Hankering for a patty in a bun? Hit these local burger joints
In and around this burg, there are many ways — and umpteen places — to enjoy a great burger.
Seattle Times food writer; Seattle Times restaurant reporter
In and around this burg, there are many ways — and umpteen places — to enjoy a great burger. Maybe you eat yours at XXX Rootbeer Drive-In, an iconic Issaquah joint whose picnic-table pastimes include major burger belting (three patties are better than one!). Ditto for those at Fife's Pick-Quick, whose annual winter break (December and January) leaves the locals longing. And way up in Conway — just off I-5 — there's the Conway Tavern & Eatery, where I rub elbows with Skagit farmers and leather-clad motorcycle mamas, and local-beef burgers are the specialty of the house. But here in Seattle, when I'm pulling a Wimpy, I'll gladly pay for a burger any day at my favorite joints — Dick's, Red Mill, Cascadia, Lunchbox Laboratory and Two Bells.
7302 ½ 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle (206-706-3092 or www.lunchboxlaboratory.com).
Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, noon-7 p.m. Sundays (closed Tuesdays).
Looking for the most amazing burgers in town, no contest? Get over here while you can. Scott Simpson's a culinary mastermind, and his flameout potential runs high.
Prepare to wait: You're looking at 16 seats at two funky communal tables in an absurdly crowded shack (yes, there's outdoor seating — and an expansionist vision). Good idea to call first, since their hours change as frequently as their menu, an astonishingly long list of variations on the house-ground meat/poultry/fish/veggie theme ($8-$9). Match those with as long a list of cheese options ($1.50) and complimentary humdinger housemade sauces, like the spicy "stone-ground horsy aioli." Then consider add-ons (75 cents-$2). Maybe a generous pile of smoky bacon or balsamic-soaked onions?
The chef's other half, Allegra, will take your order at the register and, since these gargantuacities spill out of their substantial Essential rolls, you will not need a side. Have one anyway. I love the sweet-potato fries, but you might feel the same about those pepper-flecked Tater Tots ($3) served in a little All-Clad pot (among the last vestiges of Scotty's dead restaurant, Fork).
I've been tortured by the wondrous wild boar burger; the spicy, pepperoni-flecked "Dork" (duck and pork); and listened to plenty of "OMG!s" from others who've moaned and groaned their way through a buffalo burger with a side of mac 'n' cheese ($5) and lived to order a (thin, sweet) shake ($4) served in a glass beaker. But for my money — and I'll pay more here than elsewhere (worth it!) — it's the mighty, meaty, prime rib burger seared in a French skillet to a precise medium-rare.
Two Bells Bar & Grill
2313 Fourth Ave., Seattle (206-441-3050 or www.thetwobells.com).
Hours: 11 a.m.-close Mondays-Fridays, 1 p.m.-close Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. -close Sundays (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.).
There are those who go to Two Bells to sit at the scarred bar and hoist a beer. Some even show up for Sunday brunch. I go for lunch, to see just how well a fresh baguette can hold up to the fabulous fat that pours from the Bells' appropriately "famous" burgers. The answer? Very well, thank you, given that the burgers sit on a baguette baked right up the block at Boulangerie Nantaise, turning what might otherwise be a glorious mess into a visually elegant one.
A friend eyeballed his two-thick-napkin extravaganza of beefy ground round heaped with sautéed mushrooms ($9.95), then finally gave up trying to eat it in a gentlemanly fashion, instead hoisting and attacking.
He could have had chips, slaw, baked beans or soup alongside, but he's a sucker for that potato salad, a chunky classic of the genre.
I'm frequently swayed by the soup — old-fashioned diner-style renditions of everything from navy bean to clam chowder. But my gotta-have-it burger — one of a half-dozen on offer — is slathered with a generous schmear of blue cheese and cracked black pepper ($9.95), proof positive that when it comes to burgers, even after all these years, Two Bells still rings my chimes.
Wallingford: 111 N.E. 45th St., Seattle, 206-632-5125
Capitol Hill: 115 Broadway E., Seattle, 206-323-1300
Holman Road: 9208 Holman Road N.W., Seattle, 206-783-5233
Lake City: 12325 30th Ave. N., Seattle, 206-363-7777
Lower Queen Anne: 500 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle, 206-285-5155 (www.ddir.com).
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.
Say what you want about fast-food burgers. There's a lot to love about Dick's, serving Seattle since 1954 — and me for the past 20 years — starting with the hours (from late breakfast-time until 2 a.m.), and the fact that they're local (paying their efficient congenial employees at five stores around town a fair wage, plus bennies). And everybody knows they make their own shakes, with hand-dipped ice cream blended to order ($1.35).
Dick's is the only food I like to eat in my car. Not that I have a choice, since I rarely frequent the only sit-down shop, on Queen Anne. I'll get in the rear seat with my kid, try hard not to complain when he spills his little tub of ketchup and forge fattening memories. We're both partial to Dick's Deluxe ($2.40), a skinny wedge of fresh beef with oozy "American" cheese and a confetti-like complement of lettuce and pickle, all wedged between a squishy bun. And because Dick's fries lose a little something after they've been out of the hot oil more than 30 seconds — we usually share a single bag ($1.40).
Red Mill Burgers
Phinney Ridge: 312 N. 67th St., Seattle, 206-783-6362
Interbay: 1613 W. Dravus, Seattle, 206-284-6363 (www.redmillburgers.com).
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-8 p.m. Sundays (closed Mondays).
Note: Cash or check only.
It's a family affair at this dynamite duo, where you can take out or hang out. Brother-and-sister team John and Babe Shepherd ensure that quality comes close to surpassing quantity (1,000 burgers sold a day), and The Stones are a constant refrain on the sound system at both Phinney Ridge and Interbay. Well, start me up with a Double Bacon Deluxe with Cheese ($5.49). That double dose of quarter-pound flame-broiled beef hoists plenty of pepper bacon, a ruffle of lettuce, rosy tomato and "Mill Sauce." Wild horses couldn't drag me away from Babe's onion rings — the ne plus ultra of crackling crunch. I get satisfaction in knowing the buns come grilled, the lemonade's fresh-squeezed and I can get out of here for $10. You can't always get what you want (leave your credit cards at home), but vegetarians can sticky their fingers with a burger bedecked with smoky Anaheim peppers, fire-roasted right here on the premises.
2328 First Ave., Seattle (206-448-8884 or www.cascadiarestaurant.com).
Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays (bar menu served till 10:30), 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays (bar menu served till 11 p.m.), happy hour 5-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
It's the biggest craze since menus everywhere went locavore: fancy-food "sliders," those adorable little burgers made with everything from duck (at Tilth) to oysters (Ama Ama) to organic beef with cumin Gouda (Taste Restaurant at SAM). But let's give credit where credit is due for the small-burger bonanza: White Castle. (Kidding!) It was chef Kerry Sear — a vegetarian known for his elegant multicourse menus — who branded his bar menu's "Miniburgers" years before other local chefs got in on the act.
He makes them with ground hanger steak, wild king salmon or veg-happy grains; crowns them with fancy ingredients, served on the side (like black truffle butter or crisped pancetta, $2); and offers them individually with tomato, lettuce, pickles and ketchup, knocking the price down from $4 each to $2.50 during happy hour. Which is why Cascadia's bar and lounge is standing-room only then, as it was when I went back last week to order my minis with a cone of fries ($4). Yes, of course I had an Alpine Martini made with a mini-snowball of Douglas fir sorbet ($5.50). What a tree(t)! And you'd better get in there quick: Sear just announced plans to sell this fine-dining venue, expected to remain open through early summer when he (and, we hope, his Miniburgers) transitions to a new restaurant: Sear's taking the helm as executive-chef and director of Food & Beverage for the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, set to open this fall downtown at First and Union.
Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or email@example.com.
To read her blog, go to www.seattletimes.com/allyoucaneat.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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