Oct 28, 2013

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: The General Muir

Having heard the rumblings around town that there’s a new restaurant in Atlanta that’s paving ways to establish a New York style deli and with the city that never sleeps ranking numero uno on my personal love list of cities, I was eager to discover if The General Muir’s rumored schmears were up to snuff. Bagels, lox, pastrami, corned beef, bottomless coffee, white subway tiles, long waits, what’s not to like?

Located near Emory University in a younger development in what is becoming increasing common here in Georgia, split commercial/residential space with business below and apartments above (not a firefighter’s favorite mind you). It looks and smells new adorned with many a college student sitting with their parents, the occasional solitary iPad surfing local, and the casual coffee drinking couple, The General Muir was filled with a clientele as varied as it’s bagel toppings. It offers a spacious, though somewhat bland and color-devoid interior (white and gray subway tiles and minimalist black and white photos only take you so far) and well-sized outdoor covered patio with additional seating overlooking a nice green space. Overall though, I liked the vibe and d├ęcor.

Barista bar and entry way
Large open area dining with covered patio outside
Though larger then what is typically found up north, this obvious homage to the classic NY deli feels authentic once one steps inside. The walk-up counter offers noted bagels (fives varieties to choose from), sandwiches, cheesecakes, baked goods, and some very good coffee amongst other beverages, everything you’d expect from a respectable deli (note that I did not partake in any adult beverages nor peruse it’s list). A good scouting report for those on the go or those who don’t want to wait in the lines, because there will undoubtedly be a wait.

The Deli counter
Plenty of NY style cheesecakes and pickled goods
Granted, my wife and I were craving some quality sit down food after a Sunday walk in the nearby Grant Park and it’s wonderful farmer’s market (incidentally enough, a recommended stop by The General Muir’s head chef and founder, Chef Todd Ginsberg) and so we were expecting the wait. Brunch was the order of the day on this sunny fall morning and it was a thought shared by many. Arriving at the restaurant a little before 11, it was a solid hour before we were seated, hence the luxury (and wisdom) of a deli with a bottomless cup of coffee.

The menu is fitting and varied with most everything being made in house, with wide ranging offerings from the kitchen including noted highlights of deviled eggs, Swiss chard fritters, stewed lentils, and for those Bocado lovers, Ginsberg’s double-stack burger. This is not your typical bagel shop folks and is to be applauded.

Typical NY street side advertising was a nice touch
Brunch afforded us an opportunity to taste both their Smoked Hash and Fish and Potatoes (after 3 cup of coffee while we waited mind you, though I wasn’t sure if it was the coffee, empty stomach, or the wait that was starting to make me bitter…). A noted complaint of the restaurant was their portions being on the light side (a good quality for Jedi, not for a southern restaurant). After sizing up both dishes though, I felt this wasn’t a fair assessment. Though not enough for the average firefighter (as an example, I ate mine then finished my wife’s), it’s more then enough for the average Joe and Betty.

Smoked Hash
The smoked hash offered a plate of crisped pastrami, potatoes, cabbage, peppers, and onions topped with over easy eggs. Well-seasoned and littered with generous helpings of the delicious smoked pastrami, the egg’s runny yokes provided the needed richness and substance this meal needed to make it a winner. It would’ve been a home run if not for the eggs being slightly under done with some uncooked whites, dang, almost…

Fish and Potatoes
The Fish and Potatoes were just plain fun. Now, I have a well-chronicled fascination (well, lets call it for what it really is, and that’s a unabashed crush) with smoked salmon, so my eagerness to be led away from your run-of-the-mill presentation of my favorite cold smoked product was strong. This dish challenged my culinary palette as it played with the lightly sweetened applesauce, tangy sour cream, tart Granny Smith apples, bitter rocket, and crunchy latkes. This was the balanced and nuanced home run I’d been waiting for. Well done.

The open kitchen was bustling with activity
The service was respectable for a busy brunch service but nothing that warranted a highlight. Active conversation keeps one busy here as the noise levels were not a distraction (unlike most NY stops, a plus). The food service was delayed in it’s arrival though, a good 30 minutes, but only a repeat visit will let me know if this was a product of the brunch service of a lack of output from the kitchen. One side note, many a cook and server buzzed around the ‘hive’ that was the kitchen, and with it being centrally located and open to view from behind waist–to-ceiling windows, it was a fair amount of entertainment.

Did The General Muir deliver on it’s promise to transport the Atlanta patron to the New York style deli as it once did for co-founder Jennifer Johnson’s parents when the refugee ship this restaurant is named for delivered them to NY back in 1949? I say yes. Granted, I’m California surfing boy transplanted to the gentleman ways of Georgia who cares an axe for a living with an unchecked love for the Big Apple and Sinatra, so there’s that. But will I be back and direct it to my foodie friends towards its deli counter? Undoubtedly, yes, a strong recommend.

Reviewed October 2013

3.5 Alarms

The General Muir on Urbanspoon

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