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[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Muss & Turner's

1675 Cumberland Parkway, Smyrna GA 30080 (Map); 770-434-1114; mussandturners.com
Cooking Method: Grilled on a Big Green Egg
Short Order: "Object of adoration" burger lives up to the hype in a chill neighborhood place that encourages repeat visits
Want Fries with That? No question; perhaps the best fries in the city
Price: The BURGER, $10.93

As a writer, I pay a lot of attention to words. String together the right combination, and you have my undivided attention. I'd heard rumblings about a fine burger being served at a place called Muss & Turner's in the Atlanta suburbs for some time, but it was the three-word description in the local newspaper that stuck in my head for months. "Object of adoration," was all it said when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a list of readers' favorite local burger restaurants. Major hype in just seven syllables.

But when another chef with his own crazy-good burger commented on Muss & Turner's offering by remarking, "That burger gets an insane amount of love," it shot to the top of my must-try list. I'll spend a few more words describing it to you here, but I hope it ultimately has the same convincing effect.

EAT. THIS. BURGER. NOW.

What, need more? Okay...

Described as "a deli by day, a restaurant by night, and a specialty food store in between," Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner's place has a unique vibe for Atlanta. But there's more than just a bustling counter service for soups, salads, and sandwiches. Cured meats and cheeses are available in the glass cases, with an array of locally-produced jams and sauces for sale on top. Killer desserts. A full bar that prides itself on its beer and wine selection. Local artwork on the walls. And all of it goes through regular seasonal changes, so it's never the same place twice.

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"The BURGER," as it appears on the menu, was allegedly a last-minute replacement item one day that was so good, it just never left—and then became the "object of adoration" I'd read about. The 6-ounce patty of grass-fed beef, from Riverview Farms, an organic farm 90 minutes north, is grilled on one of two Big Green Egg kamado grills. Then it's blanketed with melted white cheddar and topped with a roasted poblano pepper and red onion slices. Then the whole thing is bookended with a challah bun from local bakery The Grateful Bread Company, with the kitchen's cilantro mayo slathered on both halves, and presented quite simply on butcher's paper in a metal basket with a house-made pickle (one of four varieties) on the side.

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When asked about doneness, I did the old, "What do YOU recommend?" bit, and was met with momentary hesitation and a slightly pained wince from my server.

"Medium-rare," Kat finally said. I pressed her.

"What was the look?"

"Well... I like mine rare, but a lot of people don't do rare ground beef."

You go, girl.

I stayed with medium-rare, but based on how spot-on that looked, I don't doubt that this kitchen can routinely crank out rare burgers to convert even the most squeamish beefeater.

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"Object of adoration?" "Insane amount of love?" "Hell, yes," I say. Muss & Turner's burger gets immediate inclusion in my Top 5. The beef is superb and among the juiciest I've ever had. The cheddar and cilantro mayo make an exceptionally creamy complement that worked all the way to the end, unlike the cheese-and-sauce combo that sank the last burger I reviewed. Add to that the subtle crunch and sweet heat from the pepper and onion, and a big, squishy bun that never drowned out anything it was holding.

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It's tough to put this burger down once you start eating, but the pommes frites at Muss & Turner's are well worth the back-and-forth. They've been called the best fries in the city, and the menu uses the word "addictive." I'll vouch for that. Sold separately, these skin-on beauties are cut fresh daily: crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and seasoned perfectly (for my tastes) right from the kitchen.

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The fries truly need nothing else, but if you're so inclined, try the "fancy" M&T ketchup or one of the house aiolis: red pepper, thyme, dill remoulade, or Sriracha-mayo. All are good, but, honestly, after a sample taste of each, I went commando.

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Before you check out, be sure to grab dessert. There's no menu; just stroll past the case to see what's available that day. You'll find huge cookies and brownies and personal-size tarts and pies (I loved the dark chocolate with sea salt) that are all phenomenal, and all prepared by M&T's sister restaurant, Local Three, in their gargantuan pastry kitchen. It was Chris Hall—who, along with Mussman and Turner, make up the Local Three—that described his partners' "other" burger to me as being the recipient of "an insane amount of love." Chris, I get it now.

At $10.93, and with those addictive fries sold à la carte ($3.43 or $5.43), The BURGER at Muss & Turner's isn't exactly cheap eats. But it's so damn good, I'm willing to splurge. I mean, can you really put a price on an "object of adoration"?

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.

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