The cheesy black bean burger at Foode might just be the best burger you’ll ever have–meat or not.
Such was the sentiment of my parents during a visit to Fredericksburg last year, and one I share that hasn’t wavered for the two years that I’ve been enjoying the downtown farm-to-table restaurant. That $10 veggie burger remains the top item I order at Foode, and one of the most popular every day.
You’ll find salads, sandwiches, “pizettes” and bowls all around $10 during lunch, while dinner features more complete dishes like roast chicken, shrimp and grits, and risotto (in the range of $15-$24), along with smaller salads ($5.50) for starters. Vegetarians will find more options at lunchtime, such as my favorite burger and a few other vegetable sandwiches. Dinner choices are more limited to a harvest plate, occasional risotto and a variety of small plates. Menus change slightly each week and are posted at foodeonline.com.
Foode–say it like “foodie”–has a simple mission: “we believe that the freshest, cleanest ingredients make the best dishes.” Up to 90 percent of the food served daily is from local farms, such as Blenheim Organic Gardens in Westmoreland County.
Located at 1006 Caroline Street, Foode’s entranceway is like no other. Tucked behind an iron gate, decorations change seasonally–bright umbrellas made for a colorful ceiling over the narrow courtyard in the summer, and water bottles and “green” table toppings bring to mind aspects of Mother Earth. Of course, she can also impact whether that outdoor, uncovered space allows for additional seating too.
Unassuming could be another keyword in Foode’s mission. Ordering at the counter presents a different style of dining than tableside service. Hostesses will direct you to the counter, right inside the main restaurant space. They’ll take your name, and hand you a paper menu–the later you are, the more items that may be crossed off. Order, pay, but don’t tip. If there’s a wait, your order won’t go through until a table is ready. Two oversized chairs at the front door provide for a small waiting area, and a rotating display of work from local artists fills the walls. Citrus-infused water, tea and coffee are self-serve. The kitchen is actually upstairs, so runners are constantly in and out of the front door with dishes and hot plates. This may not be the most comfortable restaurant experience for some demographics, but I find it a nice change of pace, something special where food is the focus.
Foode opened in January 2011, and has grown more popular as time has passed. Now, it’s not unusual to have to wait for 20 minutes or more at lunch before a table is ready. Of course, with just under 30 seats when weather is bad, waits may be even longer at other times–especially weekend brunch. Large groups may have a particularly difficult time being seated if the “community table” (a long, high-topped table where you may find yourself beside someone you don’t know) isn’t available. Servers typically try to help, and once, the owners led eight of us to their special event space two doors down, after a wait that no one expected.
But I’ve found brunch to be hit-or-miss. French toast topped with berries and eggs scrambled with mushrooms made a memorable meal shared with a new roommate, but a not-so-crisp and quickly cooling waffle wasn’t as special at another visit. A friend raves about their simple biscuit with honey butter, while weekly special “big nasty” biscuits–loaded with an array of meats, cheeses and vegetables–are posted to a spunky Facebook page.
Fried chicken is a popular choice, and graces the menu on weekend waffles and on Wednesday’s sandwiches and dinner plates. My fried chicken-loving boyfriend blissfully approved of his lunch sandwich on one visit. The Fredericksburger–made of local, organic grass-fed Auburnlea Farms beef, topped with bacon aioli, sharp cheddar, organic lettuces and served on a seared local brioche bun–is another highly popular choice. On a few occasions, I’ve enjoyed the hot veggie sub, a roll filled with grilled vegetables, melted cheddar and spiced ailoli. While Foode’s fries are beautifully fried and well-seasoned, I prefer the side of potato salad that comes with some dishes, and I certainly don’t consider myself a potato salad-person.
This past week, a friend (a lifelong burger hater whose obsession over the black bean burger rivals my own) enjoyed a new menu item, the Caribbean Bowl. Chicken marinated in a jerk spice was grilled, and served over cilantro rice with bell peppers, onions and black beans, along with a chunk of of plaintain cornbread.
But as I said, it’s the black bean burger that I keep going back for. This particular sandwich is made of black beans, bell peppers and seasoned rice, just blended then shaped into a bun-sized patty. Crisp on the edges, the burger stays together fairly well, compared to veggie burgers at other downtown spots. Flavorful enough by itself, a healthy spread of just-spicy-enough pimiento cheese and cilantro mayo tantalize the tastebuds. The small side of potato salad has more herbs than mayonnaise, and together, the meal will leave you full for hours.
And as Foode’s menu says, “We just want you to have a good time.” I always do.