Steve and Veronica Dudley opened Fish Thyme, their cozy, modern seafood restaurant, in 2010 after they both fell in love with the space—and with Acworth. Since then, Fish Thyme has become a local favorite, a date night go-to, and even a destination for wedding proposals. What makes the place so special? Aside from serving some of the best seafood in the northern suburbs, the husband-wife duo are part of the community here, and they make their guests feel like family. (A cozy outdoor firepit helps, too.)
We caught up with Veronica to find out how they arrived in Acworth and what they love about the town:
How did y’all end up here?
I’m from Montgomery, Alabama. I moved here in ’82, and worked as a carrier for the post office in Virginia-Highland. When Steve and I met, he went to work for Peasant Group, where he was a line cook. He moved up fast, from kitchen manager to floor manager. They sent us to Philadelphia to open a Pleasant Peasant on Broad Street. I didn’t want to move to Philly, but he said if we agreed to go there, I could quit the post office. I said, “I’m packing!” We were there for one year, and we came back after that.
How did Fish Thyme come about?
Steve really wanted his own restaurant, but for a long time, we didn’t have the money to do it. We finally saved up enough money, and we decided we were ready to open one. We opened Caper’s on Main in Kennesaw 13 years ago. Then one day, Steve had a meeting in Acworth, and on his way back, he passed the space where Fish Thyme is now. He called me to tell me about it, and I was like, “hold on, I’m a mother and I work at a restaurant, and you’re talking about opening another restaurant? Are you kidding?” But the next day I came to look at it, and I fell in love.
We started off slow, but our business built up and kept building, and now Fish Thyme is sometimes busier than Caper’s. Last weekend, we had a 60-90 minute wait. When that happens, we send people over to the wine bar next door. They can wait over there comfortably to drink and have appetizers, and we call them when we get their tables ready.
What makes Fish Thyme unique?
We’re in here all the time. People know us by name. I think they’re comfortable, and it’s more personable that way. Our guests tell me, “I feel like I’m at home when I come to Fish Thyme.” When they come in, at least one of us is going to be here.
Steve also really prides himself on fresh ingredients. We have a garden in the back that has tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, herbs, all kinds of stuff. We use that produce in the kitchen, and he’ll usually put a special on the menu featuring something from the garden. People love that.
We have lots of couples who have their first date at Fish Thyme and then they get married. We get lots of proposals. We also have some senior facilities who come here on their day trips, and they love to sit around the fire pit. We love them.
Do you have a lot of regulars?
Oh, we have so many regulars. When I’m at the grocery, I almost always see people who know me from the restaurant. We have some people who come to Fish Thyme 2-3 times a week. We have some characters who come in and tell jokes and make me laugh.
How has the food scene changed in Acworth since you’ve been here?
The dining scene in Acworth is awesome. It’s grown a lot in the last few years. We have such a diverse group of restaurants, too, from barbecue to Italian, Cajun to Mexican. It’s pretty amazing that our little town has burritos, jambalaya, brisket, and lasagna all within a stone’s throw of each other. We have a great group of casual, laid-back places when we just want to take our family for a relaxed meal. But we also have options for date night, too. We work so much that when we do get a rare chance for a nice dinner out, we want it to be special. A place like Henry’s, Gabriel’s at the Old Mill, or Fusco’s is perfect for that.
What’s your best insider tip for visiting Acworth?
Walk! Almost everything is right in one block, so you can shop, eat, and enjoy yourself without getting in and out of a car, because everything is right in a central area. The biggest draw, of course, is the lake. We don’t go as much anymore because we’re always in the restaurant, but when my son was young, I’d take him to the beach all the time.
How do you describe Acworth to people who haven’t been?
It’s a really family-oriented city. People are nice and warm. It’s a nice place to live if you don’t want to live in the middle of a city but you still want to have access to one. It’s really safe, too. When I lived in Acworth, I don’t think I ever locked my doors. I had neighbors who had gardens in their backyards, and they’d bring over their tomatoes and just come in through my back door to put them in my kitchen.
If you could bring any celebrity to Acworth, who would it be and what would y’all do?
I think I’d bring Oprah. She likes good food, so she’d have to come here and eat, of course. I’d show her the garden at Fish Thyme, and I’d take her to the lake and the beach. I’d take her to some of the boutiques that Danielle owns in downtown Acworth, because those are lovely. We have some nice antique shops, so I’d take her there too. That’s my idea of a perfect day in Acworth.
Describe Acworth in three words.
Warm. Safe. Exciting.