I was originally going to write this in an email to Tom Philpott, but I decided the Gristian masses deserve to know as well, in case y’all ever make it up to Seattle.
I bring you an important announcement: the quest for the Best Burger Ever is over. Call it off. We’re done. Finito.
On Friday I had lunch at a dingy little hole-in-the-wall in the Ballard district of Seattle called Lunchbox Laboratory (excuse their epically awful website).
Though occasionally daily specials stray (a pasta here, mashed potatoes there), basically the place is about burgers and fries. But that’s like saying Picasso was about paints.
First you choose a meat. "Super beef" is three kinds of steak, all grass-fed, ground on-site twice daily. You can also get buffalo, lamb, "dork" (duck and pork), falafel (for the veggies), and others, depending on the day.
Then you choose from about 10 kinds of cheese, from cheddar to goat to gorgonzola. Toppings range from bacon to peppercinis to chopped green olives. Three kinds of ketchup. Around 10 kinds of mayonnaise. At least 10 "other" sauces, including, e.g., "balsamic hoisin" and basil aioli.
Then the choice of fries — regular, shoestring, sweet potato, breaded … or perhaps you’d prefer mac’n’cheese or chili. Oh, and if you get fries there are about 10 different kinds of salt to choose from. Seriously.
The sodas are all corn syrup-free, sugar cane-based, including Coke from Mexico and a bizarre variety of others (they make pineapple soda?!). Then there are 10 or so flavors of milkshake, from chocolate-peppermint to vanilla-honey chai.
All of this is written on a chalkboard, and changes constantly. (According to the website they had wild boar burgers for a while.)
I had one of the daily specials: the "Mafia Surprise," a beef burger with bacon relish, fresh basil, fresh garlic, and white asparagus cream cheese. Yes, white asparagus cream cheese. This was accompanied by sweet potato fries with the "kosher ‘n’ pepper" salt blend and orange-cinnamon iced tea.
To die for. The food coma, however, is only now fading, a day later.
Eating at Lunchbox Laboratory frequently would lead inexorably to high blood pressure and obesity, but my God, I can’t believe I’ve been in the same city with this place and haven’t been before. Imagine if there were more places like this: small, locally owned, focusing on a few key dishes, unpretentious but obsessed with quality, using only to organic, local, or high-quality ingredients. The world would be a better place, I tell you.