Holeman & Finch was opened in 2008, and it revolutionized the cocktail culture in Atlanta. Five years later, the public house (as it calls itself) is doing more than encouraging locals to drink. As soon as guests walk in, they're greeted with the word "eat" on a glass window that looks into the kitchen. At 10:15 on a recent Thursday night, my dinner guests and I arrived (fashionably late) for the famous 10 o'clock burger.
The 10 o'clock burger got its name from its elusive nature -- there are only 24 of them served each night. At 10:15, the group of patrons next to us (there's communal seating) was paying and getting ready to leave. As soon as our waitress arrived, we ordered four burgers, only to learn the departing group had eaten the last ones. H&F was recently named Georgia's Best Burger and America's Best Late-Night Burger by the Food Network. Those distinctions might explain why people line up as early as 8 p.m. on any given night to ensure they get some double patties on lockdown. As tourists, we didn't know better.
What we did know is that we were staying for dinner, burger or not. The menu is composed of small plates meant for sharing and seasonal dishes. The meal is broken down into sections: the first is Aged, Ground, Stuffed, Cured, Fermented, Rolled, and Tied -- all one. Following that, there's the Farm; then Parts and Plates; and Befores, Durings, and Afters. Cheese is the last section. Plates arrive as they are ready and in the perfect order.
We began with a Before -- bacon caramel popcorn -- that was so delicious the popcorn surprisingly outdid the bacon. It's a delectable marriage in a tiny metal bowl. What followed were deviled eggs three ways, because, you know, one isn't enough. Country ham, jalapeño, and bread-and-butter pickle make it difficult to choose just one. A threesome is better.
Veggies are important. Didn't mom ever tell you? Which is why ordering something from the farm is important. The fried okra with tomato purée was exquisite and delicate. All right, fried food might not be the most healthful, but it's delicious, which is why fried oysters on any menu are always a go. Especially these, paired with a creole rémoulade. It was difficult to distinguish whether the rémoulade or the oyster made the dish. Either way, this dish was taking the cake.
Up next: "the hot dog." There were no hamburgers left that night, so the frankfurter was the next logical step. Pricier than the burger ($10), the dog costs $14, but with good reason. The houseman bun was amazing, and the sausage was artisanal and delicate. Coupled with pickled jalapeño and ballpark mustard, this was a wiener for the ages.
Eggs are a thing here. The hand-chopped steak tartare couples a farm egg with creole mustard and a mountain of shoestring potatoes. The crunchiness of the potatoes with the mushiness of the tartare and the gooeyness of the egg were ideal before we moved on to the heavier dishes of the night.
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Carbonara came next. We couldn't resist ordering the farm egg and pancetta carbonara. The pasta is homemade, and the sauce is decadent. The dish is barely enough for four people, so we ordered two more. It was so good we forgot to snap a picture. We did, however, wipe all the bowls clean with bread.
As we waited for our other two servings of carbonara, we also had the red wattle belly -- pork sausage, barbecued peanuts, and cayenne. Despite being full after indulging in this ultra-fatty and heavy dish plus the carbonara, we accepted when our waitress highly recommended the sticky toffee pudding. Topped with house-made whipped cream, this was a dessert we could have ordered three more of also. But we decided to control ourselves and save it for next time, when we return for the 10 o'clock burger -- at 8 p.m.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha