Every Wednesday night, Farm 255 in Athens hosts “Primal Night,” an evening when one of the cows from this restaurant’s cattle farm, Full Moon Farm, is, well, eaten.
Many of the prime cuts, dry aged for up to three weeks, are kept for Primal Night, while some of the beef is sent to Farm Burger, the restaurant’s new eco-friendly sister in Decatur. To keep up with demand, Farm Burger also sources some of its meat through cooperatives across the Southeast -- but mostly farms in Georgia such as Riverview Farms and White Oak Pastures, which, like Full Moon, feed their cows only grass.
Without getting off on too much of a tangent, let’s just say that grass-fed beef is the latest craze in the movement toward eating sustainably. Food 101 for those of you who skipped class: Cows are ruminants; they eat grass. They do not eat corn, unless of course they are forced to. Eating corn is actually not good for cows -- it’s difficult for them to digest.
So when you’re at Farm Burger, standing in the long, surprisingly fast-moving line to order, and you see a giant photo of Bessie staring down at you, take heart that she was raised and fed properly -- never fed corn, antibiotics or growth hormones -- which are the standard for the commercial beef industry’s tangled knot of deception. Farm Burger wants you to get to know your burger and where it came from -- and it didn’t come from the deep freeze of a food service distributor. It came from a cow in a pasture not far from where you are eating it.
The restaurant resides in a small spot -- too small, actually -- that until now seemed snakebitten with failed concepts. Farm Burger is so popular it has created an overflow of people wandering the streets of Decatur waiting for their chance to chomp on one of the restaurant’s fat, juicy patties, grilled to a perfect medium unless you specifically demand otherwise.
The beef tastes good, and when you stick to the simpler notions of the classic burger -- lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, maybe some of the scrumptious house-made pickles and grainy mustard -- these burgers are worth the hype and long lines. When you go with a “Blackboard Burger,” one of the restaurant’s several creations, the burgers become more about the add-ons and less about the beef: A banh mi burger, for instance, sounds like a great mix with toppings of pickled carrots, daikon, onions, fresh slices of jalepeno peppers (just a touch) and cilantro with a shaved slice of pate, but hand to mouth it becomes a little overwrought; that precious beef patty gets a little lost in translation.
Sticking with what’s simplest is best at FB -- the beer-battered onions rings may be the best fried and battered slices of an onion anywhere. Ever. Hand-cut fries are a little extra when ordered with your $6 burger, but they’re worth it, too. Chicken livers are so lightly fried they seem like chicken liver tempura, while a jar of house-made pickles is perfectly perky and a good accompaniment to a menu that’s heavy with fried things.
Service follows the Taqueria del Sol model, where you order, take a number and your food magically appears. Anything you need beyond that -- another beer or a an ice cream float made with porter ale -- can be ordered from one of the many servers floating around gathering empty plates and bringing you more of whatever it is you’ve decided you want.
Is Farm Burger blatantly capitalizing on Atlanta’s hot burger trend? Sure. A lot of people will go to Farm Burger without ever thinking about the fact that owners Jason Mann (who is the farmer behind the beef and FB’s Farm 255 connection) and George Frangos (a former Concentrics Hospitality guy) have put a lot of ethics and ethos behind this concept. But for those of us who have been trying to eat sustainably for years, it’s nice to know someone’s got Bessie’s back.
Food: Grass-fed burgers and other fixin's
Service: Good and friendly
Price range: $-$$
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
Hours of operation: Open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Best dishes: Farm Burger with caramelized onions, white cheddar and bacon, onion rings, house-made pickles, chicken livers, porter ale vanilla float
Vegetarian selections: Uh, say what? OK, there are salads and a veggie burger
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise level: Medium
Patio: A few tables
Takeout: Phone orders in the near future
Address, telephone: 410 B West Ponce de Leon, Decatur, 404-378-5077
Web site: www.farmburger.net
Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.
Key to AJC ratings
Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.
One of the best in the Atlanta area.
Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.
A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.
Food is more miss than hit.
Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.
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