With over three years of success and a cheeseburger with a cult following, one might think that I would be a regular at Holeman & Finch, Restaurant Eugene’s casual counterpart and neighbor. Quite the contrary, I had never visited until recently when BB mentioned he and his chef BT would be dining there and he invited me to join them.
The atmosphere was as expected, lots of warm wood elements and bare light bulbs that look like they were salvaged from your Grandma’s house, when in fact, they are about $500 a pop according to BB, who recently sourced lighting for his own restaurant, There Brookhaven.
Paintings of pigs differentiating the ham from the hock add some country charm and prepare diners for the offal (not to be confused with awful) selection on the menu…except for the veal brains. Nothing prepares you for the veal brains.
The three of us started with a few dishes to share: pot of chicken liver pate’, locally sourced gruyere, and bratwurst. Both the pate’ and the cheese come with bread, so our server recommended we not order the H & F bread basket, ironically the very thing this tiny spot is known for. Holeman & Finch is the purveyor of bread and buns for nearly every restaurant in Atlanta that takes pride in organic and locally sourced products. We agreed, deciding to fill up on meat rather than bread.
BT’s Hoppy Bunny arrived and one of two glasses of Cuvee du Vatican, a cotes du rhone that was less dry than most, its peppery notes pairing well with the cheese, a thin sliver accompanied by a cherry compote and droplets of honey. The few pieces of sliced bread didn’t impress.
Meanwhile, BT and I dug into the bratwurst with zephyr squash and shishito peppers, deceptively served in a cast iron skillet but the vegetables appeared to be braised rather than roasted and could have certainly benefitted from more cooking time and seasoning. The pudgey sausage displayed impressive girth, with a flavorful herbaceous filling. Agreeing that one vegetable dish was in order, we tried the glazed turnips, which suffered even more glaringly from inadequate cooking time.
There were many interesting options that we didn’t try….crunchy gentlemen for instance, described as black forest ham, gruyere, dijon. Is it a croque monsieur as BT guessed? Smoked trout can be great, especially in the hands of Zeb Stevenson at Livingston. We didn’t try it here. A subsequent visit may find me ordering the shrimp stew with red curry and cilantro, with ciabatta.
We discussed the lamb fries briefly but ended up with veal sweetbreads and a poached farm egg with duck liver, both of which were served in, but not prepared in, cast iron skillets. The veal sweetbreads (that look somewhat like brains, but not to be confused) were lovely, served with preserved figs for a sweet note, orange slices for a hit of acidity, field peas and mustard jus….probably the best dish of the day.
The menu description of the foie gras dish, cleverly called duck liver, reminded me of Blais’ version at Home some years back. He seared the foie gras and served it like a decadent breakfast with two thin little pancakes with maple syrup, providing a sweet juxtaposition to the rich liver’s intense fattiness. Holeman & Finch added thick, chewy bacon and a poached egg, making it even more decadent, but the johnnycakes were thick and doughy, covering the bottom of the round skillet and ultimately overtaking the dish.
Not surprisingly, we ended with a pair of desserts, bacon caramel popcorn and a fried apple pie. The chewy chunks of bacon would have served a better use flavoring the lackluster turnips, but were a nice addition to the popcorn. BB remarked that the pie, which was covered with a shiny glaze, looked like the carnival variety. A scoop of vanilla ice cream slowly melted beneath the warm pie, becoming a puddle as we took turns with our spoons.
We were leaving just as the kitchen was lining up the buttered buns for their famous burgers, served only after 10pm. Two dozen freshly ground burgers were on the grill. Word is they sell out in seconds.
Holeman & Finch rings all the right bells, blows all the pretty whistles. I was supposed to love it. Dare I say that I didn’t?
2277 Peachtree Road 404-948-1175