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Restaurant of the Year: The General Muir
Simply labeling the General Muir a Jewish deli may be useful shorthand, but it doesn’t cover the extent of its multifaceted pleasures. Yes, the back counter sells “appetizing”—the word used to describe whitefish salads, lox, and cream-cheese bagel schmears—as well as treats like blueberry noodle kugel and lemony black-and-white cookies. And touchstones from the Jewish American repertoire pepper the menus: soothing matzo ball soup and piled-high pastrami and Reuben sandwiches at lunch; platters of bagels with cured and smoked fish at breakfast; a special of moist brisket on Thursday nights, perhaps served with pierogi and horseradish sauce or with kasha varnishkes (a side dish of buckwheat, pasta, caramelized onions, and mushrooms). We have few examples of these comforts in Atlanta restaurants; it’s a joy to find them prepared with such assurance.
But executive chef Todd Ginsberg also cooks to universal appeal. (Ben and Jennifer Johnson, owners of West Egg Cafe, partnered with Ginsberg and West Egg manager Shelley Sweet to open the restaurant, the gem of the new Emory Point complex on Clifton Road.) At brunch, I’ve repeatedly savored the city’s most correctly executed omelet—velvety, plush, and without one speck of brown scorching. The dinner menu has blossomed since the restaurant opened in January. It hints of the format at Bocado, where Ginsberg previously worked, with an emphasis on small plates: crisp Swiss chard fritters that you swipe through whipped ricotta; creamy Burrata dressed with a summery pastiche of peaches, pickled blueberries, arugula, and pistachios. And Ginsberg surpasses Bocado’s cult double cheeseburger with a gloppy 2.0 variation topped with Gruyère, caramelized onions, Russian dressing, pickles, and, subbing for bacon, frizzled pastrami. (While not kosher, the restaurant does not serve pork—a relief, honestly, in this pig-crazed town.) Coming full circle to the deli inspiration, pastry chef Lauren Raymond mastered the dense yet fluffy New York–style cheesecake.
What I love most about the General Muir is its sincerity: the welcoming vibe of the long, airy space with light streaming through the high windows; the effervescent staff; and the sense of pride you can taste in the kitchen’s thoughtful, grounded creations. It’s already a role model for future Atlanta restaurants. It proves that by being true to what you are, you can build a community haven with heart.