Who said anything about Fare?

Burger Breakdown

Fare - Map It!
$13.00
Spinach, feta cheese, herb infused yogurt, lemon, mint, and a portion of daring.
You probably won't get fries. You might get potatoes but that mostly depends on what the local farms are producing. The menu states "Menu is subject to change without notice."
7.5/10

When you walk into Fare, its hard not to be struck by the no frills elegance. The red, white and gray color scheme and modern industrial design aren't overt. The bar is happily populated with craft style wooden stools. When I walked in Bob Marley's “No Woman, No Cry” was playing and was followed up by a sexy salsa number. The cool, utilitarian, stylized-industrial character goes all the way to the table top pepper grinder, with it's push bottom operation and the very fact that each table is adorned with its own fresh black pepper is a huge plus for any restaurant in my opinion. The entire restaurant has a quiet and sophisticated atmosphere that surprisingly I have no desire to mock.

The Burger: It what is the most un-burger burger we've had yet, Fare's open faced bison burger is ground with spinach and feta cheese then covered with a sauce of herbs, yogurt, lemon, and mint. It's served on buttered multi-grain bread with a tomato that would make an Italian grandmother weep.

Photo of the bison burger at Fare in Philadelphia Fairmount neighborhood.

Laurence: First off, Fare gets serious points for actually brining something new to the table. Now in the middle of our second year, it sometimes becomes difficult to write something interesting about a burger. Even if it tastes good, how many ways can I describe a savory wad of meat that's been seared?

Once while traveling through Austria I stopped for dinner in a town so small that it might not even show up on a map. The menu consisted of what the cook decided to buy that morning and felt like making. This really made ordering quite easy. The meal I was served was spiced patties of ground meat in a hearty sauce with some fresh vegetables and a few potatoes. It was the mountain town version of Fare's bison burger, and it was a meal I remembered for a long time now because it was simple, fresh and delicious.

Photo of the bison burger at Fare in Philadelphia Fairmount neighborhood.Fare's burger is considerably more complicated with a variety of ingredients incorporating some ideas common to Indian food with rustic European vegetable preparations. The bison used in the burger has a pronounced flavor and is deliciously lean and tender. The flavors work very well with the spinach and then the yogurt/lemon/mint. It's all combined subtly allowing each flavor to make it's mark but not detract from the others. In all honesty serving the bison patty without the bread or tomato would have been fine with me.

There's really no question that Fare is getting high quality, fresh ingredients. The only tomatoes I've had that come remotely close to the flavor and vibrant color of the one I had on my burger are those that have been given to me by friends and family directly from their gardens. Most tomatoes on burgers are an offering to caloric guilt. They act as a token gesture to eating something healthful in a fat and grease soaked meal. But the tomato on this burger was worth eating and added wonderful fresh zing to the burger.

Before we ate there, I'd heard complaints that Fare's food seemed too healthy, as though it were a L.A. diet-centric restaurant not opened with a mind toward longevity but for riding a trendy wave. Firstly, the thought that I was eating something healthy didn't cross my mind. We ordered an onion soup and grilled cheese appetizer that I think had enough butter in it to keep the Amish supplier churning for a week. My salivary glands are activating just thinking about it.

Only the complements to the burger seemed notably health. A fresh roasted corn off the cob, and helping of wedge-cut roasted potatoes. Both were minimally prepared but I would guess this is more about letting the flavors of the food come through because they were so good that they didn't need much addition. The corn was some of the sweetest I've had this year and the potatoes were hearty and with a smoky roasted flavor had me wishing for a second serving.

To be sure, this isn't a standard burger and will have some of the die hard traditionalists fuming, but it's excellently prepared using top quality ingredients and is a generous portion. So screw tradition, because if it weren't for the edge we'd still be eating flat gristle patties on compacted potato rolls. Rating 8/10.

Photo of the bison burger at Fare in Philadelphia Fairmount neighborhood.

Kyle: I didn't take any notes of my dinner at Fare, and as a result I write this review uninformed. Some among you may ask how that is different from any other article I've written. You people are assholes.

Fare's quality is outstanding. Not only in our meal, but on the plates and faces of the other customers, it's clear the restaurant is doing something right. Nothing on the menu looked complex, but that is not a slight. As Le Bec-Fin's Bernard Perrier once told me as he tried to seduce my girlfriend, "Never order anything made with more than three ingredients." It's a lesson I've taken to heart, and Fare seems to hold the same philosophy.

Perrier also taught me that when you're French, you can say anything to a woman, and they will love it. I'm still working on that part.

The bison patty on Fare's open-faced creation is exceptional. Very often, when people describe bison, they say "it tastes like beef, but better." Those people are incorrect. And are also assholes. Mediocre bison may be reminiscent of beef, but good bison tastes like nothing else but bison, a more subtle and aromatic flavor than cow ever offers. And where beef benefits from a high fat content, bison becomes better the more lean it is, and Fare's is very lean. My bloody meatball was perfectly prepared, warm but very pink and very rare, with an excellent mint seasoning and rich spinach blended throughout.

All other toppings on the sandwich follow the expected Greek/Mediterranean tastes. The sharp feta melts completely with the lemon-and-mint yogurt, and they in turn are complemented by the mutligrain bread underneath. There's nothing American about this all-American dish.

The envelope-pushing extends beyond the burger. The open-faced nature necessitates the use of utensils, and demands smaller bites and slower eating. Even the sides (cold, tomato-roasted potato wedges; sweet corn) are contradictory to the normal burger accessories. It's like they want you to use a fork. And a napkin. And to wear pants. Keeping your hands this clean feels dirty.

The burger here is great, but it's not for everyone, and I would not recommend it to most people. It seems like the chef deliberately made this the least burger-like burger experience in the city. While you can easily attribute this to the Middle Eastern influence of the restaurant, I have another theory.

When you grow too close to a subject, it stops having the same effect, and you need to push further out. It's the behavior that breeds Andy Kaufman and Picasso and Brian Eno. The burger at Fare is inside baseball for people who have spent entirely too much time eating the same meal over and over and over. It's the 2 Girls 1 Cup of burgers.

I think I'll leave you with the taste of 2 Girls 1 Cup in your mouth. Rating: 7/10.

Verdict: 

Love burgers but getting tired of the same assembly? Fare is the cure for the common burger.

7.5
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