For the last 28 years, John Mariani of Esquire magazine has produced a list of the country's best new restaurants. This year, he makes Atlanta proud by awarding the No. 1 spot to the Optimist, the "fish camp and oyster bar" opened by Ford Fry, whose JCT Kitchen and No. 246 have been notable hits in our city.
Mariani has become a controversial figure in recent years. About a year ago, the venomously entertaining Anthony Bourdain publicly accused him of long-rumored acceptance of free meals from restaurants. The two bludgeoned one another in the AJC's Food and More blog, with critic John Kessler mercifully entering the fray with a spoiler's rationality.
I think it's true that Mariani has a strong penchant for relatively fine dining — or what's left of it. For example, his favorite design this year is of Miami's Juvia, whose opening website page announces, "Our penthouse is your penthouse." It's wit, of course, but it's not something, say, TOP FLR would emulate. Nor would the Optimist were it high above. It glitters, but with genuine wit.
Read the full story by Cliff Bostock here.
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