Your event venue and location are crucial to the attendee experience. Not only do attendees love to travel to exciting destinations, but they like to experience the local sights, culture, and, of course, cuisine.
With the launch of our new guide, "The Top 100 Meeting and Event Venues in the United States," we're going to share our interviews with premiere chefs and restaurant teams from the country's most popular meeting and event cities. They'll share what makes their restaurant stand out, how their city influences their flavors, and how they can accommodate events.
914 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30318
Chef: Josh Coker
Ford Fry’s The Optimist has an airy nautical design that makes you feel like you’re spending the day at a seaside resort with signature cocktails and incredibly fresh oysters and fish. Chef Josh Coker shares what dish he enjoys making most for groups, as well as what makes The Optimist stand out.
Q: What do you like most about The Optimist?
I like our ability to bring fresh, high-quality and sustainable seafood to landlocked Atlantans every day.
I am most proud of our dedication to sustainability. We always strive to find the best distributors and source our seafood straight from the farms.
Q: How is The Optimist unique?
We strive to make every experience distinctive to each guest. We change our menu daily and seasonally. So we have the opportunity to hone in on the creativity of our culinary team and encourage experimentation in Southern coastal cuisine. The Optimist also takes great pride in its oysters. We study water ecology and stay up-to-date on what’s happening at oyster farms around the country. This ensures we always serve the freshest and tastiest oysters.
Q: What makes your cooking style unique?
I like to take traditional dishes and experiment by infusing bold flavors to elevate the dish and transform it into something new and unexpected.
Q: How would you describe The Optimist’s ambiance?
The Optimist is a cozy, yet elevated coastal spot bustling with people. We consider every detail carefully to help people relax, with a focus on the food and the atmosphere.
Q: How do you accommodate groups?
We have options for groups of all sizes – from smaller private parties to corporate dinners for 50 and cocktail events for 300 guests. The largest group we’ve hosted so far was a 300-person holiday cocktail event for a top search engine company. It was a great success, thanks to incredible teamwork.
The theme was “Under the Sea,” which worked well with our brand. We set up the menu in stations around the room, making it easy for guests to enjoy. The beverage team helped round out the event with a curated wine list and signature cocktails. With live music, a photo booth and incredible ambiance, this event is something everyone will remember!
Q: What’s one of your favorite meals you’ve created for groups?
One dish we offer groups is “fish of the moment,” which changes daily, based on what our purveyors bring in. The dish is set and grilled with lemon and sea salt in a way that highlights the light flakiness of the fish. This dish is a testament to the fresh ingredients we deliver to our guests every day. Other popular items are our lobster roll, kale salad and hushpuppies.
Q: Where do you get inspiration?
The history of Southern and Gulf cuisine is deep in my heart and reflects memories of my childhood. Fishing with my father, eating at small family–owned restaurants, seeing roadside vegetable shacks.
I love weaving these memories into something accessible to guests and honoring my Southern Alabama roots.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about The Optimist’s neighborhood?
Atlanta's Westside combines historic charm from its days as Atlanta’s meatpacking district with the neighborhood’s re-emergence as a unique, refined shopping and dining hot spot with something for everyone. Elegant boutiques and restaurants draw Atlanta locals and visitors alike.
Q: What do you love most about being a chef?
Being a chef is steeped in the notion that restaurants are a free university every day. We get the opportunity to shape young chefs. We also work with oyster farmers to expand on sustainability and with local farmers to ensure heirloom agriculture has a platform. Plus, we use all our senses to create a full, rich and human experience every time we open our doors.
Q: What’s your secret to attracting diners and keeping them coming back?
Having a great staff, showing care and keeping things fresh.
Read more about what to do in Atlanta and what the top venues are for meetings and events in the city by downloading our free guide below!