Atlanta is five hours away from the nearest ocean, and while you can take a trip to the aquarium and spend a few hours wondering what it’s like to be a seahorse or a beluga, there’s no hiding that this is a landlocked city. But if you want to feel like you’re eating near a beach, minus the seagulls and inevitable sunburn, head to Beetlecat in Inman Park.
Located right off North Highland, this sister restaurant to The Optimist is the more casual of Ford Fry’s two seafood spots, with a boat-like interior, a large patio, and neon signage of crabs inside. It feels like somewhere you’d go to eat after a long day of reading (aka napping) under the sun, or have a few drinks when you need a break from your family vacation.
There’s also a downstairs bar here called The Den, which looks like a cross between your grandparents’ Nixon-era living room and a 70s surfer lounge, with boogie boards and kitschy palm tree art on the walls. It’s a great place to segue to when you feel like extending your night, but don’t want to travel far, or when the idea of having a tiki drink while stretched out on a leather jacket sounds like your idea of a good time.
The menu here is full of shareable dishes and is split into five sections: oysters, crudo, snacks, fish, and meat. While you can get everything from a crab tostada to a whole roasted branzino here, the highlights include a lobster roll, the seasonal crudo, and the moqueca stew, for when you only got a bite of the lobster roll that you were planning to “share” with your friend. Even though Beetlecat serves some of the best seafood in the city, it’s still a super laid back place and works just as great for a date on the patio as it does for getting a big group together inside.
Going to Beetlecat will never replace an actual trip to the beach, nor should it, but when you want to eat some great seafood and have a few tropical cocktails somewhere that reminds you of where you used to go on summer vacation, this is the place to go. And if you’re feeling nostalgic for trips to your grandparents’ house too, it’s an equally good spot to drink in a basement after dinner.
These meaty slices of raw kampachi come with a black garlic miso sauce and you’ll want to order nine more plates of them immediately. Try not to do that, but definitely start with this dish.
While this popcorn with parmesan and truffle is delicious, it still just kind of feels like a bowl of popcorn. For $8, you can skip it.
The only difference between this lobster roll and the relatively famous one over at The Optimist is the shape of the bun. Both utilize whole lobster tails to make up the bulk of the roll, along with a light aioli, and are served with chips. This should be on your table.
If you’re looking for something hearty at Beetlecat, go with the moqueca stew. It comes with huge chunks of fish, shrimp, plantains, cashews, cilantro, and is served with rice. This is a good option for when you’re still hungry after only getting a bite of a lobster roll.
You can order a whole coconut pie at Beetlecat and once you have a slice, you’ll understand why. If you’re with a group, just get a whole one to split.