Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Lunchbox Laboratory

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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:

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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: ★★★★★ 

Herfy’s

Herfy’s is a small gourmet burger shop in Redmond that offer a variety of differently themed burgers and sandwiches. There’s enough variety to justify a  couple more trips if they’re able to nail the standard bacon double cheeseburger. Logically, if they have a firm grasp on the foundation, then there may be some merit in the rest of that menu.

A toasted bun! Holy crap. Such a simple step in the burger-making process, but so often neglected. It didn’t really save the bun from becoming saturated, however, it was a light toast with little to no browning or taste alteration. Come to think of it, there’s a possibility that it was just slightly stale instead of slightly toasted. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say toasted.

The Achilles heal of this burger is the beef. Not that the rest is invulnerable, quite the contrary, I conquered and consumed it all. The beef patties are thin, cooked to well-done with little bits of gristle detectable in a couple bites, a major no-no. Where quality beef is the star of the burger, this is far from it, merely becoming a vessel for cheese, bacon and condiments.

Taking part in diminishing the beef, the bacon was excellent and cooked to near perfection. The cheese was American, okay in my book, and melted to a gooey consistency between the patties. Complimenting that wonderful cheese was a mayo-based sauce, working in harmony with the burger. Lettuce, tomato were fine, but the pickles were too plentiful and bitter for my taste.

Unbeef: Good fries, good onion rings, good jalopeno poppers, colon-destroying jalapeno burger (ie. “good”).

+ Toasted bun, great bacon, excellent cheese, solid burger sauce.

– Over-cooked and low quality beef, pickle overload.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Mad Cow, and what a burger is NOT

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In the interest of semantics let’s define what a burger is NOT. This list is not exhaustive, but any place reviewed and scored well by me will refrain from the following.

Bad beef. Or previously frozen beef, which is bad by another definition. Grey beef, that crap we’ve all seen and eaten, albeit drunk at 2am. Overly processed beef, and by processed I mean containing beef from more than 2.5 million anabolic cows. Beef that is artificially greasy, like a lard burger with pockets of ground beef. Beef that is overly cooked. This is legitbeef, not legitpuck. Treat your beef properly by cooking it to order, unless that order happens to be well done in which case shoot the customer. In short, I want clean, fresh, tasty beef cooked properly by someone who cares.

Bad cheese. Fake cheese. The crap that comes wrapped in plastic like a bad gift. Cheese from a can. Pre-shredded cheese that belongs on an angry bad taco. Cheese that is melted on the outside yet cold and hard in the middle. Folks, cheese is an art. Put Pollock on my burger and I become angry.

Bad sauces. Old sauces. Separated sauces. Gimmicky sauces. No one wants to see chipotle vanilla beam cream fraiche burger sauce despite the fact that it legitimizes the $18 price tag. It’s crap. We don’t want it. Trust me. If all else fails, relax, you have a fail safe back up. Simple proper mayonaise is always welcomed.

Bad vegetables. Old vegetables. Brown vegetables that are not normally brown. Dirty vegetables, unless you are aiming for a themed dirt burger, then maybe but it will very likely still suck. Improper vegetables, such as but not limited to carrots, radishes, beats, and turnips. They don’t belong here. Ever.

Bad miscellaneous toppings. For instance, fried mozzarella sticks dipped in mariana sauce with pickled hot chili peppers and sad pepporoni have no place in the burger world. And trust me folks, I saw this with my own eyes. I couldn’t make this one up if I tried.

Bad buns. Soggy buns. Stale buns. Stupid-encrusted buns with far too many crushed macadamia nuts adorning the outside.

To close, I learned years ago that what comes off as rant is merely passion and love in disguise. Don’t be fooled. These are burgers folks. They deserve it.

Burgers are serious business.

Lunchbox Laboratory

I worship the bacon cheeseburger.  Medium-rare, of course.  Over the last year or so my take on this American icon has gone from love to obsession.  I’ll go much farther than I would’ve thought possible in search of my next fix, and I can’t eat it without taking pictures and grading the experience for whoever’s eating with me.

I’ll start with a few stakes in the ground (beef):

Bacon is magical.  If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that I don’t have to explain this to you.  It should be crisp without being burnt.  Pepper adds a great touch.  Premium producers like Niman Ranch deliver superior pig.  Sadly, some restaurants manage to screw up bacon.  I’d like to make them all do penance at Red Mill to learn how it’s done.

Cheese!  For years I was a fan of sharp Tillamook cheddar, and I still am – but recently I’ve learned of the bliss on a burger that’s Beecher’s Flagship.  There’s also a type of burger that simply requires the Kraft single.

Sides matter.  Fries, rings, tots, mac-and-cheese, potato salad – I love them all.  If it’s lame, I’m going to be hard-pressed to bother coming back when Seattle has so many great burgers to offer.

You can’t have a great burger without great beef.  Freshness matters.  Grind matters.  Fat ratio matters.

There’s so much more – griddle vs. grill, the importance of good tomato, letttuce and onions, the art of the smashburger – but those’ll have to wait for another post.  For now I’ll simply leave you with eight key words to help guide you to burger bliss:

Red Mill.  Five Guys.  Lunchbox Laboratory.  Palace Kitchen.  They know the way of the burger.  Stick around and I’ll explain why.

Forming the Patty

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We searched and we searched but the Seattle area apparently lacks sufficient blog guidance on the art of regional hamburgers. Clearly, burgers are an art. And with every art there follows a parade of sites. Or so we thought.

So we decided to throw our beef hats in the ring and legitimize Seattle’s burgerdom with our own beef. Crafting our reviews and itineraries to find Seattle’s best hamburgers so you don’t have to.

No cow is safe.

*If you’ve got a Seattle area burger joint you’d like to see reviewed, hit us up.

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