Atlanta's Farm Burger Gets an A for Locavorism and a B for Burgers
410B W. Ponce De Leon, Decatur GA 30030 (map); 404-378-5077 ; farmburger.net
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Moments of greatness, but meat suffers from too much cooking and not enough seasoning
Want Fries With That? Definitely, but be sure to grab some spectacular fried okra too
Price: $6 - $10
Full Moon Cooperative, which bills itself as "a community supported biodynamic farm and research center," was founded in 2002 by a professionally diverse group of people committed to elevating local food. In 2006, the team behind the farm opened a very well-received restaurant in Athens, Georgia, called Farm 255 that sourced almost all of its food from their farm. Due to the commitment to local foods, the menu understandably changed regularly, but the since burgers never go out of season, it was almost always on the menu.
Earlier this year, Jason Mann, the Director of the Full Moon Cooperative and a partner at Farm 255, partnered with a restaurant industry veteran to open Farm Burger just outside Atlanta. The casual burger joint is run with the same ethical purpose as the farm and the restaurant, and sources its grass-fed, hormone-free beef from a variety of local suppliers, including Moonshine Meats, another venture Mann is involved in.
When I walked up to the counter to place my order, I asked for my burgers rare. Not only was that request denied, but I was told that my only choices were medium and medium-well. Now, if people want to order their burgers with most of the fat cooked out, that's their prerogative. But for a restaurant to draw customers in based on the quality of their carefully sourced meat and then mandate they treat it like a patty made in a dirty factory from cows stuffed with hormones just makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I asked that my burgers come the least medium possible, took my number, and sat down to wait for my burgers with completely revised expectations.
Farm Burger offers a build-your-own option with a wide variety of toppings choices, six "Blackboard Burgers" with predetermined combinations, and a daily special. My first burger was The Farm Burger, #1 of the Blackboard Burgers. The Farm Burger comes with smoked white cheddar, caramelized onions, Farm Burger sauce, and, for an additional $2, house-cured bacon.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I got a burger that was close to medium rare. More importantly, I got a burger that was delicious. The meat, dry aged for two weeks and ground daily in the restaurant, did not have much seasoning but was loaded with high quality beefy goodness. The thick slices of house-cured bacon were outstanding, adding some salt and firm texture. The pile of onions added some sweetness and the creamy sauce brought a touch of tang. The combination of flavors and textures worked together to make an excellent burger.
Unfortunately, I can't say such positive things about my second burger, which was that day's special: braised beef cheek and Dubliner cheese. That's not to say it was bad. The rich braised beef cheek was truly outstanding melt-in-your-mouth well-seasoned meat, and combined with quality bun made for an excellent sandwich. But as far as rating it as a burger goes, well, it was highly problematic that I couldn't taste the patty
It's a simple fact of burger life that a thick patty cooked to medium well is not going to be as flavorful as its less cooked brethren. But that wasn't the only reason the braised beef cheeks so thoroughly dominated the ground beef. As was the case with The Farm Burger, the patty here was very lightly seasoned (if at all). In the other burger, the saltiness from the bacon masterfully complemented the beef. There was nothing subtle about the beef cheeks and that delicious topping simply kicked the patty's ass. Mild toppings are key for maximum Farm Burger enjoyment.
The fries are, as you'd expect from a place so insistent on fresh high-quality ingredients, quite good. Hand cut, cooked a little to the soft side of crisp/soft perfection, and very well-salted, they are definitely recommended. But good as the fries were, they paled in comparison to the fried okra. I'm admittedly not an expert, but I think I've had a good sampling of fried okra for a northerner. And if a better version exists than these crunchy, expertly battered, fresh-from-the-garden and exploding-with-flavor pieces of okra, I want to see proof.
I washed everything down with an Abita root beer float. The Louisiana-made, sugar cane-based Abita is a sensational creamy root beer. Delicious on its own, Abita is even better with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. The perfect end to a meal that might not have met expectations, but was still very good.