review: cheeseburger o’clock…

Holeman & Finch Public House
It’s not on the menu, yet it’s the most-coveted item at Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, Georgia. The restaurant only makes twenty-four of them each day, and they’re only offered late at night.*

At ten o’clock, the bullhorn sounds: “It’s burger time!

Blissful Glutton had arrived ahead of me to reserve a couple of the restaurant’s cheeseburgers for us. I found her waiting in a thick of yuppy cocktailians and local chefs at the bar. At a little past 9 p.m., the restaurant was packed.

* * *

Holeman & Finch Public House

* * *

Did we get seated so quickly because Blissful Glutton knew a couple of the owners, or did we just happen upon an empty deuce? I’m not certain.

Is the service at this restaurant always much better than it needs to be, or were they mindful of at least one known blogger between us? I haven’t a clue.

What I can tell you is that, from my vantage, Holeman & Finch had its act together the night I at there.

Our server owned the menu, offering helpful advice and information throughout dinner. Pacing was great, especially given the number of dishes we ordered and the size of our postage stamp table. And the food, for the most part, was top-notch.

CLICK HERE to see all the photos from this meal. Or click on the course titles to see each individual dish.

* * *

Mixed Local Radishes
Blackberry Farms brebis. ($8)

Split Cedar Mizuna
Toasted almonds, cocoa salami, and smoked orange vinaigrette. ($8)

Ground, Stuffed, Cured, Fermented, and Tied
(Boar) Lucchese, Pecan Noisette, and the Smoked Lardo.
(1 for $3; 3 for $10; and 5 for $15.)

Seared Veal Fries
Isar beans, jalapenos, and orange. ($9)

Pig Ear Bologna
Malibar spinach and pickled mustard seed. ($10)

Farm Egg and Pancetta Carbonara
House-made hand-cut pasta. ($11)

Pan-Fried Veal Brains
Herb salad and toast. ($12)

Holeman & Finch Cheeseburger ($10)

Fried Apple Pie
Vanilla ice cream. ($7)

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Brown butter pecan ice cream. ($6)

* * *

I’m going to table discussion of the cheeseburger for the moment and focus on the Farm Egg and Pancetta Carbonara first.

It was amazing.

I’ll admit that the house-made pasta could have had just a touch more elasticity – the thin noodles were just a smidge soft for me. But the flavor was incredible – equal parts butter and garlic with a peppery heat that blossomed into a warm sting. Despite being enriched with fatty ribbons of pancetta, a warm egg yolk, and a blanket of grated cheese, it was unbelievably light. This was the highlight of the meal.

In predictable gastropub form, Holeman & Finch’s menu abounds with offal.

As between lamb fries and veal fries, our server nudged us toward the latter. They turned out to be the most tender testicles I’ve ever had – almost custard-like. They had been dusted, pan-fried, and then finished with a mellow, sweet orange sauce. The pole beans served with them seemed a bit random, but they were nicely cooked.

Veal brains were also lightly dusted and pan-fried. I would have liked a dash more salt on the brains, but the texture was spot on. Like a fluffy cloud of scrambled eggs, they were served piping hot in a skillet with wedges of buttered toast.

And pig ears were chopped up and incorporated into a bologna sausage. I knitted my brows at the concept, but was won over by its honesty. It was a very good bologna sausage threaded with bits of pigs ear so soft you barely noticed they were there. The sausage came on a bed of velvety spinach and was decked with pickled mustard grains, my favorite part.

They practically sell you on their house-made charcuterie the moment you walk through the door. Sausages and portly legs of ham hang in a floor-to-ceiling glass case in the reception area. From the section of the menu labeled “Ground, Stuffed, Cured, Fermented, and Tied,” we ordered three cold cuts, and all three were very good, especially the smoked lardo, which melted without effort, coating my mouth with a sweet wax. These were served with a generous swatch of grainy mustard spiked with beer, spears of pickled okra, and a stack of house-made bread.

The bread here is great. It’s so great that the “H&F Bread Box” on the menu often has an “86” stamp next to it. I’ll have to come back for it.

And the vegetable dishes here are great too. Fleshy wedges of Mixed Local Radishes, firm but tender, were slicked with butter and tossed with wilted greens. A tuft of whispy mizuna came dressed in a creamy vinaigrette colored sultry with burnt orange. Toasted almonds and strips of salty cocoa salami helped fill in the blanks with a toasty crunch and a meaty burst of salt.

Holeman & Finch Cheeseburger

A friend had asked me to demystify the Holeman & Finch Cheeseburger for him. Friend, here you go:

As to the construction, it’s a double-patty burger layered with two slices of American cheese, thinly shaved red onions, and house-made pickles. All of this is sandwiched between a house-baked brioche bun. There are house-made fries with house-made ketchup. And for the burger, some yellow mustard.

Quite frankly, this burger was disappointing.

More thin than thick, the grass-fed beef patties were dry, the meat crumbles were hard. (See a cross-cut photo of the burger HERE.) Flavor? I thought it was just as thin as the patty. All of this is a pity given that I loved just about everything else about the burger. The pickles were great, the cheese was great, the red onions were great (I love onions on my burgers). Even the hand-cut fries managed to be great.

I can see how one might complain that the bun was dry.  But I rather liked its sturdy crumb and polished dome. It held its contents well, a tight little package. I was more concerned with the dry beef. Were my patties over-cooked? I don’t mind a crisp, lacy edge around thin patties, but these patties were unusually dark all over.  While I admit that I generally prefer grain-fed beef for my burgers, I’ve had grass-fed patties before without objection.  But they’ve never been as austere as these.

The popularity of these burger clearly suggest that I’m in the minority (or I just happened to get a dud). Blissful Glutton said that hers was “well-juiced.”

I’ll spend a few words on the ketchup. It was surprisingly runny and tasted like A1-sauce with a shot of V8. Was there orange zest? No. Were there spices? Clove? Perhaps a dash of anise? This our server couldn’t tell us. The ketchup-maker had the night off.

Holeman & Finch Public House

Desserts here are the type of crass sugar bombs that strip years off your teeth but deliver unregrettable shots of instant gratification.

The glazed pastry shell on the Fried Apple Pie was tad thick, but the filling of tender apple dices was surprisingly juicy, subtly spiced with cinnamon. I loved the vanilla ice cream served with it, but I didn’t love eating it all out of a tiny bowl.

You never know what you’ll get these days when you order Sticky Toffee Pudding. The one at Holeman & Finch is decent, a soft, spongy cake, drenched with toffee sauce. Riddled with crunch, the toasty, roasty brown butter pecan ice cream on top, however, was awesome. I’d be inclined to just order a bowl of that ice cream next time.

Despite the gritty shadow that Holeman & Finch seems to cast with its cave-like atmosphere (photographers beware, it is very dark in here) and its offal-bound menu, the restaurant whistles a refreshingly campy tune. Though meat is clearly pushed here, it manages to escape the preachy, pig-thumping sermons shouted by some of the more extreme restaurants of our time. There are pigs on the walls here – one named “Eat,” the other “Meat” – but they’re more huggable than dissectible.

Missing also is the near-militantly smug hipster attitude that seems part and parcel of the gastropub scene nowadays. What a relief. This tatted and pierced staff was upbeat and friendly, its quirky brand of humor evident in the prank props scattered about the restaurant – a severed hand on the meat slicer, a decapitated goblin head hanging among the charcuterie, a stray finger on a ledge – harmless Halloween hijinks appreciated by this silly blogger.

Would you have guessed that a restaurant like this was located on the ground floor of a tony condo development? Me neither. But there it is, literally across the valet stand from its sister restaurant, Eugene, local chef Linton Hopkin’s finer dining establishment.

Go for the burger they told me. I tell you: go for everything else.

Holeman & Finch Public House
2277 Peachtree Road
Suite B
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

* Although the restaurant only grinds twenty-four patties a day for dinner service, we were told that they grind 140 patties for Sunday brunch service, when the cheeseburger is listed on the restaurant’s menu.

~ by ulterior epicure on November 8, 2010.

One Response to “review: cheeseburger o’clock…”

  1. This made me remember the post 10.00 pm, Four-dollar burgers at Clyde’s Tysons. Good times after work there. I felt like in Cheers cuz the bartenders knew my name. Is that a good thing?

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