Grilled: George Frangos of Farm Burger in Decatur, GA
When I first heard about Farm Burger in our man Daniel's review I was immediately transported back to my youth when I'd spend time up at my elementary school's small farm and learn where all that stuff in the supermarket came from (I talked about that farm when AHT first Grilled me). I tracked down one of the owners of Farm Burger to give him a grilling about this special burger restaurant.
Name: George Frangos
Location: Decatur, GA
Occupation: Burger Restaurateur, Farm Burger
What makes Farm Burger a new kind of burger restaurant?
First off, we are 100% committed to using only grass-fed beef, raised humanely with no hormones, antibiotics or grain finishing. That in itself is not entirely new, but we do go a step further in that we actually raise the cattle on our own farm for about 50% of our beef, the rest comes from a series of small farms raising cattle to our specifications and it is all locally raised in Georgia.
How did you first come up with the idea for a restaurant like this?
My partner Jason Mann has been farming sustainably for over a dozen years. I've a long background of running restaurants with a strong commitment to organics and local farms well before farm to table was a term. I guess what I'm saying is, the idea was not born from a marketing boardroom trying to latch on to a current farm to table trend.
While consulting for Jason's restaurant, Farm255, he mentioned the idea of raising his own cattle and starting a neighborhood burger joint. (Farm to bun!) I thought it was a great idea and about a year later we made it happen. For the both of us, what was exciting was bringing the idea of farm to table—the transparency of where food comes from—to a simple everyday form. We wanted a restaurant sourced from local farms, that was committed to clean meat could exist with a $10 average check.
Tell us a story about how running and working at Farm Burger is unique. Not to many burger joints own a farm and raise their cattle. The fact that we can train a staff at the restaurant by talking to them about small farming, humane animal practices, the benefits of grassy pastures, and then take them out to our 120 acre animal farm just 70 miles away, well, I think that's unique. We have 30 beautiful, happy cows living on the land, not a barn in sight. We have families of pigs living in the woods, running and romping, rooting freely, cooling in big mud pits and bearing their own piglets is something truly special. Our staff actually gets to truly know that our meat doesn't come from some far off land, isn't processed in some factory environment and injected with god knows what or forced to eat food it cannot digest. When we can take these trips with our staff that they really get it. They understand what makes us a little different than just a good neighborhood burger joint.
Do you see your restaurant expanding? New locations? We designed Farm Burger to be easily replicated, but had not really thought to where a future location might be. Currently we are looking to grow a bit more here in Atlanta, and are exploring markets in Ashville, Charleston, and DC.
All right, let's talk burgers: How often do you eat one? Everyday! Ok, maybe not a full burger, but at least a bite a day.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? I really don't get American at all. Give me Cheddar all day long. Sometimes I go for a good, nutty Gruyere.
Ketchup or mustard? Mustard is for hot dogs, ketchup is for burgers.
Preferred bun: Sesame seed, plain white, brioche, or other? I prefer sesame with an egg wash shine, but as long as it is toasted and has a softer texture all can work.
Grilled, griddled, or broiled? GRIDDLED! Gotta have that seared, crisp crust!
And how would you like that done, sir? Medium rare.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? The perfect burger is has a good sear, a juicy red-pink warm middle, gooey sharp cheddar, crisp bacon, ripe tomato, crisp lettuce (no onion or pickle please) and some mayo. And it needs to be thick and taste like meat! No thin patties; no matter how many you stack up.
The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest encounter with this delicious dish?
My first burger memory would have to be when I was about 8 or 9. We had some family friends who owned a diner style restaurant in Warwick, NY, called the Pioneer. I told them their burgers were the best ever because they were "good and greasy."
What's your favorite fast-food burger? I did eat a lot of Five Guys before opening Farm Burger.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger? Really anything that compliments beef is game. The only thing that comes to mind would be something seafood oriented like a wasabi. Oh wait, there is that dreaded American cheese.
What's the most unusual burger you've ever eaten? (Or most unusual burger experience you've had?) It's all good, but we did do a whole animal dinner at our sister restaurant Farm255. Our chef brought back some brain butter and we put it on a burger—I guess that's a bit unusual.
What's the most overrated burger you've tried? Most underrated?
Overrated The Big Mac. Underrated bacon cheese burger at Blue Ribbon Bakery up in NYC. Now that is where the bun really stands out.
What are some cooking tips you can offer when preparing a burger?
If you just grind grass-fed beef without adding extra fat it can be pretty lean. So make sure you get it up to almost 80/20. Also, minimal handling is the key. The more the beef is handled (formed into patties), the denser it gets and also will shrink more. We gently form balls of beef, lay them on a hot griddle and give them a smash to form their shape. Don't pre-season, that will also constrict the meat. Season while it's cooking. Lastly, don't be afraid of a little oil on the griddle. It will help form a great crust.
George gave a fantastic set of answers, but if you want to more Farm Burger (and see it in action), you can check them out in this CNN video: