March 31, 2011 § 10 Comments
My dear fellow Bun Voyagers, I must first begin by apologizing for the extreme delay since my last post. March has been an unusually busy month, and I have found myself without a lick of spare time for the past four weeks. The last few days, I have been so busy that I have even forgotten to eat a meal until around 6 or 7 at night. But with April coming and only a few weeks until the end of the semester, I can promise you more regular posts in the future. Especially with the warm weather coming in, I feel that much more inclined to walk around downtown and find a burger to eat.
So, it is without further ado that I introduce you to one of the best burgers, and maybe even one of the best restaurants, I have been to throughout my entire journey. That burger would be “the burger,” and that restaurant would be Farm 255.
For those of you who haven’t been to Farm 255, you are missing out on easily one of the best dining experiences in Athens. Farm 255 prides itself on using local, seasonal and sustainable meats and produce from its very own farms. In addition, it operates Full Moon Farms and Moonshine Meats, a co-op of several small farms that produce fruits, vegetables and meats in and surrounding the Athens area. The thing I love the most about Farm’s philosophy is that when you order something off the menu (which changes depending on what’s in season and what’s fresh), there is no doubt in your mind as to where it came from. It’s likely that the beans you’re eating for dinner were hanging on vines and covered in dew that very morning. For someone who’s from a city that also prides itself on local and sustainable food (what’s up, Asheville?), the very essence of Farm and what they do there appeals to me more than almost any other restaurant.
Farm 255 is tucked away behind Clocked on the far end of Washington Street, and you might miss it if you weren’t looking closely. But as you walk towards the door, you notice the small outdoor stage where they host bands almost every other night when the weather warms up. Small strands of twinkly white lights hang over the stage and across the door, and the Farm Cart sits at the back of the patio, just waiting to be opened up the next day for lunch (the Farm Cart deserves another post all its own, but if you’re interested, visit their website!).
As you walk in the door, Farm greets you with a sort of homey comfort and a sense of rustic simplicity. There is nothing pretentious whatsoever about the appearance of the restaurant; the minimal, bucolic design is intended to pay tribute to the history of the 1930’s building that it’s housed in. Polished wooden tables are scattered across the floor, and your eye wanders over the chalkboards describing their philosophy towards food, as well as their daily specials. The dining room gives way to a full bar and an open kitchen that lets you feel as though you’re sitting right there with the chefs. A small stage at the front of the room is just large enough for a small band or a jazz duo.
It was on one warm evening that I took my largest group of Bun Voyagers to Farm for dinner. They were all eager to join me on one of my journeys, and when I told them I wanted to go to Farm, I got an immediate sense of excitement from them. Going to Farm feels like such a treat to me; it’s somewhere I don’t go regularly, although whenever I do, it feels like a special occasion, something that I’m guaranteed to enjoy.
As we were seated at our table, the waitress brought the evening’s dinner menu to us, and it wasn’t long until I found the burger at the bottom of the page. “The burger” was made with their own grassfed beef and topped with Tillamook cheddar, sauteed onions, housemade pickles, local lettuce, ketchup and mustard, and served with a side of fries. Up until this particular meal, I had never heard of Tillamook cheddar, but with a name like that, who wouldn’t be excited to try it?
All four of us placed the same order, and it was only a short while later that we were greeted with four plates, each topped with our own local-in-every-way burger and a heaping pile of fresh french fries.
No matter how many burgers I try, I will never stop appreciating the grassy, delicate flavor of grassfed, local beef. Similar to the burger I had at Clocked, this one tasted as though the meat came from cows that have been happily chewing their cud in a field somewhere north of Athens. When we live in a country where you can’t turn right or left without bumping into a McDonald’s, eventually our palates become used to the bland, flavorless taste of processed beef. But as soon as you try a burger with beef that tastes the way it was meant to, it will broaden your flavor horizons to a level that you could never have imagined. Aladdin may even come and scoop you up on a magical carpet and sing you a song about it.
Okay…I may be exaggerating a bit. But really, if you have the chance, eat locally produced beef whenever you can. Your taste buds will thank you.
Everything about this burger was delicious. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the sauteed onions gave a sweet undertone to the rest of the ingredients, blending well with the bold, sharp taste of the Tillamook cheddar. Because I know you’re all curious, I did a little bit of research about Tillamook cheddar cheese:
Tillamook Cheddar is made in Tillamook County in Oregon, and has been made with the same recipe for over 1oo years. Each batch is aged naturally for at least 60 days, giving it an authentic flavor and unique richness. And apparently, it also won the World’s Best Medium Cheddar at the World Championship Cheese Contest.
Who knew, right?
Overall, with the combination of premium local ingredients, unique flavors, homemade toppings, I would have to say that Farm 255’s burger was easily one of the best I’ve had in Athens, and maybe ever.
Quality of meat: 10
Local, grassy, and delicious.
Freshness of ingredients: 9.5
Homemade pickles, fresh lettuce that I’m betting was picked that afternoon, and sweet sauteed onions.
The burger wasn’t presented in any special way, but that didn’t take away from the fact that it still looked delicious.
Farm 255 didn’t do anything unusual with their burger: no peanut butter, no exotic sauces — just fresh, tasty ingredients. And sometimes that’s all you need.
Overall rating: 9.5
Below is the contact information for Farm 255. If you’ve never been, you need to go. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s time to make another visit.
255 W. Washington St.
Athens, GA 30601
March 4, 2011 § 10 Comments
When you think of the things that peanut butter typically goes on, what comes to mind? Toast? Crackers? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? And…burgers?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a lot of suggestions for places that I needed to visit and burgers that I needed to try. And for the most part, I’ve thought that all of the suggestions sounded awesome. But when a friend recommended the Peanut Butter and Bacon burger at Clocked in downtown Athens…well…I just didn’t know about that one.
Call me old-fashioned, but I only really eat peanut butter on sandwiches or with a spoon.
But I’ve never been one to knock something before I try it. Plus, people just rave about Clocked, so anything they have on their menu must be good, otherwise it wouldn’t be there in the first place.
So it was one afternoon after class that my faithful roommate and fellow Bun Voyager, Ashley, and I went to Clocked for lunch. I was excited to finally go there for the first time. I think Clocked flies a bit under the radar, and with a location on the far end of Washington St., it’s not a place that people might pass by while perusing the boutiques of Clayton St.
We walked into Clocked and were immediately greeted with the quintessential American diner. A black-and-white checkered floor with red booths and tables and little quaint touches here and there. But it was such a nice day, so Ashley and I decided to eat outside to take advantage of the peculiarly warm February weather.
As we looked over the menu, my choice was already clear. It was going to be the Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger, no questions asked. Ashley, although tempted to get the same thing, went with the Jumbo Deluxe burger, a burger with cheddar, bacon and a fried egg. We both ordered tater tots for our side, hers with a ranch dip and mine with their homemade creamy feta dressing.
To fully complete my diner experience, I had to order a cream soda to go with my burger, and it was the perfect accompaniment to our lunch.
After maybe 10 minutes, our burgers finally arrived at our table. After having breakfast around 8:30 that morning, Ashley and I were beyond hungry at that point. When our burgers were set down on the table at 2 p.m., we were starving. Borderline famished. I think Ashley said it best when she picked up her burger, looked at it, and said in all seriousness: “Get in my mouth.”
I felt similarly about my burger, although I wasn’t able to express it quite as eloquently as Ashley was.
As simple as it looks from this photo, rest assured that this burger was bursting with flavor. The burger came served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and their house sauce, which is a bit like a Russian dressing/Thousand Island type sauce. It’s a little tangy, but still sweet, and has a lot more flavor than mayonnaise. But what really made this burger shine was the creamy peanut butter spread on the top bun, and the crunchy bacon right below it.
I had no idea that peanut butter would literally be the most delicious thing you could put on a burger. As the heat of the meat warmed up the peanut butter, it started to melt and blend with the bacon. It added the perfect amount of sweet, salty creaminess to the burger, and somehow, it complimented the meat perfectly. I almost couldn’t believe how good it was. I was a little concerned that the peanut butter would taste odd with the lettuce and tomato beneath it, but nope. It all worked perfectly. Clocked was on to something with this one. This peanut butter was working some kind of burger miracle right before my eyes.
I started to wonder to myself, Am I going to be that girl that asks for all of her burgers in the future to come with peanut butter on them? Or worse, would I just start showing up to restaurants with a jar of peanut butter in my purse to put it on my burgers myself?
Okay maybe not, but the thought did cross my mind.
But even with all this focus on the peanut butter, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how wonderful the actual burger itself was. I don’t know whether I have a more discernible palate than most, or if I’ve just eaten a lot of burgers lately (it’s moments like this when I pray to not have sky-high cholesterol by the end of this semester), but I can tell when meat is locally or organically produced. And Clocked’s meat absolutely was.
Meat that comes from local farms or co-ops, or even meat that comes from cows that still eat grass, has a much more distinct flavor than meat that is served in fast food restaurants. Cows that live on farms and eat grass and are generally healthier produce meat that tastes drastically different than meat from cows in large factories.
The reason I knew that this meat was local was because it had a slightly grassy, sweet flavor. It actually tastes like how meat should taste, not like a processed mixture of meat and mystery ingredients. I asked our waitress where the meat was from and sure enough, it was from a local farm. On top of that, it was perfectly cooked, juicy, and well seasoned.
This is something that sets Clocked apart from some of the other restaurants I’ve been to that serve burgers. Good quality meat really makes a difference, and it makes a burger that much better. Not only better taste-wise, but better industry-wise, as these cows were raised exactly how they were supposed to be: happily chewing grass out in fields in the sunshine all day.
Across the table, Ashley was thoroughly enjoying her burger. I’ve never had a burger with a fried egg on top, but the yolk serves a similar purpose to the peanut butter: it adds a smooth, creamy consistency that blends so well with the flavors of the meat and cheese. And it looked amazing.
Ashley and I finished our burgers in record time, and were so full by the end of our meal that we were only able to eat about half of our tots. But I’ll just say right now that Clocked has some phenomenal tots.
You’d think that if you’ve had tots once, then you know how all tots will be. Well, not the case here. They were supremely crisp on the outside, perfectly seasoned and piping hot. Dipped in the creamy feta dressing, it was a hot-cold, creamy-crunchy, deliciously salty side that made the meal.
I don’t think I’ve ever left a restaurant quite as satisfied, or quite as full, as I was when left Clocked that day. I had only heard great things about Clocked from friends of mine, and now I could see just what they were talking about. Even though this was my first time, it surely won’t be my last, especially with how many other tasty things they had on their menu.
Although, regardless of what I get next time, I’m getting tots.
So, how did Clocked measure up?
Quality of meat: 9.75
A few more dashes of salt in the meat and it would have been perfect.
Freshness of ingredients: 9
The vegetables were all super fresh, and the pickles might have been homemade, which is always a nice touch.
This burger, although it was one of the best that I’ve tasted, wasn’t easy to present attractively, especially once runny, melted peanut butter oozed out of it for the remainder of the meal.
This is the first place I have ever heard of a restaurant putting peanut butter on a burger. I’m surprised more restaurants haven’t stolen that idea yet.
Overall rating: 9.5
If you would like to visit Clocked, and I know you’ll want to now because you’re going to want to try the Peanut Butter and Bacon burger for yourself, you can find them here:
269 West Washington Street
Athens, GA 30601
February 8, 2011 § 12 Comments
After going to The Globe last week, it’s been difficult finding the time to go out and eat a hamburger. Even though I typically eat three meals a day, somehow I only barely manage to squeeze them in.
Therefore, it was with great cosmic intervention that my second class was canceled today right before lunchtime, thus allowing me and my roommate time to stop by Five Guys on our way home from class.
For anyone who’s never actually eaten at Five Guys, the restaurant itself is hard to miss. If the neon lights and bright red-and-white decor of the outside of the building don’t stop you, then surely the signs advertising the glory of the burgers sold within will. Any restaurant with signs in the window claiming to have burgers created by the “Willy Wonkas of Burgercraft” is worth a second glance.
So it was with high hopes and high standards that I entered into Five Guys for only the fifth time in my college career.
My roommate and I set foot in the door at 11:02 a.m. and were immediately presented with the smell of an authentic burger joint. Although nothing had been prepared yet, as Five Guys believes firmly in cooking everything to order (not a single Five Guys franchise has a freezer…impressive, no?), the restaurant still had that familiar smell of french fries and chargrilled hamburgers.
The menu at Five Guys is simple, but offers plenty of options as far as toppings go. You can get a regular or little version of any of their burgers (a regular with two patties, a little with only one), and you can add cheese and bacon to your heart’s content. Both my roommate and I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger, hers with pickles and ketchup, and mine with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. We ordered a regular side of Cajun fries to share, took our number and sat down to wait for our burgers to be freshly cooked to perfection.
While some restaurants don’t make any claims for the quality of their burgers, Five Guys can’t help but brag a little bit about the reviews they’ve gotten over the years. Or maybe brag a lot. But perhaps their bragging is warranted, given the positivity of the claims and signs plastered around the restaurant’s walls.
Rather than list the many, many claims that Five Guys has displayed on every square inch of available space, I will simply show you a few signs that speak for themselves:
Along with the signs placed throughout the restaurants, clippings from newspapers and magazines cover the walls, as well as the ratings from the Zagat Survey, which has named Five Guys among the best burgers in the nation by voters all across the country.
This burger kind of HAS to be awesome, doesn’t it? Thousands of people can’t be wrong.
It was during my perusing all of the signs in Five Guys that one of the cooks came out of the kitchen and delivered our burgers to our table, saving us the trouble of getting up when our number was called. A nice touch for a restaurant that doesn’t even employ waiters.
The burgers came in brown paper bags, wrapped up like little presents in tin foil. Opening up a burger at Five Guys is a little bit like opening up a present on Christmas morning. The anticipation of seeing what’s inside is almost as good as the actual present. Or in this case, the actual burger.
And Five Guys did not fail to impress.
I had nothing but awe for this burger. Hearty and filled with toppings: crisp lettuce, two (!!) slices of American cheese, and a heaping portion of bacon. “They’re still really hot,” my roommate pointed out, pointing to the steam swirling and floating away from my hamburger patties. And in burger terms, hot is good. Hot means fresh, as in fresh off the grill. And when my burger arrives to my table that fresh, I know it’s going to be good.
The first few bites of my burger were excellent, but only got better as I continued eating. The cheese that was cold when first placed on my burger began to melt, mixing with the juices from the meat. The bacon added the perfect amount of salty crunch while the tomato and lettuce provided a nice, cool, crisp contrast. A classic sesame seed bun held all of these delicious ingredients in place, and was perfectly soft and fresh, with neither too much or too little flavor.
The thing I marveled at the most while eating this burger is how juicy it was. The restaurant’s menu stated something along the lines of “Our burgers are cooked well-done and are always juicy!” but I immediately scoffed at the idea. (I have a tendency to disapprove of any burger cooked past medium, as I discussed in my last post.) “Yeah, we’ll see about that,” I said to myself.
Boy, was I wrong.
The burgers are thin enough that being cooked to well-done doesn’t detract from the overall burger experience. It likely has to do with the meat they’re using, probably something like a ground chuck or something with a fairly high fat content. A burger of ground sirloin could never be as juicy as this burger was if cooked to the same temperature. Although the meat itself isn’t seasoned very much, the meat has just enough flavor itself to withstand the lack of extra salt.
And it was so juicy! I just can’t get over it. Because until today, I thought only magic could keep a well-done burger from being bone dry and flavorless. These people really are the Willy Wonkas of making burgers.
So here we are, at the final score:
Quality of meat: 9
I could have used a TOUCH more salt in the meat, but with how absolutely ga-ga I was over the juiciness of the meat, I really can’t complain.
Freshness of ingredients: 8.5
Although the burger comes wrapped in tin foil and looks a little bit messy, that’s essentially what makes it a Five Guys burger.
The burgers here are simple and straightforward. You either want two patties or one, cheese or no cheese, and bacon or no bacon. But they get points for having original toppings like jalapenos and grilled mushrooms.
Overall rating: 8.5
In conclusion, I’d say Five Guys makes a great burger. Would I say it’s one of the “best burger feasts in the country?” I’m not sure. But I’d definitely say it’s probably going to be one of the best burgers you can find in Athens.
To visit Five Guys and get your very own “Christmas present” hamburger, here’s the contact information for the downtown Athens franchise:
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
101 College Ave.
February 2, 2011 § 10 Comments
In case it wasn’t already obvious, I am a girl who loves a good hamburger.
And wouldn’t you know, I happen to have a lot of friends who enjoy the very same thing. So it was with a small entourage that I went to The Globe one night for dinner, all of my friends hungry for burgers and eager to embark upon my journey with me.
Prior to my actual creation of this blog, I had heard of The Globe’s burgers. “They’re so good,” people said. “You’re either going to find the best burger there or at Five Guys.” So it was with high expectations that I stepped into The Globe for the first time.
The Globe is fashioned in the style of an old English pub yet has elements of a relaxed southern style, with bare wooden tables, brick walls and art placed above the old fireplace and full bar in the back of the restaurant. It gives off a very unpretentious vibe: this is a neighborhood place where people from all over Athens come to hang out and relax after a long day.
The menu covers a range of classic American dishes and and familiar southern favorites, with a few unusual flavors thrown in: Croque Monsieur, French Dip Au Jus, and a Tandoori Chicken Sandwich. Most exciting to me, however, was the presence of six different types of burgers on their dinner menu.
“Do you know what you’d like to order?” my waiter asked me. “Well, what would you say is your signature burger?” He appeared confused at my (rather simple, I thought) question and named several of the different options, clearly unsure as to which of the burgers really was the restaurant’s signature. I explained, “I’m writing this blog about the best burger in Athens and so I was wondering which of your burgers is the most representative of your restaurant…” and on and so forth.
My explanation didn’t really appear to help him very much; in fact, he appeared a little more confused after I finished talking. Rather than rely on my waiter, I decided to order the “Globe Burger,” which seemed to be the most promising option, as it is, after all, named after the very restaurant in which it is served in.
The “Globe Burger” promised to be a juicy six-ounce burger with lettuce, tomato and red onion on a toasted onion roll. Cheese was an extra $0.50, but hey, you gotta live a little sometimes, right?
My burger appeared not 10 minutes after ordering, and my friends and I all made quite the scene snapping some photos of our food before we began eating. Not one to fall short of perfection, my roommate Ashley made sure that we captured as many pictures as we needed to ensure supreme photo quality.
Even though I don’t mind onions on my burger, I just knocked the little chunks off, as they already seemed to present me with the difficult challenge of keeping them inside my burger while eating. I added a little ketchup and spicy brown mustard and took a bite of my burger, the symbolic first step in a 15-week long journey.
Now, you know within the first, I’d say…two bites whether or not you’re eating a truly amazing hamburger. And although my first two bites were good, they just weren’t great. The lettuce and tomato were fresh enough, although tomatoes grown out of season are always going to lack that sweet, delicious flavor of summer tomatoes. Alas, The Globe cannot help that it’s January and the only places currently growing tomatoes are in South America.
I think my main problem with this burger was that it was overcooked. I had ordered it medium, as had another person at my table, and we were both served well-done burgers. Now, I understand the health repercussions that come from not cooking beef fully. But oh, the lack of flavor that accompanies fully cooked beef is simply not worth the slight risk of contracting some remote strain of bacteria!
At least that’s my philosophy, and I’m sticking to it.
Other than the actual meat itself, the hamburger bun was fresh and flavorful, and the french fries were truly very tasty. So aside from the overcooked beef, the rest of the burger was just fine. Had the burger been cooked slightly less and had a touch more seasoning, the “Globe Burger” really could have reached its “wordly” potential (…get it?).
To make my quest as quantifiable as possible, and also for ease of calculating scores at the end of my journey, I have devised a ranking system that will accompany each burger. Each burger will be given a score from one to ten in five different categories, with a one being “Hmmm…that was kind of terrible,” a five being an “Ehh…I’d eat it again if I had to, but if I didn’t have to, that’d be okay too,” and a ten being “Let me call everyone I know and write about this burger immediately, because it is AH-MA-ZING.”
So, here we go:
Quality of meat: 6
Had it just been cooked a little bit less and seasoned a little bit more…
Freshness of ingredients: 8
The onion chunks were a little untidy, but what can you really do with onion chunks, you know?
For being the restaurant’s namesake burger, I think they could have done something a little more exciting, but I will give them credit for having multiple burger options. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.
Overall rating: 6
*Now, let me just go ahead and state that I certainly don’t have the most sophisticated of palates. I don’t claim to have the experience with food that Anthony Bourdain does, or the knowledge of ingredients that any of the New York Times food critics do. But, I do know when things are cooked properly, and when ingredients are fresh, and when things generally taste good. So, please take my comments with a grain of salt if you disagree with them. I’m just stating my opinions, and if you think that The Globe has the BEST DAMN BURGER you’ve ever had, then by all means, continue to think so.
If you’d like to visit The Globe and try out the “Globe Burger” for yourself, or any of their other tasty-looking burger options, you can contact them with the information below: