Since opening Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna in early 2005, Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner have become one of the dynamic duos of the Atlanta restaurant scene, using their fine dining backgrounds to create inviting neighborhood destinations.
Through several iterations, they’ve updated and improved the original Muss & Turner’s concept, and joined forces with chef Chris Hall to build the Unsukay restaurant group, which includes Local Three in North Atlanta and Eleanor’s in Smyrna.
Mussman, Turner and Hall also are board members of the Giving Kitchen, the nonprofit arm of Staplehouse, founded to provide grants to Atlanta restaurant workers in need.
The newest Unsukay venture, Muss & Turner’s East Cobb, replaces recently closed Common Quarter , another of the group’s restaurants, located in a storefront space in the Woodlawn Square shopping center on Johnson Ferry Road.
The flex-casual menu is similar to M&T’s Smyrna, with a focus on soups, salads, sandwiches and sides. But there are new additions, too, including more seafood offerings, salad add-ons, and a spicy Szechuan pork sandwich or plate dreamed up by Mussman as an homage to the partners’ favorite Atlanta restaurant, Tasty China.
More noticeable is the complete redesign of the bar, dining room and patio areas, and the expansion of the kitchen, which was opened up and surrounded by a red service counter that mirrors the one at M&T’s Smyrna.
Other lively design elements include 10 televisions linked to a sound system playing MTV-style music videos from 1976-1996, and a brightly colored chalk art menu by local artist and M&T’s Smyrna server Rachel Bongard.
Last week, Mussman and Turner were at M&T’s East Cobb, where they talked a bit about their history and what’s happening now.
“We’re on our third version of Muss & Turner’s,” Turner said. “Originally, it was a gourmet retail shop and a deli. But we listened, we did everything we could to make people comfortable and appreciated, and we adapted. That was the right way to do it, and we’ll do the same here, or wherever we open.”
“People wanted a beer with their Reuben, and more hot food,” Mussman said. “So we changed out our liquor license, and we kind of went back to our roots in fine dining, but in a more casual way. We hit on a really solid formula that works, and we’ve proven that.”
As far as the change over from Common Quarter to Muss & Turner’s, the partners said it began with a new vision for the space.
“When we made the decision to turn this into a Muss & Turner’s, we started with the heart of the restaurant, which is the kitchen, with what lessons we learned from Smyrna,” Turner said. “We wanted an open kitchen. That’s a Muss & Turner’s thing.
“We’re all about transparency, local ingredients, if possible, and we wanted some iconic elements, like the red bar and the colander light fixtures that would tie in with the original. Then we added items that were meaningful to us.”
The Muss & Turner’s East Cobb menu includes M&T’s signature items, including the celebrated Big Green Egg-grilled burger, while offering some new twists.
“The menu is basically the same as Smyrna, with several additions and modifications,” Mussman said. “I wanted to offer a few more fish items, so I added a shrimp salad that we serve on brioche buns.
“We’re doing the Papa Max, which is classic house-kippered salmon, with cream cheese and a bagel with all the accompaniments, that we’re offering every day. And I also added a fried trout sandwich.”
Turner’s take on the beverage menu is another combination of tried-and-true M&T’s with a few tweaks.
“We have six draft beers, all local, with other options by the can or bottle,” Turner said. “We have 23 wines by the glass, and a lot of wines that taste better than they cost. But everything here is about value.
“We have people here who really love food, and are passionate about it, and interested in doing it the right way. Just because it’s a sandwich doesn’t mean it’s not the highest end of culinary technique.”
1205 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta. 678-809-4040, mussandturners.com/eastcobb
More images from a First Look at Muss & Turner’s East Cobb
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