We have the good luck to pull into a space on busy Centre Street in Jamaica Plain in front of Grass Fed and decide the planets must be aligned. We’re excited about this little restaurant, a burger spot owned by Krista Kranyak of the popular Ten Tables, which has several locations, including one a few doors down. Grass Fed is in the former location of Bon Savor, whose owners went to Colombia and are stuck in an immigration quagmire.
Grass Fed, the menu explains, offers beef from East Orange Belties Farm in Vermont, buns made with a potato dough, handcut fries. There are 17 stools and a table in the center of the room where 10 more can stand. Order at the register and someone brings it to you.
We order a regular hamburger ($7.50), fries ($3 and $4), the Blue Devil ($9), onion rings ($4), and a chocolate shake ($5). The burger, promised pink, is overdone, hard, and tasteless. The bun is gummy. Fries are crisp in spots, barely cooked in others, onion rings are burnt all over, and the Blue Devil, with Stilton, bacon, and aioli, has another dense overcooked patty, but is saved by luscious cheese and smoky bacon. (What dish isn’t significantly improved with Stilton and a crisp rasher?)
We’re going through many napkins, the kind from a dispenser. French fries and onion rings, which look like the rings of your dreams, are unbelievably greasy. The shake, with J.P. Licks ice cream, is a godsend: thick and divine.
Perhaps it’s an off night. On other visits, we have another hard, barely pink burger and I really wish they’d bake the rolls longer. Mixed greens salad ($6) has a sprightly lemon vinaigrette, but greens are yuppie chow (mesclun only). Grilled cheese ($5) with bacon ($1.25) and a fried egg ($1.25) is a revelation, the yolk bursting on the first bite and providing a golden dipping sauce for the crusty bread. A ground chicken burger ($10) has lovely pesto, but again, a hard patty not saved by mozzarella. A brat burger with bacon ($10) is listed as a special on the board. What’s the meat, we ask. The server doesn’t know. Will she ask someone? She hesitates, then slips away. It’s pork, dense with a good peppery flavor. Bacon adds smoke but there’s nothing to lighten the load of pig on pig.
An order of onion rings is welded together in one giant clump and much too dark. Cooks are going for crunchy but what they’re delivering is just plain burned. Potato chips are thin, crisp, and just right.
Eggplant panini ($9) is made on more exceptional bread with a delicious tapenade spread. But balsamic-glazed onions tucked inside are hard. A fried shrimp po’boy with Cajun aioli ($10) is pleasingly hot, the seafood juicy, the baguette too large to get your mouth around.
I went to Grass Fed hoping this is Boston’s answer to Farm Burger, which has grass-fed burger locations in Atlanta and Decatur, Ga., where we ate memorable food: tender patties and fries as crisp as it’s possible to get them.
Someone in the Grass Fed kitchen isn’t paying attention. Nor is the staff, who often stare at customers without cracking a smile. One night, we’re standing outside talking about how great this place could be, and a little Audi sports car pulls up to the stop sign. The driver looks at the restaurant for a long minute and speeds off. Was I imagining that the license plate read Kranyak? Madame, come inside! They need you.