Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 5/27/20
On a sunny day in late May, there was a light breeze over the Chattahoochee River and the intermittent clouds cooled down the late afternoon heat. Next to the river sits a beautifully landscaped lawn dotted with large patio umbrellas and a collection of tables, patio furniture, and a serene walkway with purple, red, and pink flowers. Ray’s on the River is the ultimate lawn party that reminds us of an all-day Kentucky Derby soiree with pretty dresses, upscale, sippable cocktails, and on-point tasty bites. They wooed us with their impeccable cocktail menu and service, plus you absolutely can’t. beat. That. View. Being from Atlanta, why hadn’t we visited this wonderful, magical happy place before? Are you ready to go down by the river for a culinary adventure? Make sure to grab your Derby Hat, you’ll need it.
You can’t beat Ray’s on the River’s cocktail menu, there’s a little bit of everything. Fig Old Fashioned, Gimlet, Vitamin Sea tiki drink, and an array of sangrias. Of the ones we sampled, the Vitamin Sea was the hands down favorite and an unexpected treat from a high-end restaurant. When you think of Ray’s the Old Fashioned cocktail does come to mind, even a Gimlet, but not a refreshing, pineapple-forward tiki drink that’s both creamy and foamy. It’s all the flavors of the islands in a glass. Like a beautiful beach day where the sand is lined with palm trees and you sit in the shade with a rum drink in your hand. Don’t forget the little umbrella! Another one that we enjoyed was the Cucumber Mint Gimlet, which was a mixture of earthy, minty, boozy up front and cooling cucumber on the back of the throat. Perfect pair with the patio. Throw up that pinky because you’ll feel high end. Their most popular drink on the menus is the Fig Old Fashioned, which was smooth and boozy with a sweet of the fig, nuttiness of the bitters, and warming of the bourbon. It’s an all-around balanced concoction!
Ray’s on the River has so many light bites you can share like the seafood tower with lobster, crab, and oysters, but our favorite of the appetizer was the Ahi Tuna Poke. Perfectly marinated and perched atop creamy avocado in a moat of citrus ponzu and crowned with crunchy macadamia nuts, it was a magnificent bite. Do we need to go on? Beyond that, the Goat Cheese Pimento Fritters, were the right amount of crunch, sharp cheddar cheese, and sweet honey. The bar manager called it fire, and we must agree, this dish IS fire. Our tip is to take that little, cheese ball and roll it in the honey. It’s amazing. Isn’t it the truth that when calamari is done RIGHT, it’s really good. Ray’s version is done right with tender squid perfectly seasoned, breaded, and crunchy then mixed with red and banana peppers. The crunch of the breading and the spiciness of the peppers were a great bite together. But the best part? The addition of the sauces! Slather on some marinara and cheese or load up on the spicy aioli, both take this dish up a level and add a level of earthiness or creaminess! Now, don’t forget the loaded Statesboro Blue Cheese Chips because they were the right amount of blue cheese, bacon, tomatoes and onion. Plus, the manager mentioned a menu hack and we have to share it with you! Get the chips and the poke together and use the chips with the poke instead of a fork. It’s the ultimate appetizer!
From there we tried a new menu item called the Horseradish Black Grouper. Let us tell you, this is one of the best fish dishes we’ve ever had with crunchy horseradish cracker crust, flaky and mild fish on a bed of shaved brussels sprouts doused in dijonaise. The tart of the horseradish, crunch of the crust, to the flaky and meatiness of the fish to the earthiness of the sprouts and finished off with the kick of Dijon and mayonnaise, we’re still thinking about this dish. Tip, if you mix the fish, crust, and all the other elements together, it’s a one of the best dishes to date. You may want to pace yourself.
We can’t say enough about the view at Ray’s on the River. The river backdrop and serenity of the water, to the manicured lawn and everything in between, it’s easily one of the best patio experiences in Atlanta for any occasion. We can’t wait to go back and relax.