Posts Tagged ‘4 of 5’

Lunchbox Laboratory – Sample 2

Lunchbox Redux

We returned to the Lunchbox Laboratory this weekend to take a second look at one of the few burgers to earn a 5 star rating from one of the crew at Legit Beef. Never having been, I decided to cast an objective eye on the experience.

Wise men render sage words to first-time visitors of the Lunchbox Laboratory . The consensus among the burger illuminati is to choose one ingredient from each column of the menu: one meat, one cheese, one topping, one sauce. Nothing wrong with this philosophy, but no matter what you do, you’ll still have a burger you can’t fit your mouth around. Be conservative and exercise restraint but adding one or two extra toppings or cheeses is not, inherently, a bad thing. Experimentation is encouraged, it’s a god damned laboratory.

For my burger, I went with 1/2 lb beef patty (obvi), cheddar, maple bacon, candied balsamic onions, and their secret burger sauce. This was freakin’ delectable. Let’s go from top, down. The bun is a Kaiser, toasted to perfection and doing an admirable job of holding together despite the abundance of juices from the beef and onions. The secret burger sauce is solid, pretty standard thousand-islands-esque burger sauce but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The bacon is, in a word, perfection. The slice is not too thick and the bacon is cooked lightly, allowing you to actually taste the maple flavor. They get away with the light cooking because the cut is so lean that it may as well be a slice of ham on your sandwich. The candied balsamic onions were great, trending the burger toward the sweet side but the saltiness of the cheddar cheese helps to keep the burger balanced. There wasn’t a whole lot of input from the cheddar but I doubt if the strongest of cheeses would have overcome the other flavors of the burger to shine through.

The beef is a quality patty but here I find my only fault with the experience. The seasoning they use in their beef is noticeably heavy on the pepper.  The taste of the beef should never be masked by its seasoning, particularly such a quality and juicy blend as they serve. There’s plenty of flavor here, it’s just a shame that the beef was seasoned by a kid who works at Fat Burger before they put it on the grill.

This burger was superb. All of the ingredients are top notch, as evidenced by the $20+ tally for each burger. Well worth it. There’s a great experience to be had here, you just need to find casino games your own. You know what you like but you don’t know if it all works on a burger. That’s half the fun. So long as you keep it reasonable you’re going to have one of the best burgers of your life. I took a shot and it paid off to the tune of a 4.0/5.0. You can easily build a burger here ranging from 3.0 – 5.0 depending on how you top it. It’s not about building the perfect burger, but building a great, unique burger. This is the place to do that. You miss out if show up and order a plain cheeseburger.

Unbeef: I had sweet potato fries, unremarkable, but the tots are great. You get to choose from 9 different salts too, pretty rad. The shakes look awesome.

+ Excellent bun, perfect bacon, candied balsamic onions I could have eaten alone on a bun

- Peppered patty

Lunchbox Laboratory 1/2 lb bacon cheeseburger with balsamic onions.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

five guys

Ah yes. Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If you have one of these near you I definitely recommend you seek out and destroy one of their burgers. I’m not going to go into detail about the place, they are nationwide and have a healthy web presence. Honestly, I have a few easy take aways from my numerous encounters with the place. First off, their fries are legit. Freshly cut, skin on, deep fried in 100% fresh peanut oil, they are good. Damn good. Few, if any, burger franchises can match their fries. Secondly, they are consistent. I’m not sure there is much variation from a good day to a bad day at Five Guys. And lastly, they are very reasonably priced and they source quality ingredients.

The ever popular conversation around these parts is how Five Guys matches up to the juggernaut Red Mill, arguably the top two fast food/burger joints around. For me, quite frankly, time and time again I’m finding Five Guys beats Red Mill. I think the beef is levels better, the fries are better, and they are tiers more consistent. I’ll call the bun a wash and give Red Mill props for better bacon, better toppings, better choice of cheese and clearly better hype. By a slim margin, I give Five Guys the nod.

Having said that, Five Guys has room for improvement. The bun is stock and noticeably lacking a nice toast. I’ve seen their buns on the grill toasting but time and time again the toast simply doesn’t translate well to the finished product. Their toppings are nice but they don’t deliver anything extraordinary. And their cheese is stock american, which is an unwelcomed addition to all things culinary in my world.

+ We give hooves up for excellent juicy beef given the category, great value in terms of price, and a very harmonious burger dinning experience. Everything works well together.

– We give hooves down for a stock untoasted bun that just doesn’t seem to hold up, and wank cheese.

Five Guys Burger and Fries hamburger

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

www.fiveguys.com

John Howie Steak

John Howie Steak  

John Howie Steak in Bellevue is the latest restaurant from one of Seattle’s premier chefs.  An earlier visit delivered one of the best steak dinners I’ve had in years.  That experience combined with a mouth-watering description on the menu made this a must-try burger:   

USDA Prime Beef Bacon Cheeseburger, ½ pound ground prime sirloin, Beecher’s cheddar, Kurobuta bacon, Brioche roll,drive-in sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle and sliced red onion  

Prime sirloin?  Beecher’s cheddar?  Kurobuta bacon?  Sign me up!  When the burger was placed in front of me I was excited.  Everything looked top-notch, and every bit as good as I’d been hoping for.  

The patty was excellent.  It was clearly high-quality beef that had been cooked just the way I wanted it, and I’d put it in the top 10 patties you’ll find in the Seattle area.  Sadly, everything that went with the patty was unable to hold up in comparison.

I’m not a huge fan of brioche buns, and this was a good example of why.  The burger was juicy but not sloppy, as it should be – but even that level of juice quickly dissolved the bottom of the bun, making the last half of the burger a little challenging to eat.  The cheese was a real disappointment – I’m a huge fan of Beecher’s and use it on my burgers at home, so I was really looking forward to what it would bring to the table.  As you can see in the photo, the slice was extremely thin which resulted in the taste of the cheese being completely lost.  When I could taste the bacon it was very good, but there weren’t a lot of bites where I could taste the bacon.  The red onion was fine, but the wedge of lettuce was big enough that I wound up setting it aside halfway through.  The “drive-in sauce” tasted like a typical smoky mayo-based sauce, and was quite good.  

With all that said, I really liked the burger and will be going back – but it didn’t deliver on my admittedly high expectations.  Taking this burger to the heights it could reach wouldn’t be hard – a better bun, make the cheese three times thicker, another slice of bacon, and better lettuce would result in a simply astounding burger.  

The fries were solid.  Crispy with fluffy texture inside, and with what tasted like sea salt sprinkled on them.  Definitely above-average.  Even the ketchup was a notch above what you’ll get most places.  The house-brand amber beer was good, and if you’re a dessert person check out the exceptional pear and raspberry sorbet.

  + Really dig the beef, the burger was solid, and everything that wasn’t between the buns was top-notch  

  –  The bun and the toppings keep the burger from being everything that it could be  

The burger at John Howie Steak

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Red Mill

Red Mill

Double Bacon Deluxe w/ Cheese

Red Mill is a Seattle joint devoted to the art of the burger and what we call the greater burger experience, a staple among Seattle’s “best burgers” lists. We’re not out to shatter anyone’s perception of the world, this is a quality burger, but how does it stack up to a beef enthusiast’s lofty expectations?

The bun is the standard sesame seed fare, seemingly untoasted. The beef is nothing special, a couple 1/4 lb patties cooked to medium-well. Things begin to pick up with their accompaniments; the bacon is well-cooked but still chewy, the lettuce, tomato and pickles are fresh, crisp and working in perfect harmony. The sauce is good, with a slight kick, however it is slightly overwhelming at times. They absolutely nail the cheese, ooey gooey goodness, barely congealing along the sides of the burger.

Unbeef: Fries were quite good, onion rings were different, but good, milk shake was excellent.

+ The pieces fit: the burger is held together by the exceptionally fresh veggies, bacon and heavenly cheese.

– The bun isn’t anything special and the beef is not the star. That would be okay if we were called Legit Condiments.

The double bacon with cheese at Red Mill Burgers

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

www.redmillburgers.com

Jak’s Grill



Jak’s Grill in Issaquah, WA is notorious for having one of the best burgers around. Period. Some of the best ground beef anywhere, cooked to order with a limited selection of toppings to get in the way. Nice vegetables, nice toppings, and reasonably priced. There really isn’t much not to love.

But this legendary burger does have some room for improvement. The bun, primarily, is very ok and made more glaringly ok by the quality of the beef. The sauce on the bun is globed in the center and not spread evenly. And the cheese, though excellent, is inconsistent. Sometimes fully melted, sometimes not. And the fries. Well, we recommend the onion rings or potato pancakes instead.

In the end, the Jak’s burger is still a giant among burger legends and showcases all that is good and decent in the burger world. If you eat meat, like burgers, and dislike the Jak’s burger – you have no love in your heart.

+ We give hooves up for remarkable beef quality, cooked to order, nice veggies and toppings, all at a reasonable price.

– We give hooves down for an ok bun and inconsistent cheese meltage.

The Jak’s burger at Jak’s Grill

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

www.jaksgrill.com

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