Hungering for the ever-elusive search for a decent pastrami sandwich within 100 miles of the city of Atlanta, I drove southeast on Clifton Road to meet Michael W of Michael W Travels, his brother and his friend to indulge on what is supposed to currently be one of the 21 essential hamburgers in North America.
Literally located across the street from the headquarters of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I first heard about The General Muir from a fellow FlyerTalk member who dined with me and at least a dozen other FlyerTalk members at a Kosher delicatessen in New York greater than a year ago; and ever since she witnessed me kvelling over a pastrami sandwich on rye with mustard and wishing that something remotely similar to that was in Atlanta, she had been on the lookout for pastrami nirvana for me.
Although there was no parking on the street, I pulled into a parking garage where I could park free of charge for up to three hours. A short five-minute walk later, I opened the door to the entrance of The General Muir, which bills itself as a modern take on classic Jewish delicatessen. Within the next five minutes, Michael W. and his brother entered the establishment, where we met his friend already seated at a table.
The restaurant is decorated in white tile similar to what is seen in the subway stations in New York. It looks, feels and smells nothing like a Jewish delicatessen inside or outside; but it was clean in its pseudo-modern decor — and the dining area was not very large, as there was also a bakery area where you can order bagels and other breads for breakfast, for example.
The hamburger consisted of gruyere — I asked to have that left off of my order, as I do not like cheese on my hamburger — caramelized onions, crispy pastrami, Russian dressing, pickles and French fries. Pastrami on a hamburger? That intrigued me; but because I wanted to try both the hamburger and the pastrami, I ordered a hamburger to eat there and — by the end of the meal — a pastrami sandwich to bring back for later. Michael ordered his hamburger intact as is, of course — as did his brother and his friend — and his review of the experience is posted here.
After a while — which included debating as to whether we should sit at the patio area outside, as the weather that evening was pleasant — our orders arrived. The hamburger was moist and juicy — not something I typically like for a hamburger, but it definitely worked here — and the toppings definitely accentuated the flavor rather than detracted from it. While the pastrami was not “crispy” — by my definition, anyway — I found that it was flavorful and could not wait to try it by itself on the sandwich later.
The bun held its own as well: it did not collapse from the juices of the hamburger and its toppings; was flavorful; and had a texture which resembled a roll which was freshly baked recently. The bun is an important part of a hamburger to me — none of those cheap supermarket dough balls in a plastic bag for me, thank you.
The French fries were flavorful and not greasy; dense but not overly crispy. I typically do not like when the peel of the potato is left on; but that worked here too. Despite the fried potatoes not needing any condiments, I dipped them into the metal cup of special ketchup, which is supposedly not from a bottle.
At $14.00, I would certainly recommend the hamburger; but if I had to criticize this hamburger and the French fries which were served with it, it would be that I still felt hungry after I finished eating. In my opinion, it is not enough for a dinner. Be certain to order something else if you would like to feel satisfied.
I felt similarly about the pastrami sandwich: at $13.00, you get seven ounces of pastrami on an unusual “double-baked” rye bread with seeds; some mustard and a “full sour” pickle. By delicatessen standards, this is a wimpy sandwich on all accounts; and because it was not extra lean — which is what I prefer — it was too fatty for me. However, the flavor of the pastrami was somewhat reminiscent of its brethren found in authentic delicatessens in New York; and that is what saved this sandwich from being not recommended by me at all — even though it easily surpasses the cold and salty luncheon meat they have the nerve to call pastrami at Goldberg Bagel Company and Deli…
…never mind the fact that the pickle which accompanied the sandwich is not a “full sour”; but rather a typical Kosher dill pickle one can find at virtually any sandwich shop in the United States. It was not a bad pickle — I did enjoy it — but it was no “full sour” pickle with that zing like one would expect to get in New York.
The pastrami sandwich could be a decent way to “tide me over” if the craving is too strong to ignore until the next time I am in New York for a real version; but as the cost of one at Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen is approximately the same as that of The General Muir, I must conclude that there is no contest here and that the pastrami sandwich at The General Muir — tasty as it may be — is simply overpriced…
…but if you do find yourself in Atlanta, definitely try the hamburger at The General Muir. “This Atlanta restaurant, an elegantly re-imagined take on the traditional New York City deli, serves two different versions of its burger”, according to this review of one of “21 essential hamburgers of America” written by Erin DeJesus of Eater. “But at dinner…the ‘frizzled pastrami, Gruyere, and caramelized onions appear,’ yielding delightfully chaotic results. ‘There’s beauty in this beast…it is an unholy mess to eat, slipping and sliding as you try to wrestle it, but all the elements come together so masterfully and each bite is so different that it’s worth the handfuls of napkins.’”
I do not necessarily agree with that review — my experience suggests that it was not “an unholy mess to eat” — as well as whether it truly is one of the 21 essential hamburgers in North America is debatable…
…but who really cares? It is a very good hamburger on its own accord which any burger aficionado should enjoy, as chef Todd Ginsburg cooks up a winner here — and unless you are a light eater or are not completely hungry, do not be concerned about saving any room for dessert.