My first visit to the Optimist was right after they opened, and on the restaurant’s dime. I liked it overall. A skate wing was very poor, and has since been removed from the menu. As everyone says, the Smith Hanes space is stunning, a large hull of a room, rocking with people below the viewport of the open galley, where one can watch a chef pick his nose, like I did. (By the way – four sea/ship references in the previous sentence if you are keeping track at home.)
This time I visited the best restaurant in America | Stone Cold Stunner in Atlanta to sit in the bar area, opting to snack outside on a nice evening a few weeks ago. Arriving past 9PM, it was completely jammed. Good for them.
Being just a little nosh, I picked out six oysters (three from each coast), a beer, a glass of prosecco, some roasted carrots, and soffrito braised beans for the two of us. With tip it was $56.
Is that a lot? It felt like a lot at the time. Writing it out, maybe not so bad now. Not that we are talking about a filling meal, which it was not intended to be. But something about paying over $3 an oysters ($3.50 for west coast at Optimist) bugs me. They say they are going for a beach trip nostalgia vibe, but when was the last time you went to Pawley’s Island or Charleston and paid $50 for a dozen of oysters and a cold beer?
I understand oyster quality and variety, but it seems incongruous when the bar is pitched as such, and I end up dropping a c-note on two people for two dozen oysters, you know, just like when I grew up in East Hampton. Hog Island, in San Francisco, will hit you with 24 bivalve truth-bombs for $50.
Kick ass quality East Coast oysters exist, and if Optimist had a volume deal similar to Hog Island, or some East Coast options at $2 or below, I would visit more often.