Lunchbox Laboratory Bellevue
There’s only one burger that I’ve ever given a 5-star review to, and that was at the old Lunchbox Laboratory hole-in-the-wall location in Seattle. A lot has changed since then – founder Scott Simpson has passed away, and the restaurant has relocated to a much larger location in South Lake Union. Recently LL opened a second location in Bellevue, and I scheduled a team lunch there to give me the chance to see what it had to offer.

The menu has been simplified a little from the old days, but it’s still got the same basic style. There are 12 burgers on the menu in addition to the option to build your own. I went with the Homage to Dick’s Deluxe (super-beef patty, american cheese, bacon, lunchbox onions, top-secret burger sauce), tater tots, and a Nutella shake.

When the burger hit the table it made a fantastic first impression.  LL still delivers as impressive looking a burger as I’ve seen anywhere.

I dove into the burger… and it was good. Really good. At the same time, it wasn’t quite up to my memories of what LL used to be. Is it possible to move from a tiny little restaurant with one or two cooks into a much larger space without losing a little attention to detail? I don’t know. There was far, far too much sauce on the burger. At least twice what there should have been, possibly three times. The patty was also not the requested medium-rare, but medium. It had good flavor to it, but it wasn’t juicy – and what’s the point of using “American Kobe-style beef” – or any other expensive cut/mix – if you’re going to cook it past medium-rare?

Everything else about the burger was excellent. Great bacon. Melted cheese. Nice onions (maybe a little light on the carmelization?). A toasted bun that stood up well to a very messy burger.  The tater tots were fantastic, and the Nutella shake was as great as I remember it being.

If Scott were still here, I think he’d be proud.

Rating: ★★★★☆