May 2011: Cousins Properties approach Jennifer and Ben Johnson, owners of West Egg Cafe, to discuss opening a second West Egg location at the Emory Point development on Clifton Road. The Johnsons consider a delicatessen as an alternate concept.
June 2, 2011: The Johnsons stumble upon an interview with chef Todd Ginsberg in which he confesses to having the dream of opening a delicatessen.
June 15, 2011: The Johnsons text Ginsberg to set up a meeting.
That’s how The General Muir, a partnership between Ginsberg, the Johnsons and Shelley Sweet (General Manager at West Egg) got its start.
The General Muir, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, will be more than just a traditional deli. According to co-owner Ben Johnson, “We don’t want people to think too literally about it, expecting us to recreate Katz’s. There will be classic dishes on the menu, but we are not pigeonholing ourselves as just a deli. Todd is an amazing and creative chef and will have wide latitude to take things in new directions. Fans of Todd’s food will not be disappointed.”
Ginsberg’s desire to open a delicatessen is rooted in his childhood memories of eating at a deli once or twice each week. At The General Muir, he’ll have the best of both worlds. He’ll pay homage to his upbringing with items like pastrami cured and smoked in house, corned beef, smoked fish and hand-rolled kettle-boiled bagels.
Ginsberg will also have the opportunity to make use of his training from The Culinary Institute of America and time in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse, The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Asher and most recently Bocado. The dinner hour will bring his take on dishes that originated in delis.
Although Ginsberg said the menu is still in the development phase, dinner may include a chicken soup-inspired three-course meal. The first course may include star-anise-infused chicken broth with kreplach (dumplings) and move into the second course with a salad of crispy chicken thigh and shredded Brussels sprouts. The last course could bring poached chicken breast with a foie-gras Matzo ball and carrots in Madeira-truffle sauce.
Ginsberg also revealed that pastry chef Lauren Raymond will join the team to lead the pastry department. Raymond was the opening chef for Miller Union, where she crafted its famous ice cream sandwiches. She has also worked under Cynthia Wong at Empire State South and as a bread baker for Bacchanalia.
The General Muir will offer both a full-service dining room and a separate counter-service area serving bagels, sandwiches, salads, baked goods and Batdorf & Bronson coffee.
According to Jennifer Johnson, the restaurant’s space, designed by Square Feet Studio, will combine industrial references with richer materials. Subway tile, dark paneling, butcher block accents and cast-iron fixtures with brass shades will give the large space a brasserie feel.
Ginsberg says that the decor will also tell a story with photos of owners’ families and one of the U.S. refugee transport ship The General Muir. The ship brought Jennifer Johnson’s mother and grandparents, Holocaust survivors, to New York following World War II. The photo shows her six-year-old mom leaning over the ship’s bow as it entered the New York harbor, a photo that appeared in The New York Daily News in 1949.
The General Muir is slated to open late December.
1627 Clifton Road, Atlanta
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog