The Crops are Failing at Farmers' Cabinet

Burger Breakdown

The Farmers' Cabinet - Map It!
Manchego cheese and roma tomato jam can't hide our disappointment.
The fries were godlike, in that they didn't exist.

The Farmers' Cabinet is the newest restaurant from Matt Scheller and Colleen and Matt Swartz that is likely to fail. I don't actually want it to fail, but what I want and reality don't always line up as Angelina Jolie can attest to. Considering the trio just closed two of their other restaurants, one wonders how long this one has to live. Negativity aside, the restaurant is quite nicely decorated. It attempts to recreate a classic rustic pub and eatery that you might expect to find in the English countryside in the early 1900s. The beer selection is enormous; not as large as Eulogy or Monk's, but it's big. The restaurant itself is also big, with dueling bars in the front (one is for liquor and the other is for beer), a primary dining room that extends into the dark recesses of the 4th dimension, and another huge room that I wasn't allowed to see because I didn't have enough money. Actually, my not having enough money was kind of the defining note of the experience. Well, there was another defining note, but we'll come to that in time.

The Farmers' Cabinet is expensive. With beer running nearly the cost of cocktails you might want to opt for the hard stuff, but even then you're likely to feel underwhelmed by what you get for the money. Luckily we were there for the burger which, while not cheap, had one of the smallest price tags on the menu.

The Burger: The Farmers' Cabinet house-ground brisket and bacon burger contains the flavors of bacon and brisket ground together along with some machego cheese and roma tomato jam to make you think you're eating something high quality.

a photo of the burger at the Farmers' Cabinet.

Laurence: I'd been to the Farmers' Cabinet about eight years ago. I stopped into a pub in The Czech Republic, just outside of Prague. The interior was rich dark wood. The tables were thick and had a century's worth of scrapes and nicks. The lighting was dim, the beer was ample and flavorful, and the food was rustic, hearty, rich and delicious. You can imagine my shock when I walked into a storefront on Walnut Street to find almost the same interior. I knew what they were trying to recreate and I knew that it's not possible to fake authenticity. I tried not to let this forced ambiance take away from my enjoyment because I was excited to eat at Farmers' Cabinet.

My anticipation stemmed from the fact that Kyle had tried it a week or two earlier and claimed that the food was awesome. Kyle's opinion isn't usually worth a shot glass full of piss but when it comes to food I'm almost willing to listen to what he has to say. Sadly Kyle's credibility took a hit after we ate at Farmers' Cabinet.

Let me start with the cocktails. I'd been on an Old Fashioned kick since our visit to Noble and the huge wonderful pours offered there. So I ordered one of the same at Farmers'. The ambiance extends to the ice in the glass and mine came with a huge, chipped sphere of it. The sad part of this is that the ice was so voluminous that it left very little space for the actual drink. After a few sips, I was left with a beautiful rocks glass holding a lightly alcohol-coated ice rock that I would watch melt for the next sad hour.

Kyle's girlfriend really likes Farmers' Cabinet so Kyle isn't allowed to insult it. I, however, am free to indulge in the truth. And regardless of what he writes following this review, I'm willing to bet my burger eating days, that he also felt the same way.

Upon the first bite I was pleased with the taste of the burger. The brisket and bacon came together in a smoky flavor that combined some of the best elements of both meats. But that was the first bite. With each passing bite, the merging of the flavors lost some of the charm and I couldn't help but feel that they fought with each other. Cooking the bacon into the patty simply resulted in the two flavors combining in a destructive way so that some of the best nuances of each one were cooked together into a sort of alloy that was tougher and less delicious than the bases. Combine that with the fact that in order to cook bacon into a patty with other meat, one must overcook the patty, and you're left with a dry and badly flavored burger. To further ruin the things, Farmers' Cabinet uses the driest bun I've eaten since I last ate a saltine.

To make matters worse the burger had been ground in a surprising way. The surprises were chunks of gristle and fat lumped into undercooked gobs distributed at random intervals throughout the burger. Eating it became a bit like a game of Mine Sweeper. Every time you think an area is safe, you bite in only to have your teeth bounce off an exploding fat ball. This was, at the best of times, stomach churning.

As if things weren't bad enough, the food consultant who probably came up with this burger recipe, also seems to have instructed the owners of this soon to be deceased establishment that fries are no longer en vogue or are somehow inauthentic. The replacement offering with the burger was a small helping of house-made vegetable chips. These had a flavor that I'd experienced before. It took me a second. Oh what is that flavor. Ahh , there it is... yes there's no mistaking it. Chips as a burger side dish taste like getting kicked in the balls. There's the welling of anger, the pain in your abdomen, the tears pushing to the corners of your eyes, the metallic aftertaste in the back of your throat. There is only one thing I could think that would make these chips taste less like I had been booted in the marbles and that would be to replace them with fries.

I had little to say about the meal after we had eaten it. I knew better than to speak my true feeling because I would anger Kyle's girlfriend and thus ruin his night as well as hers. So I did what a good friend should do. I finished my burger, ordered a second thimble of whiskey with baseball of ice, and paid my $50 bill without complaint. Later that night I drank an eight of Pepto Bismol and watched Fight Club while icing my crotch to numb the pain of the meal. I couldn't help wondering how they could get a burger so wrong. We've eaten bad burgers but in few cases would I accuse the chef of never having tried the meal he was serving. I do accuse the chef at Farmers' Cabinet of this crime. It's a shame because the other food I saw there looked good, and even though the restaurant was better when I first visited it in Europe, I'd like to go back. I only hope it lasts long enough for me to give it a second chance. Rating: 2/10.

photo of the burger at the Farmers' Cabinet.

Kyle: Our first adventure to Farmers' Cabinet occurred during opening week, when Sweet V and I visited a friend bartending there and were joined by several others during the night. As we snacked on popcorn and malts, drinking beers from Italy and Germany, talking with good friends, I thought to myself, "What a wonderful place this is." That night I dined on a pork belly sandwich of unparalleled quality, and my girlfriend ordered the burger, which she repeatedly described as "maybe the best burger I've ever had." Stumbling home at 1:30 a.m. that night, I was excited to go back and try it for myself.

Since you've already read Laurence's half of the article, I'll cut to the chase: the burger at Farmers' Cabinet is the worst good burger I've ever had. "Good," in this situation, refers to the quality of ingredients and forethought put into the design of the sandwich. "Bad" refers to the fact that this sandwich tastes like the ground-up rubber tires they used to cover 1980s playgrounds.

My notes from the night, detailing each succesive bite, read like a transcript from the popular self-help guide "How To Become Disillusioned With Everything You've Ever Loved":

  • Unbelieveable. They succesfully made a bacon burger. Meat tastes exactly like beef and brisket. Wheaty, buttery bun. 8.
  • Kind of dry, but good. Meat overpowers the toppings, which is unfortunately. 7.
  • Huge chunks of fat. Gross. It's a 70/30 blend, but they didn't blend the 30 percent fat and just shoved some ligaments in the middle. Meat is pretty tough. 6.
  • Pretty tough all around. Bun is hard too. 5.
  • Bun isn't hard. Bun is stale. The meat is both greasy and dry, like eating BBQ smoke-flavored rub. 4.
  • Might throw up later. 3.

Which I didn't do, but I also almost didn't finish the meal.  Somewhere around the third marble-sized chunk of impenetrable tissue I had to pull from my mouth, I seriously began to question not only the burger but the course my life had taken. I almost threw in the towel on the burger, and on Burgerdelphia, until an "It's A Wonderful Life" style vision came to me and showed me how many people would suffer if I didn't warn them about this blight on burgerdom.

What started as a noble experiment ended in a freakish monstrosity. Bacon and brisket, while both great flavors, do not pair well together, and the melding of them into a single meat does both a disservice. I may lose my Internet License for saying this, but there was too much bacon flavor in this burger. Eating it was like eating the castoff from a pan of bacon, and left me feeling thick, slick and sick. The Farmers' Cabinet burger tastes like obesity.

What we learn from this experience is that my girlfriend has terrible taste. But given that she's dating me, you probably already surmised that tidbit. Rating: 3/10.


You win this round, vegetarians.

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