A hot, juicy hamburger is as classic—and American—as apple pie, yet it straddles several current food trends, including the rise of comfort food and the desire for a fast, affordable meal that is made with integrity—a game we’re always upping in Seattle, especially when it comes to creativity. Here in our city, entire restaurants are devoted to crafting cutting-edge versions of sustainably raised hamburgers (or bison or lamb, for that matter) on house-baked buns with all the fixings—from fresh toppings picked up at farmers’ markets to fun combinations (such as fig and prosciutto) to house-fermented kimchi. But we’re not so snooty as to deny the simpler pleasures (thin patties draped with iceberg and American cheese).
In this meaty issue, you’ll find the entire burger spectrum, plus spot-on pairings of our other local artisanal obsession: craft beer. Get a moo-ve on.
Chefs are piling burgers high with funky ingredients, yet when it comes down to it, easygoing Seattleites just love a good, simple burger. Behold, the best of the classic burgers
The star of the show is the one-third-pound Painted Hills beef patty, but the supporting cast includes, among other things, house-made pickles, caramelized onions, your choice of cheese (blue, Swiss, cheddar or provolone) and the highly coveted Swine sauce—a sinfully delicious smoked-tomato aioli—all served on a toasted brioche bun that is both fluffy and sturdy. Because there must be pork involved at a place called The Swinery, you can also add bacon or the more elaborately prepared crispy pork belly, which is seared, braised, chilled and then deep-fried before it ends up on your burger. The Swinery burger starts at $11; add bacon for $2.75 or pork belly for $3.75. Order the Double B burger ($13.50) and you’ll get both bacon and belly. West Seattle, 3207 California Ave. SW; 206.932.4211; swinerymeats.com
SAINT JOHN'S BURGER
Saint John’s bar and Eatery
The burger ($15) preparation here is just like a flame-broiled one from an ’80s Burger King; it has loads of char flavor, but is made with Burk Ridge Farms beef from Whatcom County. With a soft, sesame seed brioche Macrina Bakery bun, garlic aioli, Beecher’s cheddar and red onion jam, this is a strong contender for Seattle’s best burger plate (comes with crispy wedge fries). Capitol Hill, 719 E Pike St.; 206.245.1390; saintjohnsseattle.com
MOSS BAY BROILER BURGER
Awesome Sunsets accompany the awesome burgers at this popular burger shack on Lake Washington. Our favorite, the one-third-pound Broiler ($5.75), tastes like dad grilled it himself and then got fancy with arugula and wasabi mayo. Kirkland, 80 Kirkland Ave.; 425.739.0033; Facebook, “The Slip Restaurant”
LI'L WOODY'S BURGER
Li’l Woody Burger: one-quarter pound grass-fed, Pacific Northwest beef, chopped onions, diced pickles, ketchup, mayo and Tillamook cheddar
Marcus Lalario’s take on the classic ($4.50) summons childhood memories of the basic McDonald’s hamburger—made right. One-quarter pound of lean, grass-fed, Pacific Northwest beef with chopped onions, diced pickles, ketchup, mayo and melted Tillamook cheddar on a soft, brioche-like bun. Perfectly manageable. No grease. No mess. Capitol Hill, 1211 Pine St., 206.457.4148; Ballard, 2040 NW Market St., 206.257.5259; lilwoodys.com
Two Bells Bar & Grill
Two Bells’ Tavern Burger on French baguette topped with bacon and grilled onion (and a side of baked beans)
For those looking for a break from being served a round patty in a classic white bun with fries, the Tavern burger ($12.95) is an oblong patty tucked into a French baguette, topped with bacon and thick, juicy grilled onions, and served with coleslaw, baked beans or potato chips on the side. This famous burger is thick, juicy, cooked to order and comes with a mound of softened onions and requisite tomato, pickles and lettuce. Not to be missed, this burger is a longtime favorite of Seattle burger fans, served in a proper tavern. Belltown, 2313 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.3050; thetwobells.com
DELUXE TAVERN BURGER
Customers flock to this loud, 21-and-older neighborhood bar. Order a Deluxe with fries for just $10 and prepare for a new addiction. With the first bite, juice drips down both face and arms as grease from the burgers saturates the bun, making for a juicy, delicious, moist mess that is absolute perfection. This cheap eat is cooked over a fire and served simply with lettuce, red onion, two slices of not-quite-ripe, mealy tomatoes (skip those) and a secret sauce (we’re guessing it’s a combination of Thousand Island dressing and mayonnaise) that is practically drinkable. Fries are big, steak-cut pieces—fat, wonderful bites of potato that lean toward soft, not crispy. South Park, 8617 14th Ave. S; 206.327.9649; lorettasnorthwesterner.com
The ‘fast casual’ burger chains have hit Seattle.
By definition, fast casual restaurants offer a higher quality of food—healthier options and fresh ingredients prepared within view of the customer—and fewer processed or frozen ingredients than typical fast-food joints. Think of the much ballyhooed (but to us, underwhelming) Steak ’n Shake, which opened its first Washington location downtown this spring. While most fast casual places are chains based elsewhere, and none quite match up to the gourmet greatness of our homegrown favorites, our local fast casual burger shop is Josh Henderson’s Great State Burger, a bright, airy downtown (and Laurelhurst) restaurant where cornflower blue accents, grass-fed beef and organic ice cream milkshakes make us happy. Henderson plans to open eight to 10 more throughout Washington in the next 18 months. After that, who knows? Maybe someday other states will anticipate their own Great State Burger the way we in Seattle pine for an In–N-Out Burger.
Ballard, Northgate, and Lynnwood; fiveguys.com
What makes it different: All 15 burger toppings, including grilled mushrooms, are free. Also free: all-you-can-eat bulk peanuts. Secret menu item: Secret or not—you can get your burger in a bowl instead of on a bun. Most popular order: Hamburger ($6.49)—two patties of ground chuck on a soft, slightly chewy griddled bun with any and all fixings you desire.
The Habit Grill
Kent, 12900 SE Kent-Kangley Road; 253.630.5337; habitburger.com
The Double Charburger, fries and onion rings
What makes it different: Alternative sides, such as tempura green beans ($2.99)—freshly cut green beans lightly batter-dipped and flash-fried to perfection. Secret menu item: The Half-and-Half ($2.45)—a side order of equal parts Idaho potato fries and crunchy onion rings. Most popular order: Double Charburger—two open-flame-grilled beef patties with mayonnaise, pickle, tomato, lettuce and caramelized onions on a toasted bun.
Great State Burgers
Laurelhurst, 3600 NE 45th, 206.775.8990; downtown, 2041 Seventh Ave., 206.775.7880; greatstateburger.com
Cuteness on a tray
What makes it different: The burger, which comes with crisp lettuce, American cheese and a spicy, ketchup-based State sauce, is made with beef that’s grass-fed and organically raised—something rare for a $5.50 burger. We also appreciate the 8-ounce milkshakes ($3.50), rich yet practical in size and made with organic Parfait soft serve. Secret menu item: It’s no secret, but most people probably haven’t noticed the mini fridge on the counter at the downtown location. It’s filled with vacuum-sealed steaks from Pat-n-Tam’s Beef in Oregon for sale to take home; Pat-n-Tam’s cows also supply the burger meat.Most popular order: The double combo ($12)—two patties of organically raised, grass-fed beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and State sauce, served with crinkle fries and a 16-ounce fountain drink.
U District, 4509 University Way; 206.420.8199; caliburger.com
What makes it different: Spiked milkshakes. For $2, add a shot of Evan Williams bourbon, Malibu rum or Baileys Irish cream to your shake. Secret menu items: Lettuce-wrapped burger ($4.25) and grilled cheese ($3.99). Also, you can add Stumptown Coffee to your shake and barbecue sauce to your burger at no extra charge. Most popular order: Cali double ($4.99)—two all-beef patties, American cheese, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and a special sauce.
Burgers That Take It Up a Notch
White-tablecloth-restaurant burgers, steak house burgers, over-the-top burgers: 16 places where the humble sandwich gets an uptown makeover
The 8oz. Burger: grass-fed beef, Painted Hills bacon, balsamic onions and truffle aoili
Every great food city has them. That breed of burger joint that isn’t order-at-the-counter or fancy and obviously expensive, like a steak house or white-tablecloth restaurant that serves burgers. It’s something in the middle: a rustic sit-down restaurant that supports local ranchers and farmers, and serves hamburgers on real plates, brought to your table, with prices in the $12–$17 range. The menu may feature a few gourmet starters—even house-made desserts—but let’s not kid ourselves. Most of them are casual burger places under a fancy pretense, trying to get away with selling a burger in the $12-and-up zone. Something about elevating that experience of grease and buns seems a little...ridiculous. But, not always. We think these three are worth the fuss.
In Seattle, at 8oz. Burger & Co., where colorful, stately portraits of pigs, cows and bison give the space a masculine, haute barn feel, you can make a reservation (no joke), select from more than 50 whiskeys at the bar and build your own burger with unusual ingredients, such as water buffalo (instead of grass-fed beef), short ribs, Cotija cheese, kimchi, espresso rub and prosciutto. Even the basic burger, The 8oz. ($13), is spiffed up with Painted Hills bacon, balsamic onions and truffle aioli. Excellent fries—served at the perfect temperature and with the ideal interior fluffiness—and an impressive bar elevate this burger business. Ballard, 2409 NW Market St., 206.782.2491; Capitol Hill, 1401 Broadway, 206.466.5989; 8ozburgerandco.com
At Tipsy Cow Burger Bar, where you can expect at least a 20-minute wait on Sundays at lunch, a giant stack of parsley-flecked fries comes with all 14 burgers, including the entry-level classic: the 7-ounce Tipsy burger ($12.50), a grass-fed, custom-ground beef patty cooked to a perfect internal pink with Beecher’s Flagship white cheddar, Bibb lettuce, thickly sliced tomato, thinly sliced white onion and ranch-like Tipsy sauce. All burgers have their own custom sauce, including the most popular burger: The Rock Star ($15), which is also topped with brew-batter-dipped and fried bacon, maple syrup, a fried organic egg and caramelized sweet onions. Tipsy Cow’s space is modern, bright and fun, with clever puns (“Our milkshakes bring all the cows to the yard”) written on chalkboards framed on the walls to get you in the moo-d despite the wait. Redmond, 16345 Cleveland St., 425.896.8716; Woodinville, 14111 Woodinville-Duvall Road; tipsycowburgerbar.com
Tipsy Cow’s Redmond location and (inset) the Rock Star burger
It’s the same idea at Eureka in University Village, where The Original Eureka ($11) is topped with hickory-smoked Gouda and you’re likely to find exclusive toppers, such as bone marrow porcini butter. In addition to its eight signature burgers, Eureka also features specials that have nothing to do with ground beef. Recent offerings included a lemongrass pork sandwich and an all-day breakfast burrito. Eureka is loud and has a distinct sports-bar vibe—it’s a national chain—so go there for a post-shopping burger or to watch the game, but not as a destination for an elevated burger experience. University District, 2614 NE 46th St. and slated to open in October: Kirkland, 115 Park Lane; 206.812.9655; eurekarestaurantgroup.com
The Pricey Burger that’s Worth It
Give in to the indulgence of a dressed-up restaurant burger
Ballard Avenue’s Bramling Cross Burger
Chef and owner Ethan Stowell created this burger ($17) for his gastropub, and it’s essentially perfect: an 8-ounce, wood-fire-grilled patty of Double R Ranch beef dressed with shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced onion, house-made garlic dill pickles, white American cheese and a tangy secret sauce on a toasted Macrina potato bun. It’s super juicy and high-end without being snooty. Ballard, 5205 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.420.8192; ethanstowellrestaurants.com
The Hollywood Tavern
Just across from a handful of Eastside wineries sits a hipster restaurant complete with a cozy outdoor fire pit, paint-by-numbers artwork and young servers in casual wear. The Hollywood burger ($14) nails the perfect, mouthwatering ratio of bun to burger, ensuring a bit of squishy brioche bun and juicy, salty meat with every bite—this burger is moan-inducing. Upgrade your order with tater tots for a caloric splurge that’s perfect for offsetting a day spent in wine country. Woodinville, 14508 Woodinville-Redmond Road NE; 425.481.7703; thehollywoodtavern.com
Now this is a snooty burger and proud of it. Chef Joe Ritchie’s burger ($17) starts with 8 ounces of grilled wagyu beef seared on the outside to a perfect char and served with Beecher’s Dutch Hollow Dulcet cheese, tangy house-made pickles, fennel aioli, lettuce, tomato, smoky onion marmalade and delectable dill fries. It is served on a light, airy potato bun. This is also an Ethan Stowell burger, but different from the Bramling burger in that it has more complex flavors—hello, wagyu—and it is built high to appear grander. It works. Downtown, Four Seasons Hotel, 99 Union St.; 206.749.7070; ethanstowellrestaurants.com
This chic craft cocktail bar and restaurant in north Ballard delivers one of the most perfectly charred and harmonious burgers ($16) in our entire roundup. It starts with 8 ounces of grass-fed Skagit River beef, topped with iceberg lettuce and drizzled with two “secret” sauces, about which we got them to spill a bit: One contains house-pickled cherry bomb peppers, and the other includes wood-oven-roasted shallots. It’s all tucked into a Columbia City sesame seed bun. Ballard, 1421 NW 70th St.; 206.724.0471; essexbarseattle.com
RELATED: YOUR HANDY GUIDE TO THE BEST BURGERS AND BEER IN SEATTLE
Beef Burger with Seared Foie Gras
An absolute gut bomb in the best way, the extravagant burger at Loulay is truly over the top. A thick patty of a house-ground beef blend is charred, smoky and tender ($16), and topped with a gratuitous slab of buttery seared foie gras (add $17). True overindulgence can be yours with the addition of a fried duck egg (another $3), which is heaven to some and overkill for others. Served on a soft brioche bun with bacon-shallot jam, this burger is practically legendary. Downtown, 600 Union St.; 206.402.4588; thechefinthehat.com
Steak houses have a lot of incredible trim—bits of prime red meat—left over from cutting steaks, be it a tenderloin or wagyu flat iron. Those “scraps” are going to make plenty of delicious burgers, which are especially tasty during happy hour, when they’re less than half the usual price.
Metropolitan Grill’s The Works Burger, with wagyu sirloin: only $7 during happy hour
The Works burger is a stunner, made from grilled wagyu sirloin, cooked to your preference, natch, and with perfectly melted cheddar and Swiss cheeses, caramelized onions, house-made Thousand Island dressing, lettuce and tomato on a perfectly toasted kaiser bun. $15; happy hour, $7 (3–6 p.m. Monday–Friday). Downtown, 820 Second Ave.; 206.624.3287; themetropolitangrill.com
This heavenly blend of chuck and wagyu flat iron, tenderloin and hanger steaks is served at this Redmond steak house on a kaiser bun with house-made bacon jam, roasted garlic aioli and Beecher’s Flagship cheese. During happy hour, you can add lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle for $2 (no extra charge for those on the regular menu) or let the smoky, slightly sweet bacon jam mingle with the perfect char on the 8-ounce patty without those pesky vegetables getting in the way. $14; happy hour, $8 (4–6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close daily). Redmond, 16330 Cleveland St.; 425.376.2683; redmondprime.com
John Howie Steak Restaurant
Happy-hour crowds pack into this densely appointed bar, and many of them are there to order the bacon burger. A juicy meat patty is served on a delicate brioche bun that absorbs the fat, making for some soggy areas and others that are butter-soaked golden brown—it’s wonderful. Served with thick bacon, this burger comes stacked high with fixings—iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, thick red onions—and slathered in Southern-style fry sauce. Major bonus points for the fries, which are fried in beef fat, a rare, flavorful treat. $16; happy hour, $12 (3–6 p.m., Monday–Sunday; 9 p.m.–close, Monday–Thursday; 10 p.m.–close, Friday–Saturday). Bellevue, 11111 NE Eighth St.; 425.440.0880; johnhowiesteak.com
The burger at this beloved local chain of steak houses, with three locations around the Seattle area (Issaquah, Laurelhurst and West Seattle), is especially popular with hardcore happy-hour customers, who flock to Jak’s on a quest for a $7 hamburger that is reminiscent of what your neighbor might grill in his backyard, assuming your neighbor is a chef at a top-notch steak house. A half-pound patty is grilled to smoky perfection and served with roasted red pepper mayo, lettuce, tomato and onions on a toasted kaiser bun that dutifully absorbs the greasy burger goodness. $13 at lunch; $14 at dinner; $7 at happy hour. During lunch and dinner, add cheddar, bacon or mushrooms for $1 each. Issaquah, 14 Front St. N, 425.837.8834; happy hour, 4–5 p.m., Tuesday–Friday. Laurelhurst, 3701 NE 45th St., 206.985.8545; happy hour, 5–6 p.m., Monday–Thursday, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Friday. West Seattle, 4548 California Ave. SW, 206.937.7809; happy hour, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Monday–Friday. jaksgrill.com
Part sport, part dare, all full-throttle epic eating experiences
Mt. Fuji Burger
Scale the three-pattied Mt. Fuji Mega Burger; photo by Chustine Minoda
Everything at this wildly popular ode to tonkatsu, the Japanese breaded-cutlet dish, is panko-crusted and deep-fried, but none tower higher than the Mt. Fuji “mega burger” ($19.95), consisting of pork, beef and chicken patties, three kinds of cheeses, a fried egg, bacon, wasabi mayo and sweet, vinegary tonkatsu sauce. Good luck. Seattle, 6538 Fourth Ave. S, 206.762.0752; Bellevue, 12700 SE 38th St., 425.971.7228; Lynnwood, 3333 184th St. SW, Suite B, 425.622.4500; katsuburger.com
The Fat Albert
The new Seattle branch of this Los Angeles sandwich shack, located inside the music venue Chop Suey, is responsible for The Fat Albert ($10), a hamburger with a glazed doughnut for a bun. In between is a patty covered with melted provolone, bacon and maple syrup drippings. Too sweet? Try The Hendrix ($11), which is topped with deep-fried cream cheese, deep-fried jalapeño crisps, sautéed mushrooms, onions and a tangy-sweet sauce. Capitol Hill, 1325 E Madison St.; theescondite.com
John Howie Steak
Made with ground USDA prime chuck mixed with ground Kurobuta bacon, this burger is stuffed with house-smoked whole-milk mozzarella cheese, grilled over mesquite and layered with balsamic-marinated tomatoes, fresh basil, crispy coppa and roasted garlic balsamic aioli on a house-baked sweet roll. Lunch only, Monday–Friday. Bellevue, 11111 NE Eighth St., Suite 125; 425.440.0880; johnhowiesteak.com
Le Petit Cochon
Our priciest over-the-top pick, this burger’s laundry list of ingredients speaks for itself. Chef/owner Derek Ronspies fashions a mix of short rib, brisket and bone marrow plus salt-cured foie, fig jam and truffle aioli. He tops off the entire naughty thing with arugula pistou, pickled red onion, onion rings and salted thyme chips. ’Nough said. $24. Fremont, 701 N 36th St., Suite 200; 206.829.8943;
There are secret menus at burger spots—and then there are burgers hidden on menus of restaurants ostensibly focused on other cuisine. Our sleuthing sussed out this trio of undercover patties
Tat’s in Pioneer Square
This burger gets lost in the shuffle of all the deli’s (otherworldly) cheesesteaks, but it’s really damned good, says our wine writer Paul Zitarelli, who spied this one. Tat’s offers an 8-inch (three patties, $9.50) or a 12-inch (four patties, $13) with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo and a little bit of secret dried-herb mix. “Have one of these with the cheese fries for lunch, and it’s game over for productivity for the afternoon,” Zitarelli reports. Pioneer Square, 159 Yesler Way; 206.264.8287; tatsdeli.com
The 12-inch Tat’s secret burger with American cheese, and cheese fries
Scoop du Jour
An ice cream joint is the last place you’d expect to grab a burger, but if you time it right, you can taste the stuff legends are made of, as any Madison Park native will tell you. Griddle-cooked, spiked heavily with black pepper, and stacked so high with lettuce, tomato and bacon that it’s impossible to get your mouth around it, this burger is a true local favorite. Go before 3 p.m. on a weekday when the owner is working; he’s the only one who makes this coveted burger. Cash only. Madison Park, 4029 E Madison St.; 206.325.9562
OK, even though this is already a great spot for a burger, and this one isn’t exactly a secret (see Burgers and Beer section, page 127), Quinn’s Ultra burger is a “chef’s choice” burger, built on the basic Quinn’s burger and always including bacon, cheese, foie gras and a fried duck egg. However, it might also be topped with short ribs or whatever else sounds good to the chef that day. Rumor has it that the going price is $30, but if you have to ask.… Capitol Hill, 1001 E Pike St.; 206.325.7711; quinnspubseattle.com
The Best French Fries
With or without a burger, french fries are the epitome of comforting starchy, salty, crispy goodness. Naturally, fries are found everywhere and in a variety of styles, from thin, uber-crunchy matchsticks (Li’l Woody’s, CaliBurger) to wedge-like, plump and fluffy fatties (Loretta’s Northwesterner, Saint John’s Bar & Eatery). When it comes to girth, our favorites typically fall somewhere in between, with a golden, crunchy outside, zero gush of grease, and a warm, soft interior. Here are four eateries with standout fries.
Elliott Bay Brewing Company
Elliott Bay Brewing’s Hawaii Five-0 burger and a hefeweizen
The hand-cut russets offered at this family-friendly brewpub are covered in a zesty seasoning of kosher salt, white and black pepper, paprika, coriander, nutmeg, garlic, onion and cumin. The complementary chipotle aioli dipping sauce adds even more kick with its bold mixture of chipotles in adobo sauce, brown sugar, mayo, hot sauce, lime juice and cilantro. West Seattle, 4720 California Ave. SW, 206.932.8695; also in Burien and Lake City; elliottbaybrewing.com
Yes, it’s an East Coast–based chain, but, man, does it make a good fry. Rough-cut Idaho russets with their skins left in all the right spots, these medium-size beauties are studded with salt and fried in peanut oil until they have just the right creamy consistency on the inside. The medium size is served in a 12-ounce paper cup that runneth over plentifully in a paper bag. Ballard, Northgate and Lynnwood; fiveguys.com
Great State Burger
Remember Ore-Ida’s Golden Crinkles in the freezer section of the grocery store? Josh Henderson’s version is made from Yukon Gold potatoes, cut to order and fried in small batches daily. The fries are perfect in size, piping hot, golden in color, crunchy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. Laurelhurst, 3600 NE 45th St., 206.775.8990; downtown, 2041 Seventh Ave., 206.775.7880; greatstateburger.com
Best Places for Beer and Burgers
What is a more classic—and satisfying—pairing than a burger and a beer? Seattle beer authority Kendall Jones unveils the top five restaurants for finding matches made in heaven
Beardslee Public House
Chef John Howie’s kid-friendly and expansive Bothell brewpub is casual, like a Northwest version of a German beer hall, with lots of natural light, large communal tables and rustic wood paneling. The menu features just three basic burgers: prime beef, wagyu, and vegetarian. The prime beef burger ($12.50) delivers all that you’d expect from the chef/owner of John Howie Steak, Sport and Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, with a house-made potato bun that is soft and pillowy but hearty enough to withstand the smoky, savory Beardslee burger sauce and the onslaught of delicious juice seeping from the all-beef patty. All burgers come à la carte, and you select toppings as you please: fontina, blue, American or cheddar cheese ($1), and/or sautéed mushrooms, bacon and fried egg ($2). All 12 beers offered are brewed on site; order the prime beef burger with the mushrooms and fontina, and pair it with the house-brewed stout, a beer bold enough to stand up to the savory mushrooms and creamy cheese. Bothell, 19116 Beardslee Blvd., No. 201; 425.286.1001; beardsleeph.com
Elliott Bay Brewing
Each of Elliott Bay Brewing’s three family-friendly brewpubs (Burien, Lake City, West Seattle) serve exceptionally drool-worthy burgers, made with all-natural beef from Open Prairie Ranch in Sprague, Washington; and hearty buns, made with the brewery’s spent grain, a tasty by-product of the brewing process. The West Seattle location, the original, is cozy and comfortably cramped, while the other two locations are sprawling and sleek. All three offer nearly the same great selection of burgers and many of the same beers, brewed at each location. The Hawaii Five-O burger ($11.25) features Swiss cheese, pineapple and a light teriyaki sauce, and pairs exceptionally well with the brewery’s own hefeweizen, which has some latent fruity notes that are awakened by the sweet, citrus flavor of the burger. Burien, 255 SW 152nd St., 206.246.4211; Lake City, 12537 Lake City Way NE,; 206.365.2337; West Seattle, 4720 California Ave. SW, 206.932.8695; elliottbaybrewing.com
Located on California Avenue in West Seattle, this bright and cheerful little burger shack focuses squarely on 10 burgers and six well-chosen local draft beers. The hand-formed patties are served on house-made buns that are reminiscent of Wonder Bread in all the right ways—soft, slightly sweet and nostalgic. Grown-ups and kids alike line up at the counter to order burgers and then find one of the few seats available at this super-casual, beach-themed eatery. The PB&J burger features house-made peanut butter, sweet jalapeño jelly, pepper jack and bacon (see page 120). Wash down the creaminess of the peanut butter and the sweet heat of the jelly with a Copper ale, which Seattle’s Lowercase Brewing brews exclusively for Coastline and its sister restaurant, Copper Coin, which is just a mile away. West Seattle, 4444 California Ave. SW; 206.946.6827; Facebook, “Coastline Burgers”
Giddy Up Burgers
Ballard’s Giddy Up Burgers serves a selection of at least seven (the menu can vary a bit) creatively extravagant burgers in a Western-themed atmosphere, with a few tasteful touches of cowboy kitsch throughout the large, open room, which sprawls into a year-round atrium area. Step up to the counter and order a burger to accompany one of 28 draft beers, and then find a seat at one of the large, picnic-style tables or a cozy wood-paneled booth. The Giddy Up burger ($9.60) is piled high with shredded lettuce, bacon, pepper jack cheese, pickled jalapeños, onions, fire sauce (house-made habanero/Fresno hot sauce) and more. Wash it down with a pint of pilsner from Chuckanut Brewery to soothe the burn; the heat will actually help amplify the beer’s hop flavors. For the li’l buckaroos, the kids’ menu offers a burger, a sloppy joe or a grilled cheese for just $5.50. Ballard, 4600 Leary Way NW; 206.782.2798; giddyupburgers.com
This all-ages sit-down restaurant in the Mount Baker neighborhood feels more like a trendy new sushi bar than a burger joint, with floor-to-ceiling windows, modish lighting and polished concrete floors. The menu offers several creative burgers as well as a BYOB (build your own burger) option, along with five draft beers, which rotate seasonally. The smoky lamb burger ($13) features a rich and slightly gamey lamb and bacon patty served on a potato bun, with fontina cheese, arugula, grilled red onion and hazelnut romesco. Pair it with a dark, rich beer—such as the robust porter from Reuben’s Brews, if available—and let the roasted malt flavor accentuate the meat’s smoky character and the romesco’s earthiness. Mount Baker, 1372 31st Ave. S; 206.829.9816; heydayseattle.com
A Beacon Hill secret, largely unknown to those living in other ZIP codes, this brewery and pub is small in size, big on flavor (food and beer) and always packed with neighborhood regulars of all ages (meaning it’s kid-friendly). Light from west- and north-facing, ceiling-height windows warmly illuminates rustic wood beams stretching above ample counter seating and small, bar-height tables that comfortably seat no more than three. Drier, warmer weather allows more seating outside at picnic-style tables beneath large awnings. The wildly popular Beacon burger ($10) offers house-smoked pork belly atop an all-natural beef patty with cheddar, sweet onion, tomato, romaine and generous gobs of smoked-chile aioli, all served on a brioche bun toasted on the same flat-top grill that cooks the meat. The thick and drippy burger’s decadent flavors are aroused by the sweet and smoky character of the Johnny “Tacoma” Scottish ale, which is just one of more than a dozen house-brewed beers you’ll find on tap. Beacon Hill, 2800 16th Ave. S; 206.200.3935; perihelion.beer
Although it is kid friendly, you won’t spot too many young’uns at Quinn’s Pub in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where as many as 19 carefully curated, constantly rotating draft beers are served. The place is hip but comfy, with rustic exposed beams and dark wood decor. The menu offers just one, no-frills burger ($15)—a fat, 8-ounce Painted Hills beef patty topped with white cheddar and thick-sliced bacon, and served with mayonnaise on a brioche bun. You’ll recognize simplicity as a virtue when you chomp into this rich, luscious burger, which begs to be paired with an equally robust beer, like a Fat Scotch ale from Silver City Brewery. If you want a more adventurous burger, order it “ultra style” (see secret burgers on page 122). Capitol Hill, 1001 E Pike St.; 206.325.7711; quinnspubseattle.com
This no-frills, all-ages, order-at-the-counter burger shack in Fremont offers an array of options, ranging from the ultra-simple Classic burger ($5) to a more imaginative selection of signature burgers, all accompanied by 10 draft beers. Some inside seating, mostly two-top tables, is supported by picnic tables on the deck, with roll-up garage doors for the warmer months. The most popular burger is the cremini mushroom burger ($9), which features a one-third-pound patty with cremini and porcini mushrooms, black truffle salt, shallots and Gruyère cheese. Pair it with a pint of Manny’s pale ale, Seattle’s most popular beer, which has enough hop character to cut through the richness of the cheese, but enough malty sweetness to stand up to the overall richness of the burger. Fremont, 4302 Fremont Ave. N; 206.547.2600; uneedaburger.com
Plant One On
Ask vegetarians what the best meatless burger is and they’ll tell you: the one that doesn’t fall apart the second you take a bite. Bold flavors and perky toppings are key. And it should be handmade, of course. These four are creative and taste fantastic.
House-made Veggie Burger
Beardslee Public House
Black-eyed peas and quinoa give this hefty burger a memorable combination of texture and flavor; with kale and pickled onion delivering crunch, and the addition of sweet potatoes bringing smoothness to the patty. Overall, a very individual veggie burger, and its garlic aioli topping delivers just the right creamy, herby touch. $12. Bothell, 19116 Beardslee Blvd.; 425.286.1001; beardsleeph.com
Buffalo Portobello Burger
A few things elevate this food truck’s vegan portobello burger from the standard mushroom burger. Namely, it is breaded and then slathered in hot buffalo sauce and grilled onions. Fresh, crunchy cucumbers and ranch aioli help cool things down (plumbistro.com; click on “Food Truck” for schedule). $8; also on the dinner menu, $17 (with russet potatoes), at Plum Bistro. Capitol Hill, 1429 12th Ave.; 206.838.5333
How ironic to find a fine veggie burger in a temple of pork belly. Skillet’s house-made version starts with farro from Bluebird Grain Farms that is roasted for a meaty bite with a variety of seasonal mushrooms. The burger is served on a toasted Macrina potato bun with crisp veggies, pickled shallots and triple pepper mayo. The price, $15, is steep, but it comes with a side of hand-cut fries, soup or salad. Ballard, Capitol Hill, Seattle Center and South Lake Union; 206.512.2000; skilletfood.com
House-made Black Bean Burger
Snout & Co.
Oh, lordy. Cuban flavors in a veggie burger are pretty much the bomb. You get a thick, hand-formed patty of black beans, beets, quinoa and water chestnuts charred to a crisp and topped with arugula, Havarti and tangy red onion relish—from a food truck. We loved it. $9. Food truck schedule changes every other month (check Facebook, “Snout & Co.,” for current schedule).
Hop on the Patty Wagon
Got a beef with beef? Get your burger on with another variety of ground meat
Lola’s lamb burger, served with chick pea fries and cumin-spiked dipping sauce
Lean but juicy, Lola’s Anderson Ranch lamb burger is served red in the middle and offers burger lovers a hearty patty topped with char-grilled red onion, gently pickled peppers and a handful of pungent arugula. It’s served with addictive chickpea fries and a house-made dipping sauce spiked with cumin. At $18.25, it’s a delicious splurge. Downtown, 2000 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.1430; tomdouglas.com
Clean (read: not gamey) and slightly sweet, Uneeda’s elk burger ($13.50) is made with free-range Nicky Farms elk and topped with spring greens, shredded prosciutto, Manchego cheese and a Meyer lemon aioli. Hot damn, it’s good. Fremont, 4302 Fremont Ave. N; 206.547.2600; uneedaburger.com
Finely marbled and super tender, this Texas-pasture-raised bison (with house-made veggie chips for $16) gets the gourmet treatment with sweet onion jam, pickled apple, shaved kale, black garlic aioli and cheddar. If that’s not enough for you, add nitrate-free Niman Ranch bacon for $2. Fremont, 704 N 34th St.; 206.900.7186; evefremont.com
The debate goes on at this east Ballard pocket eatery and upscale quick stop: Is it a sandwich or is it a burger? This finely blended mix of beef and pork is puréed to the texture of foie gras, formed into a round patty, grilled, and topped with cheese, lettuce, pickles, caramelized onions, mayo and tomato, and then placed on a Grand Central Bakery roll ($9.50). We’re going with burger. Wait, better order another one just to be sure. Ballard, 6757 Eighth Ave. NW; 206.420.8104; take5urbanmarket.com
Scooter’s Burgers & Shakes
An old-school burger stand, this Ballard outpost offers everything you want in a cheeseburger ($5.39): a griddle-pressed patty with crispy edges, topped with shredded lettuce and served on an enriched white bun. Cooked to order, doused with a creamy, tart burger sauce and wrapped in paper, this classic promises to be messy. Order house-made onion rings ($3) with your burger, sit at the small counter inside, or head outdoors to the picnic tables, and be sure to grab a stack of napkins. Ballard, 5802 24th Ave. NW; 206.782.2966