Burger correspondent Angela Hansberger is back, this time to interview G.G. Najour, the now-owner of George's Restaurant and Bar on North Highland Avenue. His father, George, opened the restaurant in 1961.
George's Restaurant and Bar.
While George's in Virginia Highland is a local neighborhood favorite, it is also a mainstay for people all over Atlanta who crave a classic hamburger. There are 52 years of history and tradition in the restaurant and the simple burger formula they have down pat.
How did George's come to be?
My dad, George, had been in the bar business in East Point. When that area went dry, he started looking in a different area and opened a delicatessen [selling] Middle Eastern groceries. With the encouragement of Georgia Tech and Emory kids coming by and telling him that there should be a bar here— in those days Dekalb County was dry— he added a bar. In 1983, I persuaded him to get away from the deli and groceries. I really wanted a place where I could get a good hamburger, and there weren't any places like that around here. We have been doing that ever since.
It's difficult to imagine a lack of burger places with the scene we have in Atlanta today. What is your take on this craze?
The market is really saturated right now. I haven't really tried many of the new places. We are a more laid-back atmosphere and a lower-end price range. We are what we are.
What sets you apart from the others?
We are more like home style. The quality of our meat definitely sets us apart, and we roll up an 8 oz. patty of meat for our burgers.
Tell me about the burger.
Our meat is never frozen. It is super fresh and ground. We are very particular about the quality. Our 8 oz. [you can also choose 5 oz.] patties are cooked over a grill like you would do in your own backyard— so you get that flavor from the grill. Our buns are delivered daily, so they're very fresh. Our standard is a whole wheat bun but we also offer an egg roll that is very good.
How has the menu changed over the years?
It hasn't much. We still have a couple of the sandwiches from the early deli days. Ten years ago, we added a veggie burger and a turkey burger. There is an extra topping or two, just to be creative.
What is the craziest burger order you can remember?
This guy wanted three of our patties on one burger. Three 8 oz. patties! Then he added bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. He ate the whole thing, even the sides. He said he wanted to do four the next time.
You have used the word "family" a lot when describing this place and your customers. Tell me about the George's family.
We have had some of the same employees for many years. Some for 10-20 years, and one has been here for over 20 years. It helps a lot. They take this job personally, and have great concern for what they are doing. We have watched our customers grow up and have seen generations come through our doors. At any given time, there could be families, business people in suits, sports fans, or just someone who wants a good burger. We appreciate the loyalty of the customers all these years. We are pretty fortunate to have so many regulars.
What is your recipe for longevity in the restaurant business?
We try to be as consistent as possible with the quality of our food and to keep a close eye on what goes in and comes out of our kitchen. Our coworkers are hands-on and dedicated. We are a family. If I can't be here to run things, my nephew is. We are a part of the community and try to contribute to schools, sports teams, and churches as much as we can.
What are some of your favorite places to eat in Atlanta? I love Italian—Provino'sand Alfredo's. For seafood, I like Red Snapper. I love Mexican food too. Jalisco is a great family-run restaurant.
What is in the future for George's?
I would love to have 50 more years of this. My nephew, George, hopefully will take over or maybe my daughter. I would love to keep the family tradition going. We are pretty lucky as family businesses go.
*George's namesake, George Najour, died in 2002 at the age of 81.
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