3400 Around Lenox Road #217, Atlanta GA 30326 (map); 404-467-8950; sevenlampsatl.com
Cooking Method: Wood-grilled
Short Order: Upscale craft restaurant and bar serves up a "secret" burger that's worth discovering
Want Fries with That? The thin potato slices are a nice change of pace, and even better with mayo
Price: 50/50 Burger, $10
When you're a hot chef noodling around for what to name your swanky new restaurant, of course you look to the leading art critic of Victorian England and an extended essay he wrote on architecture. Duh.
As convoluted as that may sound, it's exactly what Drew Van Leuvan did when he opened Seven Lamps in the ultra-ritzy shopping center across from Lenox Square late last year. The aforementioned John Ruskin's "lamps" refer to the seven principles of sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory, and obedience. Van Leuvan thought those ideals applied to the culinary arts as well, and his restaurant suddenly had its name.
Seven Lamps is quickly generating buzz around town for its upscale craft cuisine and a hip bar scene anchored by one of the top "mixtresses" in the city. (Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch cocktail, anyone?) But handmade pastas, artisan cheeses, and designer drinks aside, there's only one reason we'd be talking about Seven Lamps here at AHT. Van Leuvan also has a "secret" burger on the menu that's worth looking into.
You noticed those quotes around secret, right? Yeah. The 50/50 Burger ($10) is technically not on the menu at Seven Lamps, but it's prominently showcased on the restaurant's website, and your server will almost certainly bring it to your attention during a rundown of the daily specials. Judging by how many I saw walk out of the open kitchen during my recent lunch visit, the 50/50 Burger may not technically qualify as a secret at all.
But it does qualify as a tasty meal, in case you're not in a black-linguini-with-braised-rabbit-legs kind of mood. Made from a half-and-half blend of Brasstown Beef's grass-fed brisket and top round, it's shaped into a loosely-textured eight-ounce patty and grilled over stacks of the firewood (half oak, half hickory) on display at the pass.
On top: bacon, caramelized onions, Thousand Island dressing, the kitchen's own B&B pickles, and a grilled cheese gratin. This somewhat unique treatment has the kitchen covering the upturned housemade brioche bun with cheddar and giving it a ride in the salamander for a gooey blanket that adheres to the bun, looking like it melted "up," and leaving lovely little stray melts dotting the outside crown.
Inside, my medium rare patty showed some sexy pink, and I found the beef (seasoned only with kosher salt and fresh white pepper) to be quite flavorful. The toppings are proportioned well, letting the meat shine. I'm not a pickle guy, but Seven Lamps' B&Bs had plenty of crunch and tang, so true fans will likely want to leave theirs on.
The bacon (pancetta, according to Van Leuvan), however, was a disappointment: thin and uninspired, and, truthfully, more akin to what I'm used to seeing on some lesser-tier fast-food burgers. Tastewise, it added nothing to the mix here. An unfortunate and bewildering misstep, given the attention that Van Leuvan has bestowed to the other ingredients. But lackluster bacon is still bacon, and it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the 50/50.
Seven Lamps does a nice twist on fries. Their Cottage Fries are thinly sliced Kennebec rounds dusted with Espelette pepper powder and kosher salt. While some at my table found them to require a fork, mine were crisp enough on the outside to be a finger-food affair, yet wonderfully fluffy—almost mashed-potatoesque—inside. The powdered pepper made for a nice visual, but it added little in the way of flavor. The fries were decent enough on their own, yet became downright addictive once I found the cutesy jar of Duke's mayonnaise for dipping.
I still don't know what a few of those seven architectural principles have to do with it. Power? Life? Obedience?? C'mon, it was just lunch. But I guess I can see the others. The 50/50 does have some beauty to it. At just $10, it's not much of a sacrifice. And ultimately, it's a burger that may well stick in your memory. And that's the truth. That's four lamps...and that's enough by my math to make the 50/50 at Seven Lamps a fine addition to the city's burgerscape.