As lumps of juicy lobster melted in my mouth and the sound of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” played in the background, one thought crossed my mind — “I’ve died and gone to quirky foodie heaven.”
Welcome to BeetleCat, the latest addition to the Ford Fry empire, which includes Atlanta culinary stars like St. Cecilia, Bar Margot and Marcel. The new Inman Park spot, which opened its doors in early 2016, is the oddball sister to West Midtown’s seafood mecca, The Optimist.
The upstairs of BeetleCat has a nautical, New England feel with a fabulous oyster bar area — complete with blue vinyl seats — that showcases the fresh options of the day. Head downstairs and you’ll feel like you’ve walked below deck of a “Love Boat“-era houseboat, starring a bar crew sporting orange polo shirts, an eight-track tape player and a photo of ultimate sex symbol Farrah Fawcett. (Note: Seating is first-come, first-served at the restaurant. So if there’s nothing available upstairs, be sure to check out the downstairs bar area. It’s more casual, but you can still enjoy the same delicious bites.)
“The restaurant takes its name from the small, easy-sailing, wooden sailboats, beloved in New England,” Ford says. “We’ve been wanting to open a dining concept in the Inman Park area. And when the opportunity presented itself, BeetleCat seemed like a unique fit that would fill a void in the neighborhood.”
“The menu will be ever changing,” Andrew says. “But always expect to see a minimum of 12 varieties of oysters from all coasts and water depths. For example, you’ll find options from New England to the Pacific Northwest.”
So, where to start? During a recent meal, my favorite dining-partner-in-crime, Lane, and I opted to go with the baked oysters, $10, artfully topped with bacon, Parmesan cheese and Swiss chard. Though our beverage of choice was the sauvignon blanc by the glass, BeetleCat is also known for its sly cocktail selection, which beverage manager Eduardo Guzman describes as the drinks “people don’t like to admit to liking.” Yes, we’re talking Sex on the Beach and Long Island Iced Tea. Popular concoctions include Royal Hawaiian (gin, lemon, orgeat syrup, basil and, of course, pineapple), $9, or La Floridita (platinum rum, white creme de cocoa, sweet vermouth, housemade grenadine and lime), $9.
Another must-try was the lobster roll, $21, which I touched on earlier — thick chunks of moist, delicious lobster served up on a toasted bun. It’s a little slice, or sandwich in this case, of seafood heaven. In addition, we tried Moqueca stew, $16, a South American dish featuring day boat fish, shrimp, coconut, plantains, yucca, rice, jalapeno, cilantro and cashews.
There are many other fish options, like the crispy skate wing “lettuce wraps” or the salmon in miso broth, and landlubbers can sink their teeth into meat-friendly options, like a NY strip served with escargot, beurre monte and crunchy toast or tangy Korean chicken wings.
Don’t fill up on too much on BeetleCat’s surf and turf, since dessert is a must. At our waitress’ urging, we chose a slice of coconut pie (a family recipe of Chef Andrew). Each bite of this pie, $7, topped with delectable, homemade whipped cream and powdered sugar, made my mouth so happy. It was worth every second of sweaty cardio I logged running on the BeltLine the next day.
BeetleCat might be a throwback to the ’70s, but there’s nothing about this eclectic seafood spot that I wanted to throw back. The restaurant is a perfect blend of culinary chic with a serving of retro cheek.
BeetleCat is located at 299 N. Highland Ave. NE. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. BeetleCat also opens for late-night hours on Friday and Saturday, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. For more information, call (678) 732-0360 or visit beetlecatatl.com.