Grass Fed is the burger joint spin off of Jamaica Plain neighbor Ten Tables. As I walked in on my first visit in the middle of spring, two things hit me immediately. First was the intoxicating smell of burgers made even more concentrated by the humid air. And second, that this place was tiny, with only a small bar with a few stools, a few window seats for counter dining, and a large hightop communal table. A horizontal blackoard just below the ceiling displays the menu, which includes the basics (hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, double stacked), a few custom creations like the Blue Devil (blue cheese, bacon and crispy onions) and Oyster Burger (topped with a fried oyster and tartar) and a surprisingly high allotment on non-burger fare (hotdogs, grilled cheese and eggplant panini, shrimp and white fish po' boys, Buffalo fried chicken, soups, salads, poutine, wings). You order over the counter, pay in advance and see it brought to you when it's ready.
This city has an endless parade of masqueraders, look-alikes and outright imposters, but whatever you want to call this particular bun (for the record, it's potato), it's as close as it gets to brioche in feel, taste and spirit. It's light, fresh, nicely pliable, maybe not as eggy but just as sweet. Some might say too sweet, but it works. The overall effect is a big plus. More big ups for the gluten free bun and bunless (burger served over mixed greens) options.
Some technical details, courtesy of the Grass Fed website: the 100% certified natural grass fed beef raised without antibiotics and hormones is sourced from East Orange Belties Farm in Vermont.
When I think of grass fed beef, I think lean and dry, and the first visit's beef lived up to both of those and then some. You can't order it medium rare here, and even though they promise that all burgers are cooked to have some pink, my first one had none. Seasoning and crusting were both very light. The beef itself was clearly a different flavor than I expected, though still faintly beefy.
The seasoning and sear were about the same, but the second visit showed significant improvement in doneness and moistness, delivering a burger that was undeniably pink and juicy. The beef was very different, this time tasting more like veal or poultry than the beef you'd expect at a burger joint. For what it was, it was actually very good—it's just that there's no way this would sate an urge for a hard core burger.
I could go through all the boring details—like the pickles being more cucumbery than pickly, or the cheese being thicker and meltier the second time around, or the slightly sweet bacon being a cut above the competition—but I'll cut to the chase. Aside from the condiment, nothing was noteworthy. Everything was mostly uneventful, getting the job done admirably and working harmoniously with the beef. The sauce—whether you want to call it mayo, aioli or sauce—was lathered on extra thick both times, and contributed significantly more sweetness the first time. It's a bit much for some, but easily scraped away to restore the right ratios.
The Fries (and such)
Okay, here's where we get more noteworthy and less admirable (and more miserable).
Fries: Served in a cup to keep them upright, the second visit's fries were somewhat dark, very crisp, very stiff and very much lacking in flavor. You know those times when I say that the fries taste very potatoey, and it seems kind of obvious, like it's a given? Not always so, and not to be taken for granted, because these fries weren't potatoey at all.
Onion rings: Tried on the first visit, these puffy morsels resembled donuts in both size and greasiness, though I've never had a donut this greasy. I couldn't handle more than a few of them.
Some online reviews have bitched about server attitude. In my two visits I didn't encounter anything like that.
I like that there's a big pitcher of water and cups on the community table.
Warning: no bathroom.
The Bottom Line
The few people who've asked me about Grass Fed always get the same response: I can't guarantee it'll be a good burger and I can't guarantee it'll be a bad burger, but I can guarantee it'll be an interesting burger. Different from most, it won't satisfy your primal beef craving, but it might make for an acceptable sandwich. Less acceptable are the sides that can be an adventure at best. After all this, I'm still recommending—principally to the "try 'em all" types—a visit to Grass Fed for the novelty factor alone. The one other thing I can guarantee is some interesting conversation on the ride home.
Other Opinion/ Info
Yelp reviews of Grass Fed
Urbanspoon reviews of Grass Fed
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