It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
Jay Swift closed his landmark Old Fourth Ward restaurant 4th & Swift and took his locally farmed foods-loving self to an area where people understand the value of progressive culinary arts, and restaurants that are seriously committed to local farmers. The move is anything but fishy -- gas up your car and drive way up north for sauteed Gulf grouper, a whole 2lb lobster, or pan-seared diver scallops with watermelon radish. He and his son Jeb Aldrich share cheffing duties and keep the grill fire going. You’d also be smart to hit the bar on Mondays and Fridays for “Buck-a-Shuck” oyster happy hour from 5-7pm.
That towering steel structure of a trout/salmon hybrid on Pharr Rd is a moving tribute, or possibly a scary political statement/warning on what could emerge if we don’t keep our oceans and rivers clean. Either way, it's amazing. But it would be meaningless if the building behind it wasn’t a premiere Atlanta institution of seafood, where you can devour Atlanta’s largest collection of wild-caught, fresh fish, from Cape Cod skate wing and Block Island swordfish to Boston lemon sole and Nova Scotia halibut. There’s also a market where you can purchase live -- or recently dead -- lobster and other shellfish, various trout (mountain, steelhead) and salmon (king, Atlantic, smoked, etc), and AFM has a great sushi selection, featuring octopus and sea urchin nigiri and sashimi, plus rolls like the tuna hamachi and crab Ocean Garden.
Similar to Atlanta Fish Market, but more Alpharetta-y (and with no statute… yet), this restaurant/market is heralded for signature eats like soy-honey glazed Chilean sea bass, sashimi & sushi, and great steaks if you like to turf your surf. Starters include sauteed blue crab fingers in hot garlic broth, “favorites” range from Cajun trout to green chili grouper, and selections from their fresh, daily cut catch include African prawns, Alaskan halibut, and more, which you can have grilled with lemon beurre blanc, blackened with tartar sauce, or meuniere in brown butter caper sauce. There's also barrels of artisanal bourbon, infused liquors, wine, and more coming from the bar, because even fish like to drink.
Sustainable seafood is this joint’s calling card, along with plating your preferred gill-bearing beast within 36 hours of catching it. Preparation begins with grilling a la plancha, then you choose between “Coastal” seafood seasoning, “Miso” (braised in broth), simple salt/pepper “Skinny,” and “Blackened” Cajun spice. Not only are all options delicious (if you like trout even in the slightest, try it here -- it’s stupendous), but GC has great daily specials, such as $20 whole Maine lobsters on Monday nights, “Crab Trio Tuesday” in which you get a flash-fried fritter, she crab soup, and a pound of Alaskan snow legs, and $5 oyster dozens every Wednesday.
Designed to resemble a storm-weathered fish house for people who have way too much money to hang out in one, Lure is a great place to enjoy premium oysters, grilled cobia collars with smoked onions, Georges Bank sea scallops with rice porridge, or a seafood cassoulet with GA white shrimp, smoked swordfish belly, and crawfish. Weather permitting, grab weekend brunch on the dock-ish front patio and try a fried North Carolina catfish biscuit or the “Angler’s Breakfast” of pan-fried rainbow trout with slow-cooked egg, potatoes, and greens.
Upscale is the word at C&S, where the old-school look of wood, leather, and dimmed lighting speaks to the classy approach it takes to sea-sourced dining. Everything in the kitchen is certified organic and locally grown, which is important to owners Rich Clark and Jon Schwenk, whose combined experience includes working together in Buckhead for world-renowned chef Maguy Le Coze (of NYC’s Le Bernardin), and running other acclaimed seafood restaurants like Atlanta Fish Market and Atlantic Seafood Company. The lumb crab cake with Champagne butter is worth every penny of the $16 price tag, and the gumbo, truffled lobster orecchiette with cheese and tarragon bread crumbs, and raw bar offerings are all major winners. Still, there’s nothing quite like the steamed sea bass, which experts say isn’t the healthiest fish to eat, but pay no attention, because one day they’ll taste it and apologize to all of us.
It feels fair to include Wahoo! just because it built a wine store in the front of the restaurant not long ago, but this neighborhood seafood bistro deserves credit for creating masterful water-born meals served inside a glass-walled dining room that provides a romantic view of a lush outdoor garden. The kitchen partners with local farmers and fisherman to procure sustainably sourced produce, protein, and grains. It's been doing the farm-to-table thing -- before it was a popular hyphenated catchphrase -- with GA trout, Charleston shrimp & grits, and other fish dishes from Hawaii to Faroe Island.
Is it janky that Legal Sea Foods is across the street from the Georgia Aquarium? Not unless you’re a delicious fish! The panoramic windows and balcony seats let you gaze out into Centennial Olympic Park, which is a nice touch whether you’re keeping it lowbrow with spicy fish & chips, or taking on classics like Cioppino (lobster, scallops, shrimp, calamari, Little Neck clams, mussels, and whitefish in tomato broth), blackened mahi-mahi, or the sauteed shrimp/Andouille sausage/jasmine rice/braised greens “Louisiana Catfish Matrimony,” which we hear is also the theme for Manti Te’o’s upcoming imaginary New Orleans wedding.
Chef Adam Evans is no longer running the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean that the fine seafood dining restaurant Ford Fry launched -- once called the “Best New Restaurant in America” by national media -- isn’t still among the city’s best. The nautical design transports you to a seaside resort, with high-quality foods that come from all around the country, from Georgia to Maine, back down to Alabama and beyond. Optimist is known for ridiculously fresh oysters, hickory-hearth-roasted fish (lane snapper, crispy whole New England haddock, duck-fat-poached swordfish, etc), and beachy eats like super-stuffed lobster rolls and hush puppies. It’s also a great place to catch cocktails like the East of Eden, with Nikka Coffey grain whisky, WhistlePig barrel-aged grade-A dark maple syrup, and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ decanter bitters.
The C&S founders must have realized that not everybody in the south wants to be fancy, but everybody loves fish, so they made Hugo’s a little simpler, sourcing almost all the seafood -- aside from certain oysters -- from the Southeast (from the Outer Banks to the Mississippi Delta), as a nod to the down-to-earth sensibilities of the Atlanta suburbs. That also makes it more affordable, so be just as proud to order po-boys (crawfish, shrimp, oyster, etc) as you’d be to request specialities such as the blue-crab-crusted grouper, or market fish plates like Gulf redfish, NC rainbow trout, or Scottish salmon. HOB's also got a banging brunch menu, with bite-sized triangle beignets, crab cake Benedict with fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and Parmesan truffle grits, and be sure not to miss the build-your-own Bloody Mary and mimosa bars.
Though it’s not an ATL original, this ballroom-esque national chain brings the good kind of pain (think Method Man, not ulcers) to your stomach via daily changing “top-of-the-catch fish” arriving from all over the world as it becomes available to the chef. Oceanaire's got cold apps like the colossal crabmeat cocktail (it’s big), hot ones like escargots bourguignonne puff pastries, and an arrangement of lemon-butter-brushed fish plates from Columbia king salmon to Florida snapper. Still, you’re in the Atlanta location, so order the chicken-fried lobster with truffled honey, cheese grits, and hot sauce, because even when we think we’re high-falutin’, we’re still stereotypically predictable if you chicken-fry anything.
This Greek/Mediterranean seafood house, with its bold blue hues and huge, bright-white, rounded marble columns, strikes a decidedly different tone just from its appearance. It's known for wood-grilling and olive oil-/lemon-/oregano-basting whole fish entrees, including arctic char, bronzino, pink snapper, and red mullet. Kyma's also got a “Foodies” menu with inventive items like grilled cuttlefish (stuffed with 12-hour-braised lamb), and shell-less mussels cooked in white wine with feta cheese, ouzo, and green Holland peppers.
Having been around since 1984, RotR is a fine-dining landmark that puts you right alongside the Chattahoochee River to take in views with bites of freshly flown-in seafood. The gumbo here is made with a perfectly dark, flavorful roux, and the New Orleans BBQ shrimp will have you doubling your order before you even arrive at entrees like Canadian cold water lobster tail, the ginger soy tuna, or the horseradish-encrusted black grouper. Also check out the salsa-cruda-topped trout from Morganton, Georgia, the Bay of Fundy salmon, or the North Atlantic barrel-cut yellowfin tuna. And wash it all down with local craft brews from SweetWater, Red Hare, Jekyll, Jailhouse and Terrapin, or cocktails like the “Sofia Vergara” margarita with house-made jalapeño tequila. Hot damn!
Chef Doug Turbush, who ran multiple AAA-rated fine-dining restaurants like ATL’s legendary Bluepointe (before opening Seed Kitchen & Bar and Stem Wine Bar), keeps it simple and comfortable at the airy Drift, where high-grade American seafood gets live wood fire cooking techniques before arriving in front of you as you sit perched on high-backed benches or at blonde wooden tables. Bourbon-cured salmon is a great place to start before you get to beer-battered haddock with honey butter hush puppies, or lemon/herb ricotta ravioli with jumbo lump crab. You could also hit the raw bar for an assorted iced shellfish tower, or have wood-grilled branzino with chermoula Arabic marinade. If you’re the message-in-a-bottle type, look for knowledge in house-bottled cocktails like the tequila/raspberry-chipotle/lime “Man Overboard,” and end with a French silk pie or salted caramel sundae.
Ponce City Market
The Star Provisions folks don’t skimp when it comes to food, so the place affectionately dubbed “Dub’s” (named in honor of chef Anne Quatrano's great-great-great-great grandfather, who obviously was really great), does further justice to the reputation of the team behind Bacchanalia and Floataway Cafe, with an even lower frills menu than you might expect -- especially from the folks behind one of the city’s consistently best (and priciest) restaurants. Considering itself a “modern, urban fish shack,” Stiles' freshly caught and served seafood comes mostly from the South, whether it’s from the raw shellfish bar, or smashed between bread as a pan-seared shrimp po-boy, trout skin BLT, or lobster roll. WH even sells sea-inspired home decorations, from kitchen utensils to oyster shuckers and crab claw crackers.
1. Noble Fin5260 Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree Corners
2. Atlanta Fish Market265 Pharr Rd NE, Atlanta
3. Atlantic Seafood Co.2345 Mansell Rd, Alpharetta
4. Goin' Coastal1021 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta
5. Lure1106 Crescent Ave NE, Atlanta
6. C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar3240 Cobb Pkwy SE, Atlanta
7. Wahoo! Grill1042 W College Ave, Decatur
8. Legal Sea Foods275 Baker St NW, Atlanta
9. The Optimist914 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta
10. Hugo's Oyster Bar10360 Alpharetta St, Roswell
11. The Oceanaire Seafood Room1100 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta
12. Kyma3085 Piedmont Rd NE, Atlanta
13. Ray's on the River6700 Powers Ferry Road, Sandy Springs, Sandy Springs
14. Drift Fish House and Oyster Bar4475 Roswell Rd, Marietta
15. W.H. Stiles Fish Camp675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta
Peachtree Corners is home to this bright, sophisticated restaurant from Jay Swift (4th & Swift), where guests can feast on market-fresh fish and fine cuts of steak alongside craft cocktails. Despite the modern decor and polished staff, the ambience is casual, making the surf & turf fare (Maine lobster rolls, pan-roasted branzino, prime NY strip) work for any night of the week. Top off your dinner with an expertly poured whiskey cocktail and creme brûlée and you'll quickly see why Noble Fin has become a go-to spot in this Atlanta suburb.
Not surprisingly, Atalanta Fish Markets reigns as Atlanta's best spot to eat freshly-caught fish, which is flown in from the coast to this Buckhead spot every day. It's not possible to go cheap here (I mean, what do you expect of a restaurant with an enormous, extravagant fish sculpture in its parking lot), but that's due to large portions and top-notch quality. You can simply choose a fresh fish and the way you'd like it prepared, choose a main course like smoked Scottish salmon with asparagus on the side, or delve outside European territory and get a few sushi rolls for the table.
Located in Alpharetta, Atlantic Seafood Company cooks up seafood dishes that are rich in both flavor and flair, featuring a vibrant Asian twist seen in favorites like orange miso prawns and soy-honey glazed Chilean sea bass. There are some landlubber plates here, too, like a tender bone-in ribeye. The biggest draw, though? The assortment of sashimi and signature sushi rolls -- from standbys like spider and rainbow to chef's creations like the Sea Monster (shrimp tempura, crab, and asparagus topped with lobster, avocado, wasabi cream, spicy mayo, and eel sauce). There's also a full bar inside this modern, colorful space with an extensive list of artisanal bourbon, infused liquors, and wine on offer.
Virginia Highland's Goin' Coastal is a neighborhood seafood joint, offering traditional Southern fare for dinner and brunch in a rustic setting. Shareable, family-friendly plates like cornbread, baked oysters, and lobster mac and cheese are what's on the menu, but almost unheard of weekday happy hour scores ($5 for a dozen oysters!) and cheap cocktails also make Goin' Coastal a worthy nightlife locale.
This Midtown spot's plating super-fresh coastal cuisine in a spacious, modern farmhouse-style locale. Dishes range from New England style clam chowder, to fresh Mid-Atlantic oysters on the half shell with a spicy shochu mignonette, to a Southern inspired saffron seafood cassoulet with smoked swordfish. A supremely extensive cocktail list, featuring everything from sake, to punch bowl cocktails, to new and old world wines, will satisfy everyone in your party.
Don't let the strip-mall location fool you: C&S serves exceptional seafood and steak inside a space that'll transport you to an old-school Manhattan steakhouse with its tiled floor and argyle booths. The extensive menu shows off the background of the two Atlanta food-scene vets at the helm, who boast experience in fine French and American restaurants, particularly in the high-end quality of dishes like shrimp & goat cheese beignets, grilled swordfish, and sautéed grouper picatta. You'll want to order something from the full and fresh raw bar, too, such as oysters, clams, or king crab.
A bright neighborhood bistro in Decatur, Wahoo! Grill is a fresh escape for its top-notch pasta, steak, and seafood offerings, and its bright, glass-walled dining room that's surrounded by a lush outdoor garden. There's Southern inspiration in many of the plates here, including the brunch-favorite Charleston shrimp & grits, fried chicken, and even the NY strip, which is served with cajun fries. Speaking of brunch, fans flock here on weekends for the buffet option, which will have you sampling just about every menu item and actually exclaiming "Wahoo!" as you do so.
This upscale Massachusetts area chain feels right at home in the ATL with their extensive menu of seafood and steaks. Belly up to the bar downstairs at Oyster Bar for casual, quick drinks, or enjoy a dinner in the refined, relaxed dining room upstairs that has a great view of Centennial Olympic Park.
The Optimist proudly brings premier sustainable seafood to Midtown Atlanta. The airy, modern, minimalist spot specializes in oysters, with over ten varieties from the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and Canada available on the half shell. Coastal, regional dishes (gumbo, clam chowder, fish& chips) make up the rest of the menu. For an after dinner treat, knock out a round of putt-putt on the restaurant's on-site course.
From the guys behind C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar comes Hugo's, where live jazz, fresh seafood, AND your favorite sports games all come together for your casual enjoyment. Other noteworthy things: fried mac 'n cheese.
There's a definite business-meeting or special-occasion vibe about this high-end seafood chain restaurant, which sports white tablecloths, wooden accents, and a menu that changes daily based on market availability. You'll find upscale yet playful plates in the lineup, such as grilled scallops with smoked mushroom risotto and a red-wine reduction, as well as elote-crusted salmon with roasted corn, red peppers, queso blanco, and avocado aioli. There are prime cuts of steak for the land-inclined, too. You have your work cut out for you when it comes to drinks: the wine menu is extensive, featuring both domestic and international bottles, and may require assistance from the seasoned staff.
Like a seafood tavern straight out of Greece, Buckhead's Kyma sports a blue ceiling, white walls and columns, and a menu brimming with sophisticated, Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes. You can start with shareable plates or "meze" like seafood stew before moving on to specialty entrees including arctic char, lamb chops, and filet mignon. Best of all, there are rare Greek fish imports on the menu, which have included glosa and fagri. Vegans and vegetarians, rejoice: there's a separate menu just for you.
The respected steak and seafood joint is still regularly packed 30+ years after opening on the bank of the Chattahoochee River. Serving everything from gumbo to oysters, lobster rolls, and 21-day wet-aged, hand-cut Delmonico ribeye steaks, Ray’s is still a favorite among those who appreciate consistency, fanciness, and an impeccable waterside view (so, uh, everyone?).
At the easy, breezy, beautiful Drift in Marietta, Chef Doug Turbush (the mastermind behind Bluepointe, Seed Kitchen & Bar, and Stem Wine Bar) serves upscale yet comforting seafood dishes using live wood-fire cooking techniques. Take a seat on the beachy blonde-wood or blue-cushioned furniture, and dive into plates like bourbon-cured salmon, beer-battered haddock with honey butter hush puppies, or lemon-herb ricotta ravioli with jumbo lump crab. Upping the nautical theme here is the full raw bar with an assorted iced shellfish tower, plus house-bottled cocktails like the tequila/raspberry-chipotle/lime Man Overboard.
Affectionately nicknamed “Dub’s” in honor of Chef Anne Quatrano's great-great-great-great grandfather, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp is the more casual cousin to Bacchanalia and Floataway Cafe (all owned by Star Provisions), serving freshly caught Southern seafood dishes inside what it calls a “modern, urban fish shack.” Life preservers hang on the white and green walls in this Ponce City Market spot, and favorites like a pan-seared shrimp po'boy, a trout skin BLT, and a lobster roll don the menu. Bonuses include a raw shellfish bar and nautical home decor for sale -- from kitchen utensils to oyster shuckers to crab claw crackers.