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The General Muir brings deli and appetizing to Emory Point

Chef Todd Ginsberg at the General Muir (all photos by Becky Stein)

Chef Todd Ginsberg at the General Muir (all photos by Becky Stein)

“So we went to that place in Alpharetta that they say has such good bagels?” says/asks my friend, with an interrogative uptick at end of the sentence.

He pauses for effect; I wait for the answer.

“Not such good bagels,” he insists. “Too big. Too bready. Meh.”

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

My friend is a Jewish New Yorker, and he’d probably drive to Alabama if he got some intel on a good bagel. Not that he’s found one here, there or anywhere in these environs. He counts among the many transplants (and more than a few native Atlantans) who flat-out kvetch about the lack of good Jewish food hereabouts.

I think my friend and everyone else would like the bagels at The General Muir. Head baker and pastry maven Lauren Raymond makes small, dense, shiny bagels with a crusty surface that I find both crisp and leathery in all the right ways. But what do I know? I’m no New Yorker.

Nonetheless, I’m pretty intrigued by the General Muir, the deli and appetizing shop that recently opened in Emory Point, a new retail and residential complex across from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Appetizing, you ask? That’s the smoked fish and such that you heap on bagels. Deli? That’s the pastrami and corned beef you pile on rye bread. (If you follow the dietary laws of Kashrut, you keep them separate.) There is plenty of both at the General Muir and much, much more. Think great espresso drinks, a brimming pastry case, an up-to-date bar and a full-service restaurant that already ranks among the most interesting in northeast Atlanta. It takes chutzpah to attempt all this; it takes unusual skill sets and teamwork to carry it off.

The Maven: salmon salad, lox, Nova

The Maven: salmon salad, lox, Nova

The principal partners at the General Muir are Ben and Jennifer Johnson, who run the always slamming West Egg Cafe across town. (The General Muir is named for the ship that brought Jennifer’s mother and grandparents, Holocaust survivors, from Europe.) Joining them are Shelley Sweet, the former general manager at West Egg, and their ace in the hole: chef Todd Ginsberg.

Atlantans know Ginsberg best from Bocado, where his double-stack burger was an object of idolatry. But he is also a classically trained chef with a serious resume and a transplanted New Jersey boy who can refer to cream cheese as “a schmear” with conviction.

Not only that, Ginsberg is the kind of do-it-yourself chef who cures his own pickles ($5 for a colorful plate) and cures his own pastrami (a piled-high sandwich costs $18 for an orgy of fatty goodness). Maybe the pastrami isn’t quite smoky and spicy enough on one visit? Try it the next; Ginsberg is nailing the recipe.

I think I’m more of an appetizing than deli guy, so I’m all about the Maven platter ($21) of nicely oily house-cured lox, gorgeous sable, lemony salmon salad and milder Nova salmon. (Again, I’m no New Yorker but I think the nova is better at Bagel Palace.) It comes with a bagel, a schmear and all the garnishes you could ask for. Get a second bagel, and you’ve got a feast for two. Add in a pitch perfect cortado (a short espresso and milk drink, $3) and you’ve got one of those best-of-both-worlds things going on.

The Johnsons understand the energy a morning restaurant needs. The General Muir is sunny and bright, all subway tile and brass railing, marble counters and wooden chairs. Plates clatter; the espresso machine goes pffffffft; you feel happy.

Ginsberg, for his part, understands that restaurants are a whole lot more fun if they are both familiar and unpredictable. Come dinner time, he finds delightful ways to tweak the menu. His veal tongue ($10) comes with fat, creamy beans in a warm vinaigrette.

Prune-stuffed gnocchi with oxtail ragu

Prune-stuffed gnocchi with oxtail ragu

The sun sets, the lights go up, and the room begins to feel less like a deli and more like a French bistro. Ginsberg sets the mood with terrific skillet-crisped trout ($19) with a gentle crunch from hazelnuts, toasted farro salad and a smooth squash puree. His marshmallow-soft gnocchi in oxtail ragu ($22) looks perfectly familiar to anyone who eats out a lot. Then you bite into thumb-sized marvels and find a bit of sweet prune puree hiding in the center of each. Just that little touch introduces the flavor profile of Eastern European Jewish cooking to remind you where you are. Brilliant.

By the way, I did take my friend to the General Muir to see if it would get his mitzvah. He loved the smooth, mild chopped liver ($7) served with toasted onion pletzel bread and the hilariously deli-fied poutine ($11) — crisp fries rapidly turning soggy under a torrent of gravy, stringy cheese curds and diced pastrami.

But we forgot to get bagels. Maybe next time, though while I like the bagels here a lot, he may not because it seems to me New Yorkers never like bagels outside of the city. Who knows?

THE GENERAL MUIR
Address, phone: 1540 Avenue Place B-230, Atlanta. 678-927-9131
Hours: breakfast: 7-10:30 a.m. Mondays-Fridays; lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; dinner: 5:30-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; brunch: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
Price range: $-$$$
Credit cards: all major
Children: fine
Noise level: lively but not as loud as you might expect with so much tile
Reservations: for dinner only

47 comments Add your comment

Ess Gesunt

March 7th, 2013
7:13 am

Looks appealing, John, but sounds like you better bring some gelt. You sure it isn’t located on the Lower East Side, or up on 7th Ave.?

Mary

March 7th, 2013
8:24 am

for those of us working at Emory/CDC, the prices are too high.

AJ

March 7th, 2013
8:54 am

Prices do seem a bit high. I do plan on trying it as I too am a NYer and a bagel snob. Though right now my favorite bagels are at Brooklyn Water Bagels in the Akers Mill Shopping Center.

Baltisraul......

March 7th, 2013
9:10 am

Mary…..Do the folks at the CDC split a corned beef sammie to make it affordable for the working lunch crowd? It would seem that would be the only way to keep the numbers up. But when you break it down, $9.00 for 1/2 a sammie is still high dollar!

Steve

March 7th, 2013
9:20 am

Had several fantastic brunches here. The pastrami is really well done – definitely the best in town. I’ve had it in both, the sandwich ($12 during brunch) and the pastrami hash. You can’t go wrong with either, and I would order both again in a heartbeat. I was also happy to see that they started serving the pastrami sandwich with chopped chicken liver (try it before you judge!) which is the way I grew up eating it!

Grasshopper

March 7th, 2013
9:23 am

Way too high prices for deli food.

$5 for pickles, $9 for a Romaine salad, $11 for Chicken salad?

Good luck to them.

Matt

March 7th, 2013
10:03 am

We went for brunch a few weeks ago, and our feelings were mixed. Good service, good coffee, great pastry basket. As to the entrees, however… my hash was good, but seriously lacked pastrami. There was maybe an ounce of pastrami in there at best, which was really disappointing because it tasted so good. Meanwhile my cousin got the fish and potatoes. It was literally appetizer-sized – two small latkes topped with lox, with a small side salad? There’s nothing wrong with a smaller portion, but this was a bit ridiculous, especially compared to the heaped plates everyone else received.

We will return, but warily…

Penelope

March 7th, 2013
10:15 am

Please, somebody, say something about parking. Thanks.

Mark

March 7th, 2013
10:27 am

@Penelope: metered street parking or underground parking, with several hours free (if memory serves correctly 3 hrs free until 5pm then maybe 2 free after that?). Easy and plentiful.

We’ve had dinner and lunch there. Staff still new and inexperienced (didn’t know how to open a bottle of wine) but enthusiastic and food was very good. Prices high compared to say Panera, but it’s a different and much more sophisticated and satisfying food experience in return.

Emory Employee

March 7th, 2013
10:35 am

Beautiful place, delicious food but +1 to Grasshopper’s comments: Small portions and VERY pricey. It’s disappointing because I work next door and am happy to pay for a good meal but the prices for what you get seem really out of scale with comparable options in Atlanta. Many of my office colleagues agree.

And this isn’t about patrons wanting good for free, which is always the counter argument from the restaurant owner. I get it, you need to get paid and I support that but $12 for a delicious but only adequately sized pastrami sandwich with no sides or $11 for poutine for lunch, come on.

To me this is a gamble on the old Emory myth that, “everybody who goes to Emory is rich and doesn’t care how much things cost”. There is some truth to that but there are three times as many staff that work at Emory and CDC who I think, after the novelty wears off, will eventually lose their appetite for the high cost “New York” deli (oxymoron). Good luck!

snorgledork

March 7th, 2013
11:15 am

The prices are so high because of the Emory students. They just whip out mommy and daddy’s credit card, it never runs out! You can charge them 5.00 for a Coke, they won’t even bat an eye!

Kate

March 7th, 2013
11:26 am

Not sure I get the griping about the high prices. Not super cheap, but sandwiches here run you $8-9. Panera sandwiches are $7-9. Huge quality difference.

Brogress

March 7th, 2013
11:35 am

9-12 dollars for an open-faced bagel?

John Kessler

March 7th, 2013
11:36 am

You know I worried about listing so many high-ticket items, but I felt these were the dishes that gave a good idea of what this place does so well. There are quite a few more typically priced sandwiches, salads, etc. Also, you realize these sandwiches are piled from here to Borough Park — enough to feed two easily.

Renee

March 7th, 2013
11:43 am

We went to General Muir for dinner. Limited choices but loved the food. It was priced on the higher side which does not bother me as much as I was very hungry when I left. Very small portions.

Emory Employee

March 7th, 2013
11:44 am

@John Kessler: All due respect, but unless the sandwiches have changed in the last week or so they are ABSOLUTELY NOT piled high (unless you are talking about the $18 pastrami). I encourage you to pop in undercover and order a sandwich and then see if you think they are “piled from here to Borough Park”.

Brianfellows

March 7th, 2013
11:44 am

$9 for a Bagel. Oi!!!!!! If you dont like paying a little more for a much better product, stay home or hang out with the nearly-dead at Bagel Palace. More delish bagels and lox for me. Ginsberg is once again proving he is one of the best in town.

John Kessler

March 7th, 2013
11:51 am

I am talking about the $18 pastrami, which I liked better than the $21 version at Carnegie Deli…

Tromador

March 7th, 2013
11:58 am

Brianfellows, enjoy gettin fleeced!

Sanguino Boclavore

March 7th, 2013
12:15 pm

$5 for pickles?

FOC

March 7th, 2013
12:16 pm

Why does everyone in Atlanta think everything is too expensive. This isn’t Jason’s Delli. Everything is made from scratch and made for you the individual customer. Is there no value in the creation of something that is custom made for you? In NYC a pastrami sandwich starts at $20. Virtually everywhere else in Atlanta if you want pastrami it comes in a cryovac bag off the back of a sysco truck and at best it is reheated in a microwave. Get a grip folks, we are better than that!

Shazam

March 7th, 2013
1:37 pm

The General Muir is the only restaurant worth visiting at Emory Point. It’s consistently great, honest food served in a bright, sunny space. The pastrami alone is worth the headache of navigating the absurd parking set-up. People who place a premium on price over quality will probably do better at one of the boring chains or fast-food places at Emory Point.

Grasshopper

March 7th, 2013
2:01 pm

RE: Parking Situation

You know you’re in trouble when the parking instructions on your website take close to 100 words.

Jadzia

March 7th, 2013
2:02 pm

Since when did appetizing become a verb? I’ll let the English majors have fun with the sentence. “I think I’m more of an appetizing than deli guy,…” Second Atlanta paper in the last week to misuse this word.

John Kessler

March 7th, 2013
2:12 pm

Jadzia – Please refer to my description of the word higher in the story. For further clarification: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appetizing_store

Gromasty M. Vengliechive

March 7th, 2013
3:13 pm

The General Muir is the best restaurant in all of Atlanta. I always eat there and tend to get a lot of compliments!

Lorenzo

March 7th, 2013
5:34 pm

Same price as New York for those behemoth sandwiches, where they’ve got 100 years of experience making corned beef and pastrami, so I hope Ginsberg did some catching up fast. I assume the rye bread is baked on site as well. If they’re tackling bagels, how difficult can rye be? Well, gotta try this place.

A New Yorker

March 7th, 2013
6:34 pm

I did take my friend to the General Muir to see if it would get his mitzvah.” ??? You’re trying too hard. You don’t get a mitzvah, loosely translated, a good thing that you do. It might be a mitzvah to take your friend there.

HotlantaHobo

March 7th, 2013
9:36 pm

For realistic deli pricing, just look at what a pastrami sandwich costs in various well-established places..Langer’s Los Angeles: $13.50, Schwartz Montreal: $6,50 (truly amazing) Junior’s NY was around $11 last time I was there 18 months ago, no online prices. Now don’t tell me these places are cheaper to operate in than Atlanta. And I really didn’t expect a tourist trap like the Carnegie Deli to be a pricing model for Atlanta. I suppose if they have the quality of these places, that’s the price we’ll have to pay, but it won’t be a regular haunt, But since this place has a “chef” consistency won’t likely be a strength as the chefs here seem to constantly move around. If they opened still experimenting with the pastrami recipe, that doesn’t bode well.

Could this end up being another 5 Napkin burger?

berry steve

March 7th, 2013
9:48 pm

NY prices in Atl will never be the norm. Can’t last!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike Smola

March 8th, 2013
6:53 am

John, how many stars?

Blanche

March 8th, 2013
9:18 am

Lunched there yesterday. A weenie bowl of matzo ball soup and the poutine with pastrami = $22 with tip. La Tagliatella will be the first to perish in Emory Pointe, but GM won’t be far behind. Then again, there was a line of eager waiting patrons as I left at 12:30, so perhaps I’m overly pessimistic. (Sticking with my prediction about LT, however; alarmingly mediocre food.)

M. Copeland

March 8th, 2013
9:47 am

A better comparison in price and quality of an authentic Jewish Delicatessen would be to use Philadelphia’s excellent establishments. Manhattan is overpriced altogether and should be left out.
Murray’s in Bala Cynwyd, Pa, circa 1929, is outstanding. Their prices are reasonable. Quality is there. They even make homemade pickles. An Atlanta Deli’s prices should not ever exceed a real delicatessen’s like Murray’s. Also, Location is no excuse. Murray’s is located on the Main Line of Philadelphia. It wouldn’t hurt the “creators” behind the General Muir to visit authentic establishments in real neighborhoods, with real prices.

Brooklynite

March 8th, 2013
10:44 am

turns out Mile End Deli in Brooklyn has been making that “hilariously deli-fied poutine” for a good long while now. and probably to much better effect.

Sophie's Choice

March 8th, 2013
1:28 pm

M. Copeland & Hotlanta Hobo: what both of them said. Couldn’t have said it any better!

Hyman

March 8th, 2013
2:39 pm

I was underwhelmed at breakfast. The pastrami was tough and not juicy, the portions were small and expensive, it took forever to get our food, and parking was a pain. (The meter wouldn’t go beyond 45 minutes so I had to run back out to feed the meter in the middle of the meal.) On the plus side, the chicken liver was good but could have had more schmaltz. I’m in no hurry to return.

Edward

March 8th, 2013
3:14 pm

Man, I sure do miss Katz Deli on Cheshire Bridge.

Delinut

March 8th, 2013
3:23 pm

Picked up on the forced yiddish..wrong use of mitzvah….I think that the cost of the sandwiches would be easier to “digest” if they included the side and a pickle like every other quality deli in this country!!!

CathyL

March 8th, 2013
6:03 pm

The bagels at BB Bagels ARE too big and too bready. I had a bagel at General Muir and found it to be unexceptional; actually, it was rather tough. I can’t believe I am saying this, but the bagels at Dunkin Donuts are better than the bagels I have had at BB Bagels or General Muir. The best bagels that I have had recently are from Bagel Boys in Alpharetta. They have the right texture (slightly chewy, not bready or too tough) and reminded me of the excellent ones that Goldberg’s used to sell before they became a big chain with mediocre bagels.

John Kessler

March 8th, 2013
9:18 pm

Okay my attempt at Yiddish sucked. Sorry, Bubbie.

berry steve

March 9th, 2013
8:33 am

John K…your yiddish is fine for 90% of us. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We understood what you mean.

Edward

March 9th, 2013
11:13 am

I *REALLY* miss Royal Bagel at Ansley Mall. There hasn’t been a great bagel in Atlanta since that closed.

Nestlee

March 9th, 2013
11:26 am

John, I look forward to trying this place. However, the word ‘mitzvah’ was used incorrectly in your review.

alan

March 9th, 2013
11:31 pm

If the sandiwiches are good then $16-18 is about right. That’s what I paid at Katz’s deli and 2nd Ave deli in NYC. Harolds deli in NJ charges about the same. People kvetch too much a good deli sandwich is worth it. Awhile back I tried a pastrami sandwich at Bagel Palace, it was awful, though it cost less. By the way, the best bagel I’ve had recently is at the Brooklyn Water Bagel co at the Akers Mill Shopping center.

Growler

March 10th, 2013
3:36 pm

Hi John… okay went there for brunch yesterday (Saturday). Very nice ambience, parking was easy and no wait — though I think that is because Emory is on break. Anyway I ordered the hash. There are a handful of ingredients listed on it — and it did indeed come with 2 [good] sunny-side up eggs. But the hash — was 95% potatoes. Maybe more. It overwhelmed the little bits of crispy pastrami, peppers and onions that are listed on the menu. For $10, it was basically a plate of roasted potatoes. I nicely told the waitress (who was very nice) and she said she’d heard similar gripes. I know the place is relatively new and we’ll go back, probably for dinner, but if it’s dissapointing again it’ll be two-and-out. I mean, how hard is it to make good hash?

jetlagjim

March 10th, 2013
4:18 pm

Four of us went for brunch this morning, Sunday, at 11 — 20 minute wait. Easy parking lot. Great looking space but all hard surfaces and the roar rose steadily during our visit. Ultimately, we found ourselves shouting at each other to repeat whatever the other was were saying. No fun. The wait staff was terrific — very attentive as was the host who checked on us a couple of times. We spotted Todd Ginsberg visiting the table next to us but he dashed away without a word to others diners in the area. Food: two of us had the pastrami hash. Unlike the review above, ours was a good ratio of the ingredients on the menu without too many potatoes. It just didn’t have a lot of flavor. Nothing really wrong, just not very interesting. Another had the Ruben which he said was OK, but nothing special. The fourth had the poached eggs and grits — again OK, nothing special. About $62 including tip, no alcohol. I might go again on a week night and try the dinner, but I’ll pass on the breakfast/brunch scene.

FYIDRAMAQUEENS

March 11th, 2013
2:23 pm