At Atlanta Eats, we LOVE to find those hidden gems. We find them everywhere from a gas station (seriously) to inside of a grown up arcade. And that’s exactly how Illegal Food came to our attention.
Last year a burger from little pop-up restaurant inside of a bar on Edgewood Avenue took over Atlanta. That little pop-up was Illegal Foods. The burger was The Hank. To everyone’s delight, that burger now has a stable home in Virginia-Highland. Earlier this year, Illegal Food renovated the former Pozole space and opened its doors. Now Illegal Food frequently has a line down the street of hungry patrons awaiting the evening opening. So should you get in that line? YES. And here are 5 reasons why it will be worth it every time.
1. This is the house that Hank built
Ok, we can’t talk about the Illegal Food without talking about the burgers. They put these guys on the map. If you only have one thing at Illegal Food, it has to be The Hank. Based on Steven’s idea of a Big Mac, it is made with house ground beef, topped with American cheese, lettuce, Vidalia onion, house made pickles and, of course, Special Sauce. It’s salty, it’s beefy, it’s fresh.
2.The specials really are special
This is not your typical burger spot. When you sit down, everyone table receives a little gift from the kitchen. For a few weekends, they were sending out house made chicharones with a spicy Ethiopian spice. Think spicy pork rinds. While you munch on your goodies, let your eyes linger on the specials page to discover small bites like beef jerky to bigger plates like diver scallops with corn pudding. If you happen to see pimento cheese anywhere on that menu, get it. It’s cold smoked and made in house.
3.Family runs deep
Owner (and chef) Steven Lingenfelter’s family is incredibly dear to him. He grew up in Kentucky, and his grandfather instilled the love of food and bourbon in him. You can find that love in the pictures that hang on the wall to the food and even behind the bar. Most of the spirits from bourbon to gin, and even absinthe, are made in Kentucky.
4.The devil is in the details
Everything is hand cut, hand selected and inspected before sent out. Steven plays the part of menu creator, cook, expeditor and everything in between. You can be sure that every plate in the dining room is handled by him. He even makes all of the hot sauce.
5. They go through an entire cow each week
Part of that hands-on approach includes breaking down an entire cow each week. They are one of the few restaurants in the state getting doing this; every week they get a cow from Brasstown Farms they create a menu accordingly. Everything from the steak for 2 to the beef fat brushed on each hamburger bun comes from this divine bovine. This process allows them to keep prices in check. A recent special of 40oz Tomahawk Ribeye with fries for 2 was only $40.
If you want to find even more hidden gems, be sure to catch Atlanta Eats every Saturday and Sunday on Peachtree TV at 10:30. We roam the city to find the best burgers, steaks and everything in between. Come hungry!