Broiler Bay

broiler bay

Broiler Bay in downtown Bellevue has been around for over twenty years serving up burgers, hot sandwiches, fries, and shakes. Their longevity speaks for itself, at least louder than any burger slag review you’ll see here. And their claim that their charbroiled patties are juicy and fresh of the charbroiler is enough to get me in the door to write just such a thing.

The bacon cheeseburger was my pick. Simple enough. I chose swiss, my typical choice if white cheddar is not an option.

The burger came on a typical stock bun, nothing special, but the poor thing was toasted to hell and back and rivaled the toast from a broken toaster. The bottom bun was hard as a rock with a cardboard quality to it. My swiss cheese was amply portioned and nicely melted. The bacon, although average industry standard grade, was ok. It came with a nice simple mayonaise, nothing fancy or pretentious. Your normal garden fare made an appearance, lettuce tomato, and onion. Sadly the lettuce was truly the lettuce of hatred. Pre-shredded bagged lettuce leaning heavily on the white side was epic sadness. The snappy bitter white pieces where everywhere and truly disappointing. Then there was the beef. Nicely charbroiled but otherwise uninspiring. Certainly not the freshest or tastiest beef I’ve ever had but nothing demeaning to all things culinary.

My side of fries were a step above ok and par for the course.

Sadly I really wanted to like Broiler Bay. A locally owned business in operation for over twenty years is the type of place I cheer for. But in the end my cheering couldn’t overcome an otherwise boring little hamburger framed with righteously bad lettuce. I tried. I really did.

+ I give hooves up for the nice melted swiss cheese

– I give serious hooves down for spiteful lettuce and the UPS store bottom hamburger bun

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

www.broilerbay.com

Triple XXX Rootbeer

Triple XXX Rootbeer

Going to Triple XXX Rootbeer in Issaquah is as close as most people will ever get to going back in time.  There’s a very “Happy Days” feel to being there.  One of only two locations to remain from a once nationwide chain, Triple XXX is a destination best-known for the massive car shows on weekends.

There’s plenty of outside seating, which made it the perfect destination this past weekend when the weather suddenly turned amazing.  It’s hard to argue with the thought of a massive root beer float when it’s sunny and warm out.

I ordered a ’58 Impala, which the menu describes as a 1/2 lb burger with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mayo, & XXX dressing – minus the pickles as they’re not my thing.  The patties were wholly average and well done to the point of being dry.  The cheese was perfectly melted, and the bacon was really good.  The lettuce was shredded iceberg, and the tomato was very thin.  Sadly, I’m really not a fan of the XXX dressing.  There was too much of it, and what I think is supposed to be a “smoky” taste just doesn’t work for me.  The bun was solid, nicely toasted, and held up well.

The fries are above average, and the root beer floats are fantastic.

+ Nicely done cheese and bacon

– Overdone beef and a house sauce that didn’t please

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

On a nice day, it’s a great destination that I’ve been a fan of for years.  Go for the experience, to check out the cars, and for the floats – but don’t go just for the burgers.

Triple XXX Burgers – http://triplexrootbeer.com/

Zak’s

zak's

Zak’s in Ballard is all about the burger. It’s a burger joint after all so don’t come looking for much else. The menu is simple and straight forward with 1/3lb beef patties instead of the seemingly industry standard of 1/4lb. They have a choice selection of “ice cream drinks”, think shakes and malts, and they have a nice little round up of a few brews for the thirsty and riotous.

To continue with the theme of simplicity I went with the straight forward bacon cheese burger instead of the Big Johnson (double meat, double cheese, double bacon). Outside of the bacon and cheese (Tillimook cheddar) the standard support cast at Zak’s includes mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, and iceberg lettuce.

The burger arrived and it was immediately obvious that the cheese was not fully melted, hell it wasn’t hardly partially melted. It was more like sweated. But to be fair there was enough going on with the burger in other areas to bring it back from the depths of ridicule.

The bun was a beautifully chewy kaiser roll with gorgeous mouthfeel. The bacon was divine. Excellent, thick cut, with a heavy yet delightful pork flavor. So thick it was like a slice of bacon ham. Legit pig. The veggies were nice, especially the iceberg lettuce, but they seemed marred by stock ketchup and mustard. I don’t feel ketchup ever belongs on my burger, at least serve it on the side for those that prefer it, and although I love a good mustard that generic yellow jobber posing as mustard will simply never suffice.

The beef was ok. It had some nice beef flavor but didn’t live up to the “100% fresh ground chuck” claim. The texture and flavor just didn’t seem fresh to me but to be fair it was a far cry from bad. Amid all my misgivings, Zak’s is exactly what it claims to be. A burger joint.

+ I give hooves up for a charming kaiser bun and some very legit bacon

– I give hooves down for unmelted cheese, sad generic yellow mustard, and beef that could have been better

The bacon cheese burger at Zak’s

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

www.zaksinballard.com

Nordstrom Grill

Hidden in plain sight in the Bellevue Square branch of the department store Nordstrom, the Nordstrom Grill boasts a pleasant atmosphere, friendly and helpful waiters, and a small and well thought out menu. While this may not seem like a traditional burger joint, I was there, there was beef, and a review needed to be written. We at Legit Beef are not ones to discriminate on the source of our beef.

The “Half Pound Angus Burger” on the menu is pretty bare; no bacon, no cheese, no fancy sauce. With just lettuce, tomato, an onion ring and a ciabatta bun, there’s not much to screw up, and the chef’s confidence in allowing his beef to speak for itself is made evident. And when the waitress says a burger fanatics favourite words – “How would you like that cooked?” – my heart skips a beat. Nestled away behind the mens suits, I may have found a winner.

The presentation is delectible, which the image above doesn’t really convey. The bun is lightly toasted, and parted to show a lightly battered onion ring, a single slice of fresh tomato, a fat and juicy looking beef patty, and the largest single piece of (very fresh) lettuce I have ever seen. Normally such a huge piece of lettuce would have deterred me, but it was absolutely crisp and fresh; it must have come straight from the lettuce onto my bun, and the patty hadn’t had time to wilt it. The onion ring was unremarkable, but inoffensive; it was light and soft and generally acted as a good backdrop for the patty.

And what a patty it was. Cooked to medium rare perfection; dripping delightful juices, pink in the middle but never too red. It had great structure, for a 1″ thick patty it stuck together until the end, and yet gave way under pressure of teeth or fork. It was perhaps a little underseasoned, but by the time I was half way done I could tell why; this was a patty made from premium beef, and it shone without the need for seasoning, bacon, cheese or sauces.

And finally, fittingly, I feel I should mention the ciabatta bun. Initially it confused me; it struck me as an unecessary extravagance, present only to add an air of elegance to the burger. But after a half hour under the juicy half pound patty, I noticed with amazement that the bun base had maintained it’s integrity. Soaked with juice and yet still graspable, the ciabatta bun really made me realise that this burger wasn’t good by accident, it was well thought out.

Oh, and there were herb seasoned fries, with a horse radish aioli; decent, but entirely too fancy for the otherwise delicately crafted experience.

+ Freshly cooked patty, inspired use of ciabatta bun, extremely fresh vegetables, excellent overall construction, and it’s only $11.

- The fries complicated the simplicity of the burger, the lettuce leaf was really much too large.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Half Pound Angus Burger, at Nordstrom Grill, Bellevue

King’s Hardware

kings hardware

King’s Hardware, bonus points for a legit name, is a pub bar in the purest sense. Brick walls, booze and taps abound, and a lot of thirsty patrons. I recommend sitting outside in the patio/brick area. More chill, less noise, and cool bricks.

King’s Hardware has some very nice burger options on their menu. In addition to your normal beef fare, there is The Cowboy, with a fried egg and bacon. The Five Alarm, with roasted poblano chilis, chipotle sauce, and pepper jack cheese. The Not Buffalo burger, with frank’s red hot, blue cheese, and an onion ring. All made with natural, organic, clean Oregon beef.

I went with the Cowboy burger, bacon and a fried egg with the usual toppings. You know, just like REAL cowboys used to eat back in the day. The burger came on a kaiser-esque roll which was nice, however, a little bit dry. At least the top half was. This burger came without sauce which it didn’t honestly need in terms of flavor. And the bottom bun was nicely moistened by the burger itself. But the problem was the top bun portion being thicker and residing away from the meat was a little dry for me. The vegetables were all very nice. Gorgeous and fresh as expected. Although there was one little issue in the garden. Wait for it, wait for it…. sweet pickles!! They tried to slip sweet pickles onto my burger. Get fucking real.

Having removed the vileness, lets continue.

The bacon was well above average. Very smoky, and very complimentary. The beef was legit. Very fresh, nice and juicy, with excellent flavor and not greasy in any sense of the word. The kicker was the patty was sadly overcooked, more of a medium well fire. A shame given the quality, and that I had requested medium. And speaking of chef dunce cap, the fried egg was more of a fried egg scramble and criminally over cooked. All fried eggs intent on crowning a burger should have some varying degree of runny yoke. These guidelines are all but factual and are not open for review or discussion. A rubber egg on a burger in no way adds anything positive.

In the end, I’m really harping on the flaws. Had this burger been saved by thirty seconds and pulled off the grill along with the poor egg, this burger would have joined another rank. This is a good burger. But it could have been great.

+ I give hooves up for very beautiful beef, nice fresh vegetables, a good solid bun, and $1 off during happy hour.

– I give hooves down for slightly overcooked beef, well overcooked egg, and oh dear god trojan horse sweet pickles.

The Cowboy burger at King’s Hardware

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

www.kingsballard.com

Lunchbox Laboratory

IMG_0066

Did I just have the best burger of my life?

I don’t know that I can answer that question.  I can state that the burger I had for lunch today was practically flawless.  Let me share the LL experience with you as best I can in a few hundred words.

When you walk in the door, it’s clear that you’ve entered a burger Twilight Zone run by mad scientists.  The word “Laboratory” is no accident, and it’s not simply because the milkshakes come in beakers.  Let’s take a look at the menu:

IMG_0080

After you walk in, you’re greeted and encouraged to take your time.  If you’re not familiar with the menu you’re going to need it.  The simplest thing to do is just select one item from each column, but you can mix and match any way you want.  I went with a 1/4 pound baby super beef patty made from prime grass-fed sirloin and ribeye, cheddar cheese, bacon, and the top secret burger sauce.  To round out the meal I ordered a side of tater tots with bacon-onion salt and a nutella shake.

The patty was outstanding.  Good texture, some char, and juicy with great flavor.  The cheese was melted as it should be.  The maple bacon was done but still slightly chewy.  The sauce had a nice smoky flavor to it.  The bun held up well and never got soggy.  The lettuce, tomato, and red onion were all very nice.  I’ve been struggling to find something that I could say didn’t work about this burger, and here’s the best I could come up with – there might’ve been too much sauce, and there was almost – not quite, but almost – too much bacon.

The tater tots are fantastic.  The flavor from the bacon-onion salt is subtle but adds a really nice touch.  As I was partway through my meal, I was brought a side of homemade ranch to dip them in.  There was garlic, there were spices, but I can’t remember what she said was in it – chipotle? wasabi? – as I was blissfully lost inside a fog of food at the time.  I do remember saying “ooooooh” and calling out “thank you!”.

The shake was just… wow.

+ Mind-blowingly good burger.  The great sides only add to the total experience.

– It’s a long drive from where I live.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

El Gaucho Bellevue

El Gaucho

Today work found me in Bellevue at lunchtime which gave me the chance to stop by El Gaucho for lunch.  Having had a number of excellent steaks at the downtown Seattle location I was excited to give the burger a try.  The menu described the burger as a sirloin burger with NY white cheddar, bacon, and a focaccia bun.

While waiting for my burger to arrive I was thinking “focaccia bun? really?”.  The result was better than I expected.  While I would’ve preferred a more traditional bun, it held up well and tasted good.  In addition to the aforementioned ingredients, the burger also had white onion, tomato, and iceberg lettuce.

The patty was ok, but I was expecting more than ok.  Neither the texture or taste stood out, and the “beefy” flavor I expect in a burger at a steakhouse was lacking.  Clearly there’s no cheese in the picture.  The bacon was quite good.  I’m not a big fan of raw white onion on a burger, and the tomato slices were thin.  The lettuce was much too thick, and I wound up having to break half of it off to eat the burger comfortably.  There wasn’t anything wrong with this burger – well, except for my AWOL NY white cheddar – but there wasn’t anything particularly outstanding either.

The fries weren’t bad.

+ The ingredients worked together as a whole.

– Missing cheese, patty that was ok but not what I expect from a high-end steakhouse

Originally I had mentally tagged this burger as a 3.5/5.  After a few hours of thinking about it and comparing to other burgers in the price range I’ve revised that.  If you’re going to charge $14 for a burger I’m going to expect that you bring more to the table than this.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Red Mill

red mill burgers
In the interest of formality one might have noticed that we already felt up Red Mill and posted our thoughts. True. But to the mindful observer we have been scoring individual burgers on this site, not the actual establishments themselves. This leaves the door open to revisits and to try alternative burgers at familiar places. Besides, in the end who can argue with more burgerage?

Red Mill revisited. I went with the blue cheese n bacon burger, which apart from its name, shares the same foundation as any other burger at Red Mill except this dad entails a kaiser bun. Why the discriminatory bun practices? I’m not sure. Their kaiser buns are sublimely legit and levels beyond compare to their regular buns. When ordering take note of what bun you’re getting. It matters.

As always the toppings at Red Mill are very good. This place knows how to do their toppings. Sexy ass veggies including sweet red onion, nice tomatoes, beautiful red/green leaf lettuce (although I do prefer iceberg on my burger). Their pickle is really the only vegetable that could be improved. It’s weak. Their bacon is excellent and some of the best burger bacon one is likely to find. A nice smokey peppered bacon both chewy and crispy where it counts.

Note – It comes as a slight personal annoyance that they put all the toppings below the beef. This method could merit a post of its own but for now, I call them toppings for the purpose of describing where they ought to be.

Red Mill’s “Mill sauce”, a slightly smokey peppy mayoesque conncoction, was nice. Unusually tangy this time around but I didn’t mind. The blue cheese was ok, nothing outstanding in terms of blue cheese, but no complaints.

The beef, as always at Red Mill, is simply uninspiring. Always over cooked, rarely juicy and flavorful, I just can’t get behind their patties. So this begs the question. How does one score such a burger? A mediocre piece of beef wrapped in generously gorgeous attire? I’m opening this one up to debate, but today I call it like I see it.

And for the record, never ever order the fries at Red Mill. They are made from potatoes that hate your soul.

+ I give hooves up for a sick kaiser bun, excellent vegetables, some of the best burger bacon around, and a fairly harmonious package that photographs very well.

– I give hooves down for insipid, dry, disappointing beef and underwhelming pickles.

The blue cheese n bacon burger at Red Mill Burgers

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

www.redmillburgers.com

George’s

Situated in the heart of downtown Kirkland, George’s is hard to place on the food chain. At one end of the menu they have a dozen variations on our good friend the burger, and immediately below that is an extensive collection of Greek dishes dripping in tzatziki.

We were here for the burger though, and so I went with the recommended option, “George’s Deluxe Bacon Cheese Burger”.

The stack of meat and vegetables which arrived shortly thereafter presented quite a quandry. The thick, toasted, focaccia bun gave an excellent texture to start everything off, followed by some of the freshest tomatos and onions I have had recently. The thousand island dressing was thinly applied, and really brought out the flavour of the vegetables. The shredded lettuce did nothing to excite me, but it was crispy and if nothing else added a interesting texture to the middle of the burger. There were even a couple of pickles hiding in there; treading the right side of the fine line between overwhelming and flavouring.

It went downhill from here. The bacon was fine. The cheese was fine. Nothing in the bottom half of the burger popped for me; the bacon wasn’t bad, but it could have been crispier. The cheese was some of the least offensive American cheese I have ever had, but it was no sharp cheddar.

And finally, the patty, provided a quandry in itself. The meat was seasoned really well, and just by looking you could tell it was going to be a juicy experience. It held together well as I ate, which is more than I could say for the bottom half of the focaccia bun, which after 5 minutes under the juicy patty had been reduced to a wafer thin after thought.

And yet, the burger failed to satisfy. Ultimately, it was a case of the patty being overwhelmed by the toppings.

+ Toasted bun, fresh vegetables, juciy patty, good structure.

- Uninspiring meat, TOO juicy, boring bacon and cheese.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

George’s Deluxe Bacon Cheese Burger, at George’s

EDIT: It was brought to my attention that I rated George’s unexpectedly highly. This was a decision I had made based on the recent review of Herfy’s Burger, and my belief that, while uninspiring, George’s was better than Herfy’s. I have reversed my score to the original 3/5, and will instead just append this comment that I thought Herfy’s sucked.

Blazing Onion Burger Company

Blazing Onion

Recently we got a tip via Twitter about the Blazing Onion Burger Company.  After a reading of their website, we knew we had to check it out.  Promising to deliver a gourmet burger made with top-notch beef from Painted Hills, Tillamook cheese, and even locally made buns had me hoping for greatness.  I made the trip to the Mill Creek location and ordered my standard medium-rare bacon cheeseburger.

When my burger arrived it looked very promising. The bacon was thick and appealing, the cheese was nicely melted, and my bun was toasted.  Unfortunately the taste didn’t live up to that first impression.  Instead of the medium-rare patty I was expecting, I got one that had been cooked to death – apparently the standard medium-well that you’re given if you don’t specify as I had.  Since they’re using good beef – Painted Hills is top-notch – why cook it to the point that you can’t tell what you’re eating?

The bacon was chewy with good flavor.  The cheese was solid.  The house sauce had nice flavor, but was too runny.  The tomatoes and red onion were both good, but sliced much too thin.  In the case of the red onion it was so thin that it brought almost no flavor to the burger.  The lettuce was good, but there was too much of it and it overwhelmed the burger somewhat.  The bun was really good – it was nicely toasted, and was strong enough to hold up to the end without getting too mushy.

The fries and the onion rings were really underwhelming.  Clearly fresh from a freezer, they were thoroughly meh.

+ You can’t make great food without great ingredients and all the right makings are present.  Two thumbs up for the local focus.

– The overcooked patty destroyed the potential for greatness, and paying so much attention to the main ingredients while ignoring the sides seems odd.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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