod Misoyaki – served on a lettuce leaf that you roll up to eat – one of the most sublime things I have ever eaten, Yellowtail Jalapeno – delicious and spicy, Seared Diver Scallops, and we had at least 3 of the house specialty rolls (Yum!). For dessert, make sure you get the creamy mille crepe cake (reminded me of Lady M in NYC but better!!)
- For cocktails, they have a smoky Japanese whiskey/sake concoction that is not to be missed if you like that style of drink. One of the best I’ve had!!
- The service is WONDERFUL (they love Rodrigo, it’s totally VIP).
- Bottom Line: the food and the cocktails are first-rate but the overall vibe is off, primarily because hanging out with your friends and eating exquisite food while you’re being tortured with ear-splitting music is not a formula for success. The food, the space, and my friends deserve better than this!