THE REEL THING

Giant peel-andeat shrimp are finger-licking good.

FISHMONGER’S CASUAL APPROACH TO ULTRA-FRESH SEAFOOD!

Giant peel-andeat shrimp are finger-licking good.
Giant peel-and eat shrimp are finger-licking good.
Tuna tartare is one of the restaurant's more elegant presentations.
Tuna tartare is one of the restaurant’s more elegant presentations.

Landlocked Atlanta might not be the first place that comes to mind when the craving for ultra-fresh seafood hits. Fishmonger on the Westside could be the right spot to get your fix. The brand’s third outpost, opened in 2023 after successful locations in Poncey-Highland and at Pullman Yards (both opened their doors in 2022), set up shop in La Fonda’s former home and will eventually move across the street into the Star Metals building.

The space has a funky-cool vibe with white-painted brick and cinder block walls, leafy green plants trailing down the walls and purple-hued lighting. Fancy, it is not, but that low-key decor is just right for the menu’s messy but delicious offerings.

Corn on the cob is packed with umami flavors: miso, black garlic and parmesan.
Corn on the cob is packed with umami flavors: miso, black garlic and parmesan.

My husband and I rolled up one evening and settled into a table inside, though in warm weather, the covered patio that nearly doubles the restaurant’s capacity would appeal. With my Gold Rush cocktail, a blend of bourbon, wildflower honey and lemon in hand, we set about deciding on our seafood of choice. (Note: Vegetarians and non-fish fans won’t find much to tempt their taste buds.)

Lump crab, avocado, sprouts and crisp watermelon radish top sourdough toast to create a hearty open-faced sandwich.
Lump crab, avocado, sprouts and crisp watermelon radish top sourdough toast to create a hearty open-faced sandwich.

A petite bowl of seafood chowder was the perfect foil for the rainy evening, its concentrated, creamy fumet a microcosm of the ocean with clams, chunks of delicate white fish, shrimp, Yukon potatoes and scallops. The crusty sourdough soaked in nori butter was ideal for mopping up all of the bits of broth. I chose the Caesar salad, intrigued by the addition of briny bottarga, sometimes called “Mediterranean caviar.”

Great leaves of crisp romaine came covered in creamy dressing and studded with anchovy, bacon-crisped bread crumbs and a mountain of finely grated parmesan cheese. It gets an extra kick with Calabrian chili. I didn’t add a filet of blackened grouper—the very meal that former President Obama ordered from the Pullman Yards location when he was in town for a political rally—but the salad was memorable on its own.

The buttery lobster roll is topped with bright green herbs and served with a side of slaw.
The buttery lobster roll is topped with bright green herbs and served with a side of slaw.

Next, we moved onto mains, opting for the lobster roll. Unlike the classic New England-style version stuffed with cold lobster salad, Fishmonger serves its Connecticut- style, with meaty chunks of warm lobster tossed in drawn butter and piled into a split-top bun. It was a revelation that sent me right back to a driving trip down the coast of Maine a few years back, though its diminutive size left me wanting much more. It felt like a bit of a tease, a snack even. Seriously, even the side of coleslaw matched the sandwich in size.

Fortunately, the New Orleans-style peel-and-eat shrimp were hearty and big enough to share. The basket of jumbo, head-on prawns came drenched in a sauce of white wine, brickhued New Bae Seasoning, butter and shrimp stock, and served with a much-needed side of “sopping toast.” It was so deliciously messy that, while it would make for awkward first date food, it’s worth every finger-licking bite. A side of aptly named “umami corn” consisted of sweet corn on the cob, dripping with a compound butter of miso and black garlic, and rounded out the meal.

Briny oysters on the half shell are sourced from Southern waters.
Briny oysters on the half shell are sourced from Southern waters.

I returned a couple of weeks later for a weeknight happy hour, when from 5 to 7 p.m. oysters are half price. We sidled up to the bar so we could observe as the staffer made quick work of our dozen, shucking them carefully to not lose a drop of the briny liquor inside the Southern- sourced bivalves before placing them atop chipped ice, accented with vinegar-y mignonette, fresh lemon slices and cocktail sauce.

Feeling fancier? Order the “chef set” oysters on the half shell that come with gourmet accoutrements such as creme fraiche, citrus foam, fish roe and diced kiwi. Since man cannot live on oysters alone, we decided to try other items that caught my eye on the first visit. I wholeheartedly recommend the open-faced crab and avocado toast. A piece of toothsome, toasted sourdough comes topped with avocado and blue crab dressed in citrus vinaigrette, and with matchstick watermelon radishes and peppery sprouts.

Fishmonger's sole dessert, Key lime pie, transports guests to the tropics.
Fishmonger’s sole dessert, Key lime pie, transports guests to the tropics.

Seafood is the main draw here, but I couldn’t resist tasting the only dessert on the menu. The sweet, sour, and creamy Key lime pie arrived portioned as an individual tartlet, piled high with airy whipped cream, lime zest and an Amarena cherry. It felt like just the right size and flavor to end on a high note. Less thrilling, though, was the realization that the restaurant adds a compulsory 20% gratuity to every check, regardless of how good (or not) the service is. Still, this effortlessly cool seafood joint impresses by sourcing top-notch ingredients and letting them shine.

Fishmonger West Midtown
404.963.1165
fishmongergroup.com
@atlantafishmonger

Prices: salad: $13; sandwiches: $16-$32; oysters: $18-$22; crudo: $18; sides: $5-$8; dessert: $8.

Recommended: Peel-and-eat shrimp, crab and avocado, Caesar salad, lobster roll, umami corn, tuna tartare, Key lime pie.

Bottom line: Landlocked seafood lovers will find a haven of super-fresh fare at this casual Westside eatery. They’ll be in good company too: A past U.S. president and reviewers from the
Michelin Guide are fans.

PHOTOS: Erik Meadows

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