Presented as a “micro food hall,” the Canteen in Midtown is the latest project from chef Todd Ginsberg and the team behind the General Muir at Emory Point, and Fred’s Meat & Bread and Yalla at Krog Street Market.
Situated in the former Spence space on Fifth Street at Tech Square, the tidy layout features three food stalls, including the latest versions of Fred’s Meat & Bread and Yalla, and the new TGM Bagel.
Plus, there’s the new Square Bar, which looks out on the plaza of the Centergy One building, and makes smoothies, fresh pressed juices, and energy shots, as well as serving cocktails, boozy slushies, and beer and wine.
The Yalla menu of Middle Eastern small plates, shawarma, kebabs, falafel and fresh-baked pita remains the same, except for a few daily specials.
But Fred’s added some less expensive, 6-inch versions of its popular sandwiches, including the cheesesteak and Italian grinder, along with new items, such as blackened tuna, a pastrami hoagie, and an oyster po’boy.
Something of a spinoff of the General Muir and its bakery, TGM Bread, TGM Bagel is a mini deli, with house-cured fish, schmears and garnishes to build your own bagel. But there’s also a menu of bagel sandwiches, toasts and deli sandwiches, such as a bialy with smoked trout.
At lunchtime one sunny afternoon, Ginsberg was hanging out amid a sizable crowd queued up at the Canteen, and talking about why a food hall was the next step for his team, which includes business partners Jennifer and Ben Johnson and Shelley Sweet.
“The big idea came from owning and working at Krog Street,” Ginsberg said. “The malls did this kind of thing years ago, where they could appeal to people who were coming to the food court. Here, we can appeal to students and business people and neighborhood people.”
Asked about his transition from fine dining to more casual concepts, Ginsberg said it was all part of a continuum of handling food and managing people.
“I think fine dining was important to learn how to run a walk-in, how to look for and treat the best ingredients, and how to set expectations for the people working around me,” he said.
“It’s all about the quality things that make restaurant food excellent, and that’s what we try to do, even it’s a cheesesteak or a hamburger.”
As to the breadth of menu items on offer at the Canteen, Ginsberg said that was a bit of serendipity.
“Fred’s and Yalla are kind of opposites in a way,” he said. “Everybody wants a great big sandwich. But for people who might want something less heavy or more healthy, they can go next door to Yalla and have some hummus or falafel, and feel good.
“But Fred’s has some new, lighter sandwiches here. We have a chicken Parmesan instead of the meatball. And we did a grilled chicken sandwich, where we cover it in tahini and broil it under the salamander.”
But clearly, TGM Bagel has the newest of the new things to eat at the Canteen, and everyone, including Ginsberg, seems excited about that.
“We’re doing all of the bagels here,” Ginsberg said. “As a matter of fact, throughout the day, we bring out hot bagels about every 15 minutes. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like a fresh bagel out of the oven. And then we have a pretty extensive build your own section of the menu.
“That’s an experience we don’t have at the General Muir. So something like smoked sturgeon on a pumpernickel bagel, with cream cheese and a little red onion and capers, that’s a classic for me.”
75 Fifth St. NW, Atlanta. thecanteenatl.com.
More images from a first look at the Canteen in Midtown.