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8 oz. Burger Bar Seattle

The 8 oz. at 8 oz Burger Bar
8 oz. Burger Bar recently expanded into the Seattle market. Food Network fans will recognize the name behind it – Chef Govind Armstrong.

The website is very promising, talking about “humanely raised, hormone-free Black Angus sirloin” and “the finest local ingredients”. When @drewbenz and I sat down to see for ourselves (expect his review soon as well) the first thing we noticed about the menu was that the house blend in the standard patty is a mix of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib, and chuck. That certainly sounds good to me – and what’s this? Hempler’s bacon? Beecher’s Flagship cheese? Clearly they’re not only serious about their ingredients, but they’re making some of the same decisions that I would in their place.

I ordered “The 8 oz.” – their italics, not mine – which is described as “house blend, wild baby arugula, balsamic onions, hemplers bacon, truffle aioli, beecher’s flagship”. I was happy to see that the menu recommended ordering your burger medium rare to medium. I asked for my usual medium rare, along with a side of roasted garlic fries.

When the burger hit the table I was a happy man. Everything looked and smelled great. All the obvious visual cues I look for were there – juicy patty, melted cheese, and a toasted bun. My first couple of bites confirmed that impression – this was a really top-notch burger.

The house blend patty was far and away the star of the burger, as it should be. Excellent flavor, good texture, juicy, and properly cooked:
The 8 oz. at 8 oz Burger Bar

I’d put this burger on my “Top 5 Burgers in Seattle” list.

It’s not easy to find flaws with it, but it was a few ticks short of perfect. The patty was a little over-salted. The proportions of the burger felt slightly off. The items that accompanied the patty felt like they were right for a 6 oz burger, but they were a little lost against the 8 oz patty. They were all very good – even though I’m not a huge fan of arugula on burgers as a general rule – but just a little too muted.

It doesn’t factor into the score, but I really like the roasted garlic fries. Great flavor, and the garlic was roasted enough that I didn’t go back to work with hideous garlic breath.

This was clearly a burger that was assembled from high-quality ingredients and cooked with care. Will I be back? Oh, hell yes.

(the fact that they’ve got Stone on tap doesn’t hurt, either)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Lunchbox Laboratory Bellevue

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: ★★★★☆ 

Uneeda Burger

Uneeda Burger
After a summer filled with travel and a variety of other commitments, we re-assembled Legit Beef – that’s myself (@thevowel), @drewbenz, & @KPaul – at Uneeda Burger last week.

Since Uneeda opened we’ve been asked a number of times when we were going to be reviewing it.  It turned out that last week was the perfect time to go.  It was a gorgeous Seattle summer evening that was made for the patio at Uneeda, burgers, and a pitcher of good beer.

The menu at Uneeda speaks to me.  The Classic burger is simple as it should be, but if you want to dress it up you’ve got plenty of interesting options.
The menu at Uneeda Burger

While Drew & KP elected to go with various Signature burgers, I went straight for the Classic.  If I stick to my standard bacon cheeseburger it’s much simpler for me to compare the burger to others that I had.  I did make two deviations from my standard, though – a 2nd patty since I’d missed lunch, and going for the Gleason Ranch 28-day aged grass-fed beef.

Following this was the only bad part of our visit to Uneeda.  My burger arrived… WITHOUT BACON.

Normally I’d ask someone for a couple of strips of bacon to add to the burger, but I was so hungry that I decided not to bother.  I did miss the crunch that the bacon would’ve provided but I survived somehow.

The bun was lightly toasted, but couldn’t hold up to the juices of two patties of very good beef.  It wasn’t long before the bottom was soaked through.  The Signature burgers came with a sturdier bun that probably would’ve served mine well.  The cheese was nicely melted.  The tomatoes were good, and while the lettuce was shredded it clearly wasn’t the straight-from-a-bag variety of crappy shreddy lettuce that some places serve.  The special sauce was a little lacking in the special department.  It was fine, but it didn’t have a ton of flavor and I would’ve been happier with less of it.  I also prefer a smokier, less mayo-y sauce on my burgers.

The beef was EXCELLENT.  Clearly a huge step above the typical beef you’ll find between a bun, and it was cooked to Uneeda’s standard medium without being dry at all.  The grind was coarse like it should be, and the patty was nicely assembled and not overly compressed.  Next time I’m going to try the regular beef, though.  The grass-fed patties had so much flavor to them that they stood out a little too much.  A great burger is a harmony of all the ingredients, and isn’t just about the beef.

The fries & onion rings were both above-average.  The pitcher of Odin went down perfectly with the meal.

+ outstanding beef treated right and cooked properly

– bacon was sadly MIA, the bun wasn’t up to the challenge

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Pumphouse Bar & Grill

The Pumphouse Bar & Grill

The Pumphouse is a sports bar in downtown Bellevue.  With 8 HDTVs and a stack of sports packages via DirecTV there’s almost always something good to watch if you’re a sports fan.  Seattle’s Eastside isn’t exactly stacked with great sports bars – so is the Pumphouse a worthy hangout?  If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’ll agree with me that it depends on the burger.

I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Burger – a 1/3lb patty “cooked medium and served on a sesame bun with our own special sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, dill pickle, and onions” minus the pickle.  Although the house was packed – there were people standing in line waiting for tables or a seat at the bar – there wasn’t much of a wait for our food.

When the burger landed in front of me I wasn’t sure what to think.  Shredded lettuce isn’t normally a sign of a great burger.  I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised.  After a few more bites I realized that I was enjoying my burger far more than I’d expected to.  Looking at the burger I realized that while I’m not ready to crown them the “best burger in Bellevue” as the menu proclaims, they do take their craft seriously.

The bun was toasted.  The cheese was melted.  The patty wasn’t overcooked like you’ll find in most bars.  The bacon had a nice crunch to it.  While the ingredients might not be stellar, the burger in front of me was made with care.  As a result, they got everything they could out of the ingredients they use.

The fries were good, and so were the chili-cheese fries and onion rings we wolfed down on arrival.  It’s also the only place in Seattle I’ve found Ninkasi IPA from Eugene on tap, and that’s a beer that goes perfectly with a burger and a game on TV.

I may not think of the Pumphouse when I want a burger – but when I want to go to a bar and watch a game with some friends I’m going to the Pumphouse and having a burger while I’m there.

+ Attention to details delivers a very satisfying burger.

– Shredded lettuce, otherwise average ingredients.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Coho Cafe

Coho Cafe

The Coho Cafe is a locally-owned pair of restaurants on Seattle’s Eastside – one in Redmond, one in Issaquah.  The Redmond location is a nice place to go for happy hour if you work at Microsoft.  I’ve been a regular customer of both locations over the years, and overall the food is very good – but the burger has never been better than average.

They’re active on Twitter and over the last couple of months we’ve had several conversations where I’ve shared what I think makes a good burger.  Whether that played into the changes or not, Coho has an all-new burger on the menu.  In their own words the Coho Cafe Burger is a hand-formed patty covered in aged white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a “secret sauce” – and like all good burgers is available with smoked bacon.

This burger made a great first impression.  Everything looked great, and a once-over showed that the burger was assembled with care.  The cheese was melted, the bun was toasted, and the veggies were fresh.  After a couple of bites it was clear that my burger was also the medium-rare I’d asked for.  The bun was nice – clearly not mass-produced – and held up well throughout the meal.  Overall it’s a very satisfying burger.

There aren’t a lot of knocks on this burger.  The first is the degree of verticality.  When I attacked it, the burger was a little too tall to comfortably get a bite of everything at once.  I’ll lay this at the feet of a fairly large piece of lettuce, but after a few bites everything compressed into an more easily eaten form factor.  The second would be the red onion, which was sliced too thin for my taste.  If there’s going to be red onion on my burger, I want it to come with some crunch so that I know it’s there.

The fries were solid, and there are some good beers on tap.

+ Solid ingredients all around, treated right.

– Too much lettuce, red onion sliced too thin.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

BunsOnWheels

BunsOnWheels 

Thanks to some unusually cooperative schedules we were able to schedule a Legit Beef team lunch earlier this week.  A few emails went back and forth arranging the details when Drew suggested BunsOnWheels.

One of the many food trucks starting to dot the Seattle landscape, BunsOnWheels calls themself a “mobile gourmet kitchen serving gourmet burgers made from premium, all-natural and organic ingredients.”.  Further reading uncovers that they use organic, grass-fed beef – so we piled into KP’s truck and went for a drive.  Here’s each of our three takes on what we found:

Drew:

The Classy burger pulled me in, seduced by her pretense. She was beautiful with 1/3rd lb fresh, all natural grass fed beef, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion, buns sauce. I added a second patty and bacon for effect. Beef looked great. Veggies and bacon were quality. In a word, this burger screams fresh. But in a classy kind of way.

If I’m going to find a rip to this burger, and it’s a stretch at best, it’s going to have to be the bun. Definitely a nice bun. Fresh and tasty. But as brioche goes, a little light and under matched when paired with a perennial burger and fixings. This is a burger that does absolutely nothing wrong. If I’m being feed from the side of a truck, this is the kind of class I want in my mouth.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

KP:

Buns on Wheels serves up a high quality burger that far exceeds expectations for any establishment, let alone one powered by Diesel. Perhaps ironically, my only complaint is with their bun which I found to be dry, truly a shame because it was the perfect size relative to the burger. Beef was top notch, coming close to the taste you can expect at a steakhouse, and the veggies were fresh and well-proportioned. Cheese, bacon and sauce were up to par but nothing to write home about.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

e:

My burger (pictured) was a Cheesy ordered medium-rare with bacon but without pickles.  Their menu describes the Cheesy as 1/3lb of beef with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion, BUNS sauce, and truffle fries.

All burgers come in a brown paper box.  Upon opening the box I got both a great whiff of food that I wanted to eat, and food that looked good.  My first bite was great, and the burger was exactly the medium-rare I’d asked for.  The overall balance of the burger was pretty good – no one ingredient overwhelmed the others.  The flavors of the bacon and cheddar were too subtle for my taste, but given the quality of the beef and the care with which it was cooked I’m ok with that.  The bun was a too-soft brioche, but still above-average.  Taken as a whole I was very satisfied and I’ll definitely be going back.

The fries were pretty good, and without a doubt much better than average for frozen fries.  The truffle flavor was nice and not at all overwhelming.

+ great ingredients treated well resulting in the best food truck burger i’ve ever had

– bacon, cheese, and bun not quite as strong as the beef

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

John Howie Steak, Take 2

John Howie Steak

It’s been almost a year since the last time I had a burger at John Howie Steak in Bellevue.  I’ve been there several times since, but always for dinner and I usually get the (brilliant) 42-day-aged New York Strip.  Yesterday I was in the neighborhood and decided it was time to check back on the burger.

JHS actually offers three different burgers at lunch – the USDA Prime Beef Bacon Cheeseburger (pictured), the Kiss Your Hips Goodbye (3/4 lb of beef, onion rings, and bacon between two grilled cheese sandwiches), and a Peppercorn Crusted Wagyu Burger.  My tastes definitely run traditional when it comes to burgers so I once again went with the Bacon Cheeseburger.  The menu describes it as follows – 1/2 pound ground prime chuck, Beecher’s Cheddar, Kurobota bacon, house baked bun, drive-in sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle (not on mine!), and sliced red onion.

To put it simply, my burger was outstanding.  Great beef cooked to exactly the medium-rare I’d asked for.  Melted Beecher’s, outstanding bacon, and really nice fresh veggies.  There was a little too much lettuce for my taste, but a lot less than my last burger here.  I’ve really only got one complaint about this burger, and that’s the bun.

This is a really juicy burger, and the fact that I enjoy mine medium-rare only accentuates that.  The bun tastes nice and was toasted, but it simply cannot come close to holding up under this patty once you bite in.  The bottom half melted away and I had to finish the last few bites with a fork.  That said, I finished every bite as I wasn’t letting any of this go to waste!

The fries were excellent, and I really enjoy the John Howie Amber.  Not that the burger isn’t enough by itself, but you should also try the tempura bacon appetizer – it’s amazing.

+ Excellent beef, top-notch everything that goes on the bun with it, great preparation

- The bun lets the burger down

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Blue Moon Burgers

Blue Moon Burgers

Blue Moon Burgers is a local Seattle burger restaurant with two locations.  They serve only all-natural beef and fresh-cut fries, so for a while now I’ve been trying to find the opportunity to give them a try.  Last Sunday was finally the day.

Like I always do when trying a new restaurant, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger.  At Blue Moon that means hickory smoked bacon, your choice of cheese – I chose cheddar – tomato, red onion, pickles – hold the pickles, please! – and Blue Moon sauce.  The patties are quarter-pound chuck, and I selected the potato bun.  Rather than asking for medium-rare, I let them cook it to their default medium.

When I unwrapped my burger, my first reaction was strongly positive.  I was immediately struck by the fact that this burger looked and smelled great.  Unfortunately my first bite greeted me with a big chunk of pickle, and I just can’t stand pickles.  I took the bun off, and sure enough there were three pickles waiting for me.  This always annoys me so I double-checked the receipt, and sure enough I’d ordered it without pickles.

There was also an issue with how my burger was cooked.  It definitely wasn’t done to medium – more medium-well.  Patties being overcooked is a common problem, and it’s especially disappointing at a restaurant that’s going out of their way to serve quality beef that could really shine when treated well.

On the other hand, one thing that Blue Moon definitely gets right is balance.  The ratio of burger-to-toppings-to-bun was just about perfect.  I often find that one ingredient overwhelms the others, but they nailed it.  As for the rest of the burger – everything was very good.  Nice bacon, quality veggies, the Blue Moon sauce was good, and the potato bun was just right.  You can see in the photo that the bun was toasted and the cheese was perfectly melted.  Had the cook been on his game when I’d been there this burger had the makings of greatness.

Briefly, non-burger things – I ordered both the fresh-cut fries and the side of the month – deep-fried mac & cheese.  The fries really benefited from being fresh-cut and were much better than average.  Personally, I prefer thicker cut fries because they’re less hassle to eat, but I’d always take these over anything from a freezer.  The mac & cheesewas a little dissapointing.  For me the pleasure of deep-fried mac & cheese is the hot gooeyness of them but mine were only warm, not hot.  I’m guessing that they were either too cold before going into the fryer or were cooked at a less than ideal temperature.

The vanilla shake I ordered was excellent.

+ A perfectly-balanced burger, quality beef, details like a toasted bun and melted cheese

– Stray pickles that weren’t supposed to be there, an overcooked patty

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Rock ‘N’ Roll Burger

Rock 'N' Roll Burger

Rock ‘N’ Roll Burger (hereafter referred to as R&R) is a small restaurant tucked slightly out of the way in Issaquah. There’s an old-school burger joint/Elvis theme going on in both the decor and on the menu. It’s just far enough off the beaten path that I’ve never driven by, but tonight I was craving a burger and made it happen.

I ordered a #6 – a Hound Dog Burger – which is a burger with Tillamook cheddar, romaine, tomato, red onion, pickles (not on mine, please), R&R sauce, and bacon. R&R sauce is described as “mayo & 7 secret additives with smokey flavor”.

The meat is “Premium, Fresh, 1/3 lb, 100% Ground Chuck”. I’m not sure what meaning if any the word “premium” when it comes to meat, and I’m hoping “fresh” means never-frozen but since they don’t say it’s hard to be sure. They offer to cook your burger to order but I decided to let R&R do it their way.

When the tray was placed in front of me I had a very positive first impression – everything looked good. After a couple of bites I was enjoying the burger, but I wasn’t getting much beefy flavor. The veggies were quite good, the bacon was nice and crispy, but the other ingredients were overwhelming the beef. It felt like I was eating a 1/4 lb burger instead of a 1/3 lb. This was one of the few burgers that would’ve been better with a second patty to balance out the other ingredients. However, the overall result was satisfying.

A few other details of note – the bun was good but needed to be toasted. The cheese wasn’t melted enough. The burger was a little overdone which left it dry.

The fries were good, and the vanilla shake was definitely above-average. I’ll be going back.

+ A satisfying burger

– Beefy flavor should be front and center in a burger, untoasted bun, cheese wasn’t sufficiently melted

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Quincy’s Charbroiled Burgers

Qunicy's Charbroiled Burgers 

Quincy’s is a small, local chain with an outpost in the cafeteria where I work.  I’ve eaten there about a half-dozen times when I’ve had a burger craving but haven’t had time to leave the office.

Today’s specimen was a “Quincy Burger” with bacon and cheddar cheese, minus pickles.

The burger was clearly a preformed patty without much texture or flavor.  The cheese not only wasn’t melted, it wasn’t even warm.  The bacon was limp.  The burger was drowning in mayo and ketchup – I had to wipe a lot of it off with a napkin to eat it.  The lettuce was the cheap shredded stuff.  The tomato was actually ok.  While the bun showed slight toasting marks, it’s didn’t taste toasted or above room temperature.

The fries were generic, frozen-before-cooking fries.

+ it’s close to my office.

– the burger.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

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