BeetleCat , which opened on Monday in the Inman Quarter mixed-use development in Inman Park, is the 10th Atlanta restaurant from chef Ford Fry.
A James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Restaurateur, Fry is known for creating a host of varied concepts, including his original Southern spot, JCT Kitchen, Italian-inspired No. 246, casual “Mex-Tex” Superica, and sophisticated steakhouse Marcel.
BeetleCat is similar in style to The Optimist, Fry’s popular Westside seafood spot. But pitched as an easy-going, no-reservations cocktail lounge and oyster bar, with a retro ’70s and ’80s vibe and a kitschy downstairs den-meets-rumpus room, it seems certain to make a lively scene all its own.
On opening night, the crowd milling about with drinks, and ordering up lots of raw oysters and crudo, skewed toward the young and hip, along with a good number of restaurant workers out for a first look.
BeetleCat’s executive chef, Andrew Isabella, is a Florida native who grew up fishing with his family. But like the style of wooden sailboats the restaurant is named for, the menu Isabella put together is more like New England — albeit with lots of global influences, and dishes mostly served as small plates for snacking and sharing.
“The restaurant was created around the oyster bar,” Isabella said. “Right when you walk in, that’s what you see. That’s the big picture. It’s almost double the size of The Optimist’s oyster bar. We have 12-14 different varieties every day coming from all over.
“As far as the dishes and the cooking, we’re putting some twists to it. We have a little Vietnamese and Korean going on. A bit of Mediterranean here and there. It’s really big, bold flavors.”
One of those flavors is Kumamoto Oysters served on the half shell with pickled red onion shaved ice.
“We wanted to do something a little different from a mignonette,” Isabella said. “So we make a pickled red onion liquid and we freeze that and shave it and put it on top of the oysters so it’s almost like an onion slushie.”
Another flavor is Hog Clams, lightly steamed and tossed in lime juice with pickled onions, scallions, Thai chilies, avocado and cilantro, served with taro root chips.
“It almost has a pico de gallo thing going on,” Isabella said. “We lightly steam the clams so they’re not so chewy but still have a nice bite.”
For her part, beverage director Lara Creasy put together a concise and casual drinks menu with punches, updated coastal cocktails and beer and wine on draft.
“We’re expecting this restaurant to be extremely busy,” Creasy said. “We wanted to make the den downstairs a place where you could go to get a really good drink but it wouldn’t take forever. And we wanted the drinks to be really fun because there are a lot of elements of the restaurant that are fun and nostalgic.”
Among the throwbacks, Creasy has a punched-up version of the infamous Long Island Iced Tea, made with vodka, gin, tequilia, triple sec, Pimms, tea, lemon and bitters.
“We’re doing it as a punch because that’s how it originally started,” Creasy said. “They used to make it for weddings at this hotel in Long Island. We took the recipe that everyone knows and made it into a really killer punch, made the proper way, and it’s delicious.”
BeetleCat is open for dinner 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 3-11 p.m. Saturdays, and 3-10 p.m.Sundays. But on Fridays, hours are 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., with a special lunch menu early. Look for late night hours 11 p.m.- 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. And on New Years Day service is 5-10 p.m.
Here's a taste of some of what you'll find on the menu at BeetleCat.
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