My mother has always jokingly said that if something tastes too good, it's probably illegal. So naturally, a name like "Illegal Food" could only draw high expectations of delicious eats from the childhood me. After seeing Illegal Food make it on multiple publication lists for great burgers and hearing recommendations from friends, we knew we had to make the trip out to Virginia Highlands to make the judgement call ourselves. After all, if everyone else is doing it, it can only mean we're missing out right? (Parents, that phrase should probably never be repeated to your children.)
We started off with a small house sampling of chicharrones made with Ethiopian chili. Sometimes pork rinds can be so crunchy, you're scared you might break a tooth on them. Not the case with these. These lightly spiced chicharrones were so crispy, airy, and downright good in flavor, it has essentially set me off on a hunt for great chicharrones in Atlanta.
Next we ordered their famed, or should I say infamous, Okonomiyaki-style fries. Fries are served in a large bowl and garnished and drizzled with Japanese Mayo, Okonomiyaki sauce, chili sauce, bonito flakes, nori, green onions, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds. These are not fries for the faint of heart. They are bold and dressed up for a minimum party of four.
An interesting fact Illegal Food shares with all of its diners is that each week their burgers are made in-house from scratch with one cow. Not only do they only buy their grass-fed cows from one farm, Brasstown Farms, the beef you consume when during a visit will be from one cow. For our mains, Jonathan and I ordered a single-stack The Hank ($12) and a double-stacked F&H burger ($16). The Hank was delicious, but the F&H was my favorite between the two. Something about watching a teardrop of cheesy grease gracefully drip down the side of the double-stack won me over. Both were excellent, juicy burgers and high contenders for our Top 10 burgers in Atlanta.
As a sidenote, we did find it humorous that the F&H burger (which is Illegal Food' s take on the Holeman & Finch's acclaimed burger) uses H&F buns and costs $2 more than the H&F original. A question we've been asking ourselves is "is the F&H better than the Holeman & Finch burger?" For me, this is hard to say given I was living in Texas for the last two years. Two years ago, Holeman & Finch was my #1 burger in Atlanta, but I don't think I could give a fair assessment based on a two-year old memory. Jonathan's opinion is that the "F&H burger is more than the H&F burger. More flavor, more meat, more everything," which will likely win most people's hearts over for best burger in town. His verdict? Sometimes, simpler is better.
Have you been to Illegal Food before? What did you order and how was your experience there? Do you have an all-time favorite burger? Let me know in the comments!