Tasting Intown: A review of The Canteen

The view of Fred’s and Yalla from Square Bar at The Canteen.

“Mirco food hall” is a two-dollar word for cafeteria. Adults who don’t like cafeterias will very much enjoy The Canteen, a micro food hall located on 5th Street right next to the Tech Hotel and Conference Center. This is a highly trafficked area that still has a decent amount of green space where business professionals and students alike can roam around in search of the food that fuels their productive adventures in the city. There are some good restaurants in this neighborhood, but if you’re in a grab-n-go rush to get to a class or a conference, you’d have to choose between Subway and Moe’s.

A sandwich and fries at Fred’s.

The Canteen fills an important void with four little spots operating through symbiosis. There’s TGM Bagel, open at 7 or 8 a.m. to supply your morning bagel and schmear, coffee and juice. There’s Fred’s Meat and Bread, open at 11 a.m. for your lunchtime devouring of sandwich and fries. There’s Yalla, also open at 11 a.m. for your hummus snacks and shawarma cravings. And then there’s Square Bar. The bar handles smoothies for TGM Bagel, hand-crafted sodas with funky herbal flavorings for Yalla, and offers its own full range of booze from the first food stall’s open til the last food stall’s close at 9 or 10 p.m.

Cocktails and slushies at Square Bar.

Everything at The Canteen is brought to you by the good people at The General Muir in Emory Point. Most of the TGM Bagel menu is direct from the New York deli style menu in Emory Point, but a dollar cheaper and without the long waits of the sit-down restaurant. For a mere $5, there’s a fantastically creamy soft roll and fried egg sandwich topped with just the perfect amount of gruyere and pastrami from Fred’s plus a little kick of harissa ketchup from Yalla. You can also find fully loaded bagels and toasts for no more than $10, smothered with all the lox or avocado or egg salad or almond butter your heart desires. The coffee is from Batdorf & Bronson, and there’s an $8 carrot ginger smoothie made with cashew milk and cinnamon that can give any pumpkin spice nonsense a run for its money this autumn.

TGM Bagel’s full menu sticks around until 3 p.m., so you can also get it for lunch. The heaviest lunches are at Fred’s, where $14.50 will get you a six-inch cheesesteak and a giant bowl of thick-cut fries. They’ve got several types of fancy toppings beyond the regular, from a garlic with ranch dipping sauce to an Old Bay seasoning with tartar sauce. We had the Southern fries a white BBQ dipping sauce that was plenty flavorful without being so spicy you’d need a glass of water close by. Also at The Canteen: free cups of water and just help yourself.

All the fixin’s at Yalla.

If you’re looking for something a bit healthier or want that Middle Eastern flair, the same $14 will get you a good-looking and great-tasting lamb kebab bowl will all the trimmings. Or get the same deliciously fresh options tucked in a pita or a bigger roll of laffa bread for a few dollars less. The falafel pita is $7. If all you need is a quick snack, there’s a smooth hummus for $6 and various other small plates like olives or Israeli salad. For a change of pace, add a tarragon limonada or sparkling cucumber soda for $2.75.

You can also take meals from any of the three food stalls and plop down at the Square Bar for a small but exceptionally well-curated menu of alcoholic beverages. Most beers are $6, most cocktails are $9, and when the weather is just right, there are $8 slushies. Cheerwine and whiskey, anyone? Also: $10 cans of several varieties of red or white wine. They’ve got plenty of tables on the patio primed for people-watching, and Square Bar has a nice walk-up window that makes it easy to order from outside or wonderfully breezy when sitting at the bar inside.

The Canteen is a superior home base from which to conduct operations in Midtown for a day. Great vibes and wifi and location. It’s a cafeteria for aspiring grownups, no matter the size of your wallet or your stomach.

Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture.

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