This week I made my first visit to Farm Burger Buckhead. I don’t visit the Decatur location often as it’s across town from me, but I’ve enjoyed my few visits. Dan Latham (formerly of Moto Bene pizza) is the head chef of both locations, and was charged with opening the relatively new Buckhead locale, located on the front side of the Tower Walk development on Piedmont. There’s a good Q&A with Dan on Atlanta Magazine’s Covered Dish blog if you want to hear a little more about his background and his role with Farm Burger.
On my weekday lunch visit, I scored one of the sweet parking spots right out front, then sat at the long, convenient bar.
One of my cohorts in all things burger, cheese, and fat ordered the BBQ macaroni while waiting for me. I only had a couple of bites as I’m watching my weight (ha!), but it was viable, if not a little uninteresting. Really, I expected more gluttony. If Fox Brothers did a BBQ mac and cheese, you know it would be one heart stopping mother of a dish. Though in all fairness, that’s not always necessary, or appropriate.
My small salad was quite good, so fresh, a good variety of texture and crunch, with a green goddess style dressing on the side. Though with a burger coming, I should have opted for the mustard vinaigrette instead.
No.1 – The Farm Burger – Grafton smoked cheddar, caramelized onions, FB sauce (add bacon $2) – $8
There’s a dense choice of topping options at Farm Burger, but I like to keep things simple. A few notes about this burger:
The bun is nice. Original sesame seed style, of appropriate thickness, soft and pliable, really enjoyable.
There’s too much sauce; Farm Burger tends to do this often in my experience.
Love the thick and just-crispy-enough but still chewy bacon.
Lots of smoky, melted cheese.
The beef is perplexing to me though. When dining at FB, one only has the choice of medium or well done, and choosing the former, it comes out closer to medium well. The hand formed grass fed patties are dry, tautly packed fibers of beef, without a ton of flavor. I recall watching a Will Harris video where he’s cooking some steaks, and he admits something along the lines of ”Grass fed beef needs to be cooked as rare as you can take it.” There isn’t enough fat to lend flavor at medium temp or above.
As we sat at the bar, we were provided a direct view of the line cook preparing the burgers, a process which I found strange. They went with a smash technique; think Shake Shack vs Smashburger. The patties are formed into a baseball size and pressed down on the griddle to create a sear. Now, at this point, smashing the beef has no impact on juiciness or texture. The beef is raw and cannot release its fat/moisture.
But then, curiously, I watched the cook take a few of these recently seared patties and throw them in an oven or broiler (not sure which) underneath the griddle. It appears they were being put there for keeping, then pulled out as orders were coming in during the lunch rush hour. He’d pull a burger or two as needed out of this oven, then back on the griddle, and then start flipping and pressing them firmly with the large flat spatula. At this point they looked like they were cooked through, and I’m not sure what he was doing, but he appeared to be mindlessly smashing the burger. Patty by patty, my dining companion and I watched the juices press out of the burger, sizzle, then evaporate into tasty burger oblivion.
I once talked to a chef who told me he had a hard time teaching his cooks not to fiddle with dishes while cooking. He said they feel the urge to stir sauces and toss pans, when often there is no benefit. They just feel they need to be doing something. Preparing a fine risotto comes to mind.
I thought of this as we watched the cook frequently press burgers unnecessarily, turn and talk to his friends, laugh at a joke, then turn around and smash them again, before throwing some cheese on them and finishing them under the salamander broiler. At this point the burger has been seared, smashed, baked, smashed, flipped, smashed, maybe smashed again a few times for the hell of it, then broiled with cheese.
I get that cooking the beef to only medium or above is probably a discussed decision which the chefs and owners came to, but there are ways to protect the texture and flavor, and it requires finesse and mindfulness from beginning to end.
If you read the website, a lot of care went into raising this beef. For the cooks to treat the product with any less attentiveness is a disservice to others involved, and to my hunger for tasty, tasty burgers.