Chef Terry Koval stands by my table, points to my half-eaten burger and says, “That was a good cow.”
I suddenly have an image of Bessie being led by the ring in her nose right into a meat grinder.
Koval continues. “This one is so juicy and has such a good flavor. Much better than that first cow we had.” He sighs. “Of course, I never thought we’d already be onto our second cow by now. But we’ve been so busy.”
You want farm to table? We got you some farm to table right here. Call it cow to bun.
The process of sourcing meat at Decatur’s new and phenomenally busy Farm Burger goes something like this:
The kitchen sources a grass-fed cow from one of several local farms. Koval mentioned a North Carolina farm for this one and says he works with Charlotte and Wes Swancy of Riverview Farms in Ranger to build a network of suppliers. The marked beast is sent to Happy Valley Processing in Dearing to be humanely killed (whatever that means), and the trimmed meat ages up to three weeks before shipping it off to Farm Burger to be ground. Some premium cuts, such as the tenderloins, are sent off to the restaurant’s sister establishment, Farm 255 in Athens.
Koval and owner George Frangos have devised an appealing menu of burgers ($6) with gourmet mix-and-match toppings. Side dishes straddle an attractive line between homey Southern (pickled eggs, fried chicken livers, braised greens) and greasy diner (fries, onion rings, floats). There’s also a small selection of beer and wine.
I really enjoyed this burger, which came cooked to a juicy medium and had that kind of honest beefy flavor you recognize as soon it hits your palate. I added gruyère cheese, arugula and caramelized onions (an additional $4) as well as a side of the FB sauce (kind of a spicy Thousand Island dressing). Other intriguing options include oxtail marmalade, a fried egg, bone marrow, pimento cheese and house-cured bacon. The roster of cheese sound more like the types you’d find on a cheese trolley than in a burger joint.
The burgers are a good size: bigger than those at Flip, but not one of those pub monsters.
We also enjoyed this salad of flavorful bitter greens, pickled onions and dried cranberries in a tarragon-spiked “farm goddess” dressing ($4). The house-cured pickles ($2) are exceptionally sharp and vinegary. I felt like my internal pH changed after a couple of those cauliflower florets.
A basket of rings and fries ($4) came with a smoked paprika mayo. The rings sport a crunchy batter in which you can really taste beer. (That’s what I thought, at least.) The dark fries arrived crisp and turned soggy as the meal went on. But it takes a new restaurant more than a couple of weeks to get its fries down. That’s one of the trickiest projects in any kitchen.
One word of advice: The line to order at Farm Burger can be daunting — like Taqueria del Sol across the street, but in a much smaller space. Go for an early lunch or dinner if you don’t want to wait. We hit it right at 11:30 a.m. By noon: packed.