The General Muir
1540 Avenue Place, Suite B-230, Atlanta GA 30329 (map); 678-927-9131; thegeneralmuir.com
Cooking Method: Flat top
Short Order: Jewish deli with a serious pedigree does two of the city's finest burgers
Want Fries with That? They're great. But turn them into pastrami-topped poutine for something magical
Price: Double Burger Stack (lunch), $8.75; The Burger (dinner), $14; fries, $4; poutine, $6; w/pastrami, +$5
So a hamburger reviewer walks into a Jewish deli...
It may sound like the set-up for a groaner of a punch line, but the laugh's on you if you discount the burgers at The General Muir based solely on its more traditional and expected menu items. Yes, matzoh ball soup, Reubens, and 14-ounce piled-high pastrami sandwiches stream steadily out of the kitchen, but I'm ready to call The General Muir's burgers among the city's best.
That shouldn't come as a surprise, really. The Emory Point restaurant, open since early 2013, was born of excellent stock within the local burger scene. The story goes that Jennifer and Ben Johnson, husband-and-wife restaurant co-owners, wanted to open up a new place with Shelley Sweet, GM at their West Egg Cafe—a spot that, not coincidentally, does a mighty fine burger. They joined forces with chef Todd Ginsberg, who had been looking to start a true-blue delicatessen that paid homage to his East Coast roots. And it just so happens that Ginsberg is the genius who created Bocado's famed burger. So you could argue that an exceptional burger was programmed into The General Muir's DNA from the very beginning.
Lineage is a major theme at The General Muir, which gets its name from the transport ship that brought Jennifer's mother and grandparents—Holocaust survivors—to New York in 1949. Old photos of the vessel and framed portraits of the ownership's relatives adorn the subway tile walls and give off an authentically warm and familial vibe. But don't be lulled into thinking it's some sleepy mom-and-pop joint; with a primo location next to Emory University and the CDC, this place literally buzzes, especially at lunchtime.
That's when the Double Burger Stack ($8.75) comes out to play. In between thin twin patties is a layer of shaved onion. Over the top patty, American, pickles, and lettuce are all nestled under a pillowy onion roll. Russian dressing is the wackiest thing here, adding a tangy zip under the bottom burger.
It's simple, to be sure. But, like Ginsberg's Bocado burger, that's the beauty. Every element shines and explodes with flavor. Take a look at the crust on that craggly, loose meat and tell me that's not the sexiest thing you've seen all day. A perfect melt on the cheese. Pickles aren't my thing, but these will delight sweet-and-sour fans. The onions, after some griddle time of their own, get one of the patties plopped on top just long enough to absorb some of that telltale flavor and then are left between the patties to permeate the tasty beef.
The fries are very, very good: deep brown, skin-on, and flecked with big grains of salt. You get a nice-sized portion with ketchup for four bucks...
...But upgrading them to the poutine is a must. An extra two dollars gets you gravy, cheese curds, and parsley. Five more on top of that brings out TGM's big guns: huge chunks of chopped pastrami. Tender and succulent, they elevate this side into a phenomenal meal all its own. It's already been featured on a few local publications' food bucket lists, and I hope I'm not pulling back the curtain too far on my inner whackjobness by admitting that I've actually woke up dreaming about The General Muir's poutine since trying it.
You'd expect a New York-style deli to have good pastrami. You'd expect a great deli's pastrami to be great. But you might not expect them to slap it on an already-stellar burger and offer it as a dinner-only treat. Simply called The Burger ($14 with fries), this creation by Ginsberg debuted in just the last month or so and features the house-cured and -smoked pastrami, Gruyère, caramelized onions, Russian dressing, and pickles under the same onion roll.
Again, the numerous pickles overpowered my palate. Removing them improved the burger for me, personally. All the better to let that pastrami shine, I say. The stuff had to be almost a quarter of an inch thick, and it provided the burger with an awesome, meaty chew that bacon just can't quite match.
Both burgers at The General Muir were messy affairs—the Russian dressing in particular made for some slipping and sliding—but the components of both burgers are so good that you'll find yourself scrabbling after all the bits and pieces of shrapnel.
Whether you go for the Double Burger Stack at lunch or The Burger at dinner, these are true top-tier cheeseburgers. From a Jewish deli. In Atlanta. And that's no joke. (Just remember to add the poutine.)
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT, pizzas for Slice, and desserts for Sweets, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for The Gaslight Anthem. Or both.
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