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1253 Thomas Street
Seattle, WA 98109 (map)
A Burger for Dexter –
Back in Washington! It’s been over two years since I’ve been to this beautiful state. En route to majestic Mt. Rainier, I made sure to sample yet another burger in search of the best burger that the pacific northwest can offer. After some scientific research, I was led to the LunchBox Laboratory in Seattle. Rated as the Best Burger in Washington according to the Food Network and one of the 12 best burgers in the nation by Epicurious, the expectations and hype were a little higher than usual. We made our way over to LBL which, coincidentally, is on the same corner as the REI Flagship store. My wife does not believe that this was a coincidence but nevertheless, we were going to head that way anyway before making our way the the mountain. Remembering the last two burgers I had in and around this town, Red Mill and XXX Root Beer, I had high hopes for the Lab.
We arrived on a chilly and overcast Seattle day and found a seat outside. Our waiter came out and rather unenthusiastically took our drink order, giving us time to make sense of the verbose menu. When the time came to take our order, our waiter began complaining about the number of “build your own” burgers our group was ordering. It didn’t seem like he was trying to be funny but maybe I don’t get Seattle humor. Rude service aside, it was now my time to order.
Weird Science –
Based on my research and the recommendation of Epicurious, I simply ordered “The Burger of the Gods”. This burger seemed to have it all! Balsamic soaked onions… gorgonzola sauce…. a patty mixture of kobe ribeye and chuck…. mmmm. As an added benefit, this simple order would not burden our waiter further with the custom burger issues he was having. I went with a side of tater tots which LBL proudly admits to having. I love tots so gotta have ’em. My wife’s custom burger was a basic build with lettuce, mayo, and patty but she also added “Million Island Burger Sauce” which is LBLs version of thousand island dressing. She also ordered the sweet potato fries. To top it off, my sister in law opted for chocolate cherry shake made with local Rainier cherries. All in all, it seemed like we had all of the ingredients for a grand experiment.While we waited, we enjoyed the cool weather, the noticeably 90’s Seattle rock music being played over the radio, and talking about our camping plans.
After about ten minutes, out came the fancy burger spread. These burgers definitely appeal to the gourmet, artistic end of the burger spectrum. As I inspected my godly grub, I noticed that the organic (there’s the O word again) kaiser bun had an intense toasting to it. It was not burned but was the color of deeply browned butter and also had an extremely hard texture on the toasted side. I reassembled my burger, hoisted it with both hands and bit in. Angelic visions of sweet balsamic onions and pungent gorgonzola filled my vision! Whether intentional or not, the hard toasted bun gave a very nice contrast in texture to the other, more yielding ingredients. The flavor of the patty was not really at play here. It gave a nice beefy backdrop to the stars of the show. This was a very great tasting burger with very intense flavors. So intense that by the end of the burger, my taste buds were tired. I sampled my wife’s burger and found it similar in texture with much different flavors at play. The “million island” dressing was slightly sweet and seemed to match up much better with the patty and cheddar rather than over powering them.
The tater tots were a little disappointing. I hoped that the same level of creativity we were seeing in the burgers would be applied to the sides, similar in effort to the tots at Block 7. The tots were basically the same you can get anywhere. I don’t think these were made in house, but if they were, then I am impressed by the accuracy with which they replicated them. The sweet potato fries were cooked nicely and seasoned with sea salt. I sampled the chocolate cherry shake, and i have to say, it was really good. The fresh cherries were a nice touch to create the classic combination of chocolate covered cherries.
The Wrap It Up –
The test results are in. The lab was an interesting and tasty Burger Tyme…. but it was also an experience where you have to pay for the privilege. My “Burger of the Gods” was the cheapest burger option at a steep $13. Sides were and additional three. Add to that beverages and tip and we spent well over $20 a person on this little experiment. While the burgers were good, they were not good enough to justify that steep of a price. I came here expecting to be wowed by creativity and originality but did not find it. The texture was intersting but new burger ground was not being broken here. For example, the signature “Burger of the Gods” was good but was simliar in concept to an over wrought version of the Good Dog burger in Philadelphia.
All in all, the Lab is an experience but if I lived in Seattle, I might go here every now and then for some high quality burgers. However, I’m afraid I would keep searching for the best burger. Until next trip!