We're a few hundred miles from the closest ocean but Atlanta is at the intersection of some very rich seafood influences - from New Orleans, Florida and the Gulf Coast, Savannah and the Low Country - there is plenty of to choose from. Here's our picks for the Best Seafood awards that we present each year.
The Best Seafood in Atlanta according to our Critics is:
Part of Ford Fry's restaurant empire that Esquire named restaurant of the year in 2012. Although the Optimist has been open for a few years, reservations for dinner at this seafood spot can still be hard to come by, but you can eat a full meal at the bar or just make a meal at the oyster bar.
Pasta infused with squid ink is tossed with rock shrimp, scallions and hot calabrese sausage, inspired by one of Mario Batali's best-known dishes. The velvety noodles temper the slight sting. All in all, this dish is more intense than a codependent relationship. You'll love it even when it hurts. $18.
Outside of the dessert category, it’s tough to find a dish that tastes as gorgeous as it looks, but this coconut ceviche does the trick. Crisp cubes of fresh jicama, creamy avocado and papaya provide a gentle backdrop for fresh lime juice and salt marinated scallops, prawns and octopus tossed in a bright jalapeno-pineapple vinaigrette and served inside half a fleshy baby coconut. A delicate sprinkling of edible flowers and a thicket of crispy fried plantains complete the dish, ideal for devouring on Yebo’s fairy-lit patio on warm summer nights. $18.
Dang, this salad is good. Choose between a crispy or pan-seared catfish (crispy is where it’s at — moist and flaky on the inside, golden brown on the outside) cradled in a bed of chopped cabbage and cucumber slaw with peanuts, cilantro, and scallions. Slivers of jalapeño, a squeeze of lime, and a light dressing of tangy fish sauce-kissed vinaigrette pull the whole thing together.
Gently poached in glorious duck fat, this thick, glistening swordfish steak is all meaty and supple, with translucent sections that fall away with the touch of a fork into the accompanying smear of celery root purée and garlic chile relish. It's surf and turf 2.0.
No need to travel to Southeast Asia for craveable street food; simply head to Buford Highway. These tiny squid kind of resemble crunchy spiders, but in the cutest way. We swear. Deep-fried and doused in a honey-like rojak sauce until caramelized and brittle, they’re topped with sesame seeds and cilantro, and excellent for snacking. $8.
No need to travel to Southeast Asia for delectable street food; simply head to Buford Highway. These tiny squid kind of resemble crunchy spiders, but in the cutest way, we swear. Deep-fried and doused in a honey barbecue sauce until caramelized and brittle, they're topped with sesame seeds and cilantro, and excellent for snacking.
Picture two lobsters chopped shell-on, battered with rice flour, and fried to orange perfection. When the platter of stunning Hong Kong-style lobster for two hits the table, it's time to roll up those sleeves and dig in. Don't be afraid to eat with your hands, the way you would with ribs or peel-and-eat shrimp. Each bright orange section is speckled with crunchy bits of fried garlic, scallion, and spicy ginger. It's a messy enterprise, but totally worth it in the end. And by the way, Bo Bo is open till two a.m.
Picture two lobsters chopped shell-on, battered with rice flour, and fried. When the platter of stunning Hong Kong-style lobster for two hits the table, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and dig in. Don’t be afraid to eat with your hands, the way you would with ribs or peel-and-eat shrimp. Each bright orange section is speckled with crunchy bits of fried garlic, scallion, and spicy ginger. It’s a messy enterprise, but totally worth it in the end. Oh, and did we mention Bo Bo is open till 2 a.m.? $35.
This once-hidden BuHi gem is no longer quite so hidden (as you'll realize trying to snag a table at lunchtime), but its menu of Malaysian street eats has stayed strong. Red snapper head, a regional delicacy, comes swimming in a rich, saffron-colored coconut milk curry packed with dry-fried green beans, eggplant, and okra. Pulling the silky bits of fish flesh out of the whole head is a task, but one that reaps big rewards. For easy access, go with the fillet option: breaded, fried, and sautéed strips of catfish.
This once-hidden BuHi gem is no longer quite so hidden (as you’ll realize trying to snag a table at lunchtime), but its menu of Malaysian street eats has stayed strong. Red snapper head, a regional delicacy, comes swimming in a rich, saffron-colored coconut milk curry packed with dry-fried green beans, eggplant and okra. Pulling the silky bits of fish flesh out of the whole head is a task but one that reaps big rewards. For easy access, go with the fillet option: breaded, fried and sautéed strips of catfish, just $8.95 at lunchtime. $15.95.
At Buckhead's iconic Atlanta Fish Market, the lobster roll has been a signature item since its opening in 1981.For the sandwich, lobsters are cooked and shelled before the meat is tossed in a not-so-secret recipe of homemade mayo, cayenne pepper, and lemon. Then the mixture is stuffed into a toasty, buttered brioche bun from Buckhead Bread Co. to complete the typical New England lobster roll experience.
Located Downtown just a few blocks from CL’s office, Atlanta’s OG poke restaurant opened last year and serves up deconstructed sushi bowls like hotcakes (one of our staff members may or may not have already eaten here 10 times and earned $5 off her next order). Bowls are highly customizable, with an order sheet to pencil in the base, proteins and toppings of your choosing, but here’s our tried and true: brown rice with salad, salmon and ahi tuna topped with everything (and we mean everything) — crab meat, cucumbers, seaweed salad, sweet onion, pickled ginger, avocado, masago, tempura flakes, sesame seeds and green onion. A spiral of wasabi aioli completes the dish. Delicious and nutritious. $10.95 for regular/$12.95 for large.
For years, Atlanta's only oyster options were overpriced restaurant appetizers or low-priced specimens at questionable drinking spots. Thanks to the Optimist, we now have a solid spot to go for a carefully curated oyster selection so fresh you'd think you lived on the water. Pair them with a crisp glass of craft beer and more than one of the homemade Parker House rolls, shiny with butter and finished with flaked sea salt.
The salmon at Rumi's Kitchen is among the simplest dishes on the Persian menu — a thick fillet seared on the grill, served alongside basmati rice punched up with fava beans and dill. But simplicity belies the magic that happens when fire meets fish meets a dusting of Persian spices. It's a safe choice among Rumi's more exotic specialties, but this salmon delights time after time.
The salmon at Rumi’s Kitchen is among the simplest dishes on the Persian menu — a thick fillet seared on the grill, served alongside basmati rice punched up with fava beans and dill. But simplicity belies the magic that happens when fire meets fish meets a dusting of Persian spices. It’s a safe choice among Rumi’s more exotic specialties, but this salmon delights time after time. $27.
Located in an unassuming commercial strip way down Flat Shoals Road in Panthersville, is a no-frills, real-deal New Orleans-style seafood market serving up heaps of shellfish shipped in from the bayou. Grab a cafeteria tray and some tongs to pick your own crab clusters from the ice chest, choose from various sizes of shrimp, lobster and fish from the deli case or pick from live seafood (right now it’s crawfish season, meaning you can meet the little critters face-to-face before they take their bath of no return). Everything is priced by the pound and can be taken home raw or cooked up Cajun style with your choice of seasoning, butter and low country add-ins like sausage, corn and potatoes. Priced by the pound.
Just call it gourmet baby food for adults. Carnaroli rice is cooked with butter in white wine and chicken-fish stock until it is slightly al dente. Then, heavy cream is added. Shellfish, cooked separately, is placed atop the rice. That adds up to a velvety background foregrounded by springy bites of slightly briny seafood. $19.
Remarkably tender, streaked with smoky grill marks and served with a salad of pickled red onions and red-wine vinaigrette, these chunks of the creature from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea transforms the squeamish into octo-addicts.
Sometimes it’s difficult fighting the urge to pick up sushi with your fingers and gobble it down. Fret no longer, the sushi doughnut (food trend alert!) is the perfect mash-up of Japanese tradition and American on-the-go eating. Poke Burri, located in EAV’s Global Grub Collective, fills a ring of rice with a mild layer of wasabi and fumi furikake mayonnaise. On top, sashimi tuna is sprinkled with avocado, scallions, sesame seeds, crunchy tempura and eel sauce. Once a coveted item on the secret menu, the sushi doughnut has been added to Poke Burri’s regular bill of fare. Opt for the regular size or the “mega huge” option if you’re feeling frisky. $5.50/$11.
Casual elegance, rustic sophistication — the same descriptors used for 8arm itself work for this dish. A whole silver-skinned European seabass, pan-roasted to crispness, rests on a vibrant puree of carrot with bright spritzes of lime juice. A confetti of tarragon enhances the pairing of the slightly tangy sauce with the delicate flavor of tender fish, taking it to enchantment level. The wine list is carefully curated with a proper wispy white match. $26.
When cooked correctly, octopus eats like a steak. Chef Craig Richards treats his tentacles this way, serving them simply with elements that stand up to the bold flavor. Poached in a flavorful stock then seared for crispy texture, this octopus is subtly smoky and super tender. Baby mizuna, pickled strands of onion, supremes of citrus and a spring pea dijon puree add bright, vegetal contrast. $14.
Being landlocked, Atlanta’s options for fresh fish are limited. The Fish Market has a reputation for quality and its retail outlet located in the back of the restaurant. Everything they sell is flown in daily, already cleaned, deboned, and ready to go. You can watch the fish prep cooks breaking down...
Bo Bo Garden is located in a rather dapper space that formerly housed a Korean restaurant. Don't come expecting American Chinese, forget sweet and sour chicken. The current, enormous menu of high-quality traditional Chinese staples includes Cantonese/Hong Kong-style casseroles, dumplings, noodle sou...
Comfort mixed with a hint of the exotic. This Persian eatery offers such treats as kashk badenjoon, a warm, blended eggplant and onion appetizer; mast mousir, a garlic and yogurt dip; and shirazi salad, a medley of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley with a citrus dressing. $$ ($10-$20)
The paneled Southern seafood shack decor works (think wooden booths, long tables, a horseshoe bar). And so does the food. Shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, crab legs, clams, scallops, mussels, catfish and po'boys are all fresh and tasty. All in all, Six Feet Under fills the gap of the disappearing inexpe...
Around for more than 30 years, this boisterous, no-frills seafood shack has a wrap-around bar and outdoor seating. The draw here is the steamed shrimp and lobster sold by the pound in aluminum bucket with tangy beer butter.