Adam Evans
Adam Evans

Adam Evans

Restaurant: The Optimist (Read a review) Location: Atlanta Why He's Amazing: Because his upscale fish-shack dishes addictively combine simple yet bold flavors, often with a Southern accent. Culinary School: Self-taught background: JCT. Kitchen & Bar, Craftbar (/sites/default/files/tlanta); Craft (New York City); La Petite Grocery, Ralph's on the Park New Orleans) Quintessential Dish: Frothy she-crab soup with shrimp toast On Choosing to Work at a Fish-Focused Restaurant: "I wanted to take a break from that whole pork thing," he says, referring to America's obsession with all things pig. (However, he's not averse to using smoky bits of the meat to flavor gumbo, butter beans and other regionally inspired dishes.) Southern Roots: In the 1960s, long before Evans was born, his hometown was an epicenter for rock and roll and blues. "I'm from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Everybody recorded there," he says. "Bob Dylan, Etta James, the Rolling Stones." What Has Surprised Him at the Optimist: "The amount of oysters that Atlanta has eaten here has been mind boggling."
Extra-Crispy Fried Fish 
Rating: Unrated
Adam Evans, of Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama, serves up this perfectly tender and delightfully crispy fried fish that never seems to lose its crunch, even in takeaway containers. His secret is in the dredge. Gluten-free tapioca flour and rice flour team up with effervescent club soda in this light batter that becomes exceptionally crispy-and stays that way up to an hour after cooking. Delicious on its own, this fish also makes great sandwiches and tacos.
Chef Adam Evans uses any kind of smoked white fish (grouper, snapper, flounder) for the fragrant rice he serves. For a milder dish, seed and de-rib the chile before mincing. Slideshow:  Rice Pilaf Recipes