Here's Burger Week correspondent Angela Hansberger's interview with George Frangos, the owner and operator of Farm Burger. The restaurant now has four locations: the original in Decatur, one in Buckhead, a collaboration with Morelli's in Dunwoody, and the newly opened Asheville spot. All offer "build your own"-style menus that feature local, sustainable ingredients. Read on to learn about Frangos's commitment to local food, his favorite burger combination, and the inspiration behind the company, and do be sure to check out Farm Burger's Eater Burger Week special with pickled wild ramps, local goat cheese, and chili mayo, available at all area locations through Friday.
Let's just start with 'Why burgers?'
I was having a conversation with my [now] partner Jason Mann. I'd been doing some consulting with him for Farm 255 in Athens, and he noticed that 40-50% of UGA weekends were burger sales. He said "Let's do a burger place. Raise all cattle on a grassfed diet, sustainably."
And that's how the inspiration for Farm Burger arose?
Both of us— Jason with his sustainable/organic farming background and mine in restaurants in DC (Nora) and New York (Savoy)— had a commitment to local food. I happened to be driving in Decatur and saw the For Rent sign and immediately called Jason and asked if he was serious. Then it was— Let's make this happen. It seemed to be the right thing to do, the natural thing to do. The more I looked into it, the way food gets to our tables, I knew I was committed.
What sets you apart?
We have a committed culinary team. Terry Koval who was with us in the start, and now Dan Latham and Cameron Thompson are chefs who can utilize a seasonal CSA from a local farm. We have a commitment to support local businesses and farms. Our buns are from H&F. It's nice to have a local baked product with a lot of care put into it. Bacon from Pine Street Market. Hot sauce from Emily G's. We support local breweries like Monday Night and Red Hare. Soon you will be able to get Red Hare's new root beer at Farm Burger.
How do you make a perfect Farm Burger?
Start with the meat: Our meat is 100% grassfed beef from Moonshine Farms, dry aged and ground fresh. The pastured cows are never fed antibiotics, hormones, or grain. Our patties are hand-shaped. Overworking the meat can make it tougher and smashing it on the grill will reduce its size and leave it dry. There is some science in there. We never pre-form patties.
What's the best selling burger?
The #1, the Farm Burger. It has aged Vermont white cheddar, caramelized onions, FB sauce, and Pine Street bacon.
What's your favorite combination?
I like the seasonal ones. One was a happy accident that turned into a beloved burger. We were brainstorming for Peach-A-Palooza at East Lake Farmer's Market and made a peach chutney. We added a vendor's goat cheese [Decimal Place] and arugula and it was delicious. I don't know if we would have thought of the combo otherwise. We love the local farmers markets. They are great assets to the city. We are excited to be a part of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market again; we'll have our breakfast sandwiches and sliders again this year. The market gave us contacts and products we wouldn't have had otherwise, and it's nice to know the farmers providing our ingredients.
What about the strangest combination you have ever seen?
Sometimes people get too excited about the free toppings and add as much as they can— pickled jalapenos, fresh jalapenos, garlic. It gets overwhelming.
Have a favorite burger in Atlanta besides Farm Burger?
Holeman & Finch is always great. Aside from the American cheese, they have it down.
Favorite restaurants in Atlanta?
Empire State South— Ryan [Smith] is great. Holeman & Finch. Holy Taco.
Farm Burger is not just for meat eaters. You have lots of vegetarian choices as well as gluten-free and paleo options.
We have a great veggie burger. I would say 70% of our toppings are gluten free, and we carry Pure Knead GF buns. Lettuce and kale are also available as substitutes. Chef Dan is big into paleo— a big seller is the market salad with a patty on top. At our new Asheville spot [opened April 4], our veggie burger is vegan and we have even more vegetarian options.
Any future plans?
Take a breather. Re-focus. Sponsor a local little league team and soccer teams and cheer them on.
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