Art Of The Meal: Back To Burgers
410B West Ponce de Leon
Credit cards: All major.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Parking: In attached lot.
Dress code: Anything you don’t mind dripping ketchup on.
If, as the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” a whole lot of us are ground beef. As the recession rolls on, it’s not surprising that America’s signature dish, the hamburger, is making a big comeback.
Of course, these aren’t the thin gray patties served to the 1930s diners in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, any more than the current birdbath-size martini craze mimics The Thin Man’s itsy sips. Nope, the upside to the closure of so many of Atlanta’s best restaurants means that some pretty serious chefs are now flipping burgers – literally. Witness the recent closing of Inman Park’s Shaun’s, so that chef Shaun Doty could devote more time to his bustling Yeah! Burger. That means that in addition to perennial favorites like The Vortex, or even George’s, this new breed of burgermeister often serves up grass-fed beef, housemade sauces, hand-cut fries and onion rings, and even … vegetables.
Atlanta’s prototype and forerunner, of course, is Richard Blais’s Flip, which looks prescient in retrospect. He opened his Howell Mill burger haven just before the economy went south.
While the West Side’s burgeoning restaurant explosion made it a natural for Flip and Yeah! Burger’s first homes, Decatur is also a good fit for these modern, chef-driven fast-food stops, with its young, hip but socially conscious (and food-centric) burger clientele already served by the guys behind the Brick Store Pub and Leon’s Full Service. The newer Decatur entry, Farm Burger, wedged next to Watershed, is even more easily accessible, in nearly every way (partly thanks to its own share of the parking lot). Country cousin to these more stylish urban burger haunts, Farm Burger is about as pretentious as a pair of overalls and as compassionately pragmatic as Temple Grandin. Combining a love for grilled red meat, house-made pickles and a good glass of red wine might seem to conflict with “ethical eating,” as the menu says. But Farm Burger makes it work, using only dry-aged, hormone-free, grass-fed beef, in addition to seasonal produce from local farms.
Farm Burger’s focus is so strong it might be a few visits before you venture from the main events – burgers and fries – to try some of the extras, but they’re often worthwhile.
You order at the counter, take a number to your table and wait for your food, while you straighten your paper placemat, peel paper towels from a roll, and grab implements (if needed) from a basket on the table. Soon enough, your order will be delivered: Cooked to order, the basic Farm Burger is juicy and crumbly, held in place partly by melting Maytag blue cheese ($7). (Many toppings, like tomatoes, pickles and lettuce, are free.) The excellent hand-cut fries are specked with garlic and parmesan, and served (if you like) with smoked paprika mayo. I loved the Market Salad, which changes often – mine was simple mixed young lettuces with thin slices of “watermelon” radish lightly dressed with unctuous, herbaceous Green Goddess dressing.
The new chicken burger comes as a welcome respite for the beef-weary, surprising even a beef-loving lunchmate. But a few dishes are a little too much of a good thing: The onion rings’ batter is crisp-fried and delicious, but there’s just too much of it. Ditto the deliciously just-cooked fried chicken livers, also too heavily breaded. Desserts are limited, but include specials like ice cream sandwiches (peanut butter on chocolate chip cookie, green tea on chocolate) from the Westside Creamery. No problem: This is the kind of place where you’ll likely settle on a favorite meal and order it every time. That shouldn’t be too hard to find.