Down on the Farm.

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.

"The burger" at Farm 255

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.

Check out that Tillamook!

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.

Presentation: 7
The burger wasn’t presented in any special way, but that didn’t take away from the fact that it still looked delicious.

Creativity: 8
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.

Farm 255
255 W. Washington St.
Athens, GA 30601
706-549-4660
http://www.farm255.com/

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Party of Five.

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.

The "Christmas morning" of hamburgers.

The "Christmas morning" of hamburgers.

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

Presentation: 7
Although the burger comes wrapped in tin foil and looks a little bit messy, that’s essentially what makes it a Five Guys burger.

Creativity: 5.5
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.
Athens, Ga.
(706) 549-2811
http://www.fiveguys.com/home.aspx

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