In life, we all eventually learn an important lesson: Some situations are not what they seem. Some problems end up being blessings. And some people turn out to be the kind of person we never expected them to be, for better and for worse.
Even restaurants are prone to having contradictory natures — just as we are inclined at times to misjudge their essence. A place called “Farmer & The Cow” sounds like it could be (a) some hipsterish refuge for farm-to-table smug-a-vores, (b) an unapologetically guilt-free pleasure dome of meaty, milk-fatty, booze-laced extravagance; or (c) one of the most oddly named vegetarian/vegan destinations ever to hit Delaware.
Strangely enough, the correct answer is (d): All of the above. But without so much of the smugness. After all, who expects their nutritionally heretical, entirely irresistible Crispy Chicken Skins ($9) to be politically correct?
To understand the novel and often conflicted nature of this amiable little Market Street character, it’s helpful to consider the concept that attended its birth. The owners imagined a haven for sleeves-up, notched-up comfort food, a place that celebrates the sinfully perfect pairing of creative mega-burgers ($12-$18) and cool-creamy shakes ($6-$15) — they saw a land where foot-long dogs and full-dress tater tots can be worshipped at long last without shame.
Then, following those hedonistic tendencies to their inevitable extreme, they supplemented the menu with a “selection” of small-batch bourbons, whiskeys and ryes — 220 or so ought to do it — and made sure each of their conceived-in-a-dream milkshakes could be ordered with a jolt of aforementioned spirits. Look for the “You’re Killin’ Me Smalls,” a satanically decadent, artfully composed shake kicked up with chocolate, graham crackers and a gooey charred marshmallow ($5 slug of Jim Beam Vanilla optional, but recommended).
Naturally, such spirit(s) led the crew to also bestow all 12 burgers with a generous helping of cockeyed attitude. The cheeky cheesiness of the “That’s What Brie Said” burger is tempered by salty prosciutto, and sweet pears laced with (what else?) bourbon. “That’ll Do Pig” is topped — improbably, but tastefully — with smooshed tater tots, bacon strips, bacon mayo, bacon jam, and horseradish cheddar (made with bacon-free horseradish, one must hope).
The shenanigans go on: A “Morning Glory” burger with scrapple, egg and bacon. A “Chente’s Revenge” with salsa verde and fried chicken skins (think pork cracklins or chicharrons). All are conceived with wit and flair, even if they suffer at times from less-than-stellar execution. All are ably paired with some fun apps ($8-$14): There are Truffle Tots and Chipotle Ribs, Korean brussels sprouts and even a flight of “Bacon Steaks” (accent on the “bacon”).
By now, less carnivorous diners may have concluded that neither the Farmer nor his Cow have much to offer in the way of meatless meals, and they would be (happily) mistaken. In the midst of all this cholesterol-mainlining madness, way down in the menu’s fine print, vegetarian co-owner Jaspal Singh has made sure to include dietary-minded options: You can get your burger with salmon, chicken, turkey or veggie patty. You can order that hot dog in its vegan facsimile, or replace your burger bun with its gluten-free cousin.
You can even find more than a few “vegan beers” here, and we’re told that most all bourbons and whiskeys (and gin, and vodka, and tequila ...) are by nature vegan-friendly as well. Word on the street has it that Singh is even working on a “vegan milkshake.”
So drink up. Eating right hasn’t been this much fun in a long time.