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Lunchbox Laboratory Revisited

  • c

My son and I drove to Seattle yesterday. We had been to the Lunchbox before, so my son chose it as our lunch destination. I noticed a couple of changes. They now have a choice of two sizes of burger patties, and there were fewer people.

I remember reading a couple of posts from people that found the burgers too large. You now have an option.

The lack of patrons is scary..I know "the economy"..I would like to ask those who haven't yet enjoyed a creative burger at the Lab to give it a try. Those who have, stop in again. I am not related to the establishment, I am an out of towner that likes what they have to offer. I'd hate to see them go.

FYI - The sweet potato fries were yummy!

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  1. Yes, the mantra support what you love is a good one. I once owned a restaurant and about 2 years in a couple came in looking for the previous tenant another restaurant, wondering where their "favorite" restaurant had gone! It had been closed for close to 3 years! Fine way to treat your favorite! As we tighten our belts we must remember the business that we love need extra attention or they will be gone.

    1. Good point - it has been awhile since I visited the Lab and you're absolutely right about being repeat patrons at our favorite restaurants in these times.

      1. I've been avoiding it because I always think, ugh, I don't want to deal with the mobs. It sounds like I need to go!

        2 Replies
        1. re: christy319

          Just got back from dinner. No mobs, very quick turnaround on the food orders. Husband had the "hothead" special -- jalapenos, pepperjack, etc. He says it was very good. Son had the dork and sweet potato fries - he enjoyed both. I had the lamb burger with goat cheese and Scott's special onions. I don't like burgers in general, this was delicious. Shoestring fries decent, and vanilla chai milk shake outstanding. Had read reviews that the burgers were too large, too greasy etc. Can't agree at all. We will definitely be back.

          1. re: terra

            Made what seems to have become my regular pilgrimage to the Lab this weekend and was impressed as ever. It's definitely time to get out and show the flag if you want to keep them going, as it seems the widespread reports of popularity have led to a serious drop off in attendance. Go out and support the place, give someone a gift certificate for Christmas, haul your friends there, do what you can.

            Andrew

        2. I went to the Lab last week, bringing a friend with me, and once again enjoyed a fantastic burger. I've finally settled on "The Burger of the Gods" as the best burger in the Puget Sound area. I'd like to re-affirm Curt's call- we need to patronize Scott and Allegra's regularly
          and spread the word. Let's try to keep them going- they've created a great place.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ScottT

            Lunchbox is not my favorite place though I will give it another try. But ScottT makes an EXCELLENT point---if you have a small restaurant you love, PATRONIZE to the best of your budget. Eatting out is one of the first things that people stop doing when times are hard. Personally, we are devoting our dining out food dollars to a limited collection of little places we want to survive and skipping completely the big dollar places.
            So if you like Lunchbox or if, like me, you weren't sure and planned to give them a second shot, make haste.

          2. I attempted go last night, but the hours have changed and I could not get my fix. They are now open 7 days a week. From what I can remember, I believe that the schedule is Sun-Wed (but maybe just Mon-Wed) 11-5. Th-Sat (maybe Sun) 11-8. Don't quote me on the exact time/days, but I'm fairly certain that's what it is. I couldn't tell you for sure, but this seems like an ominous sign that the original poster was correct. Go get yourself a burger!

            1. If this lack of patronage is ongoing, it could be explained by...hmmm...the prices.

              I had never visited their website (or the actual Lab) before, but I see that burgers are $9-11, not including cheese, which is an additional $2. Then if you want toppings, an additional $1-3, for items including relish and cooked onions. Fries? Another $3. So that's a minium of $15 for a cheeseburger with relish or cooked onions and fries.

              Quinn's burger, including bacon, cheese and fries is $13, and that's a pretty serious burger in a classy setting. I thought Lunchbox was a place where you order from the counter, albeit a counter surrounded by a quirky and interesting ambiance.

              Am I missing something, or should the Lab drop their tarriff by a few bucks?

              1 Reply
              1. re: equinoise

                you forgot to mention the very small $4 milkshake.......
                When we went, we bought a shake to share---thats what we do at places like Redmill and there is always ample shake. At $4 a pop, I never dreamed that I would get about the same amount of shake that fills my lowball glass at home. yikes.
                So I would definitely say that prices might be impacting patronage especially since I really wasn't that impressed--my wild boar burger was exceptionally dry.

              2. The Lab didn't impress me or the people I was with. I found it to be overpriced for what I got. I'd rather take my dough to Quinns for a better burger and atmosphere.

                7 Replies
                1. re: misshamburglar

                  Just got back from another great meal there- to the two naysayers above, I'm somewhat surprised that lack of quantity or perceived value for dollar are charges levelled against this place. The beef burger is far superior to that at Quinn's in my opinion, and the Dork is absolutely fantastic. The fries as LL are excellent and consistent, something I can't say for those at Quinn's (I like Quinn's a lot, but the fries have been really hit or miss there), and the tater tots are absolutely brilliant. The options for accoutremants are vast, creative, and excellent.

                  I've had some great 'gourmet' burgers for far more coin in LA and NYC than I drop at LL regularly, and have yet to have one I consider superior.

                  Bitch, whine, moan- on any given Sunday Lunchbox Laboratory may be serving the best burger in the country- food that wouldn't be out of place at any number of joints where the burger is the cheap option at $25+.

                  1. re: AndrewS

                    "bitch whine and moan"???? because I don't like it? hmmm. thems fighting words.

                    I didn't think we were comparing LL to places all over the country but if thats the game then, imho, 25 Degrees on Hollywood Blvd in LA is vastly superior to LL and that includes the creative angle.

                    LL not to my taste. For the money, I like Red Mill better. The LL burger WAS dry as a bone, the milkshake was tiny and the so called devils' tears catsup---described by the staff as incrediably hot and piquent--- was mistaken for plain old catsup by my 6 & 8 year old who dipped lettuce into it.

                    At this point, I don't particularly like LL, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit [contrast Bamboo Gardens in Bellevue] ---I wanted to like it but I didn't. That said, I'm willing to give it a second chance however if you really think LL serves the best burger in the country, you may need to get out more......

                    1. re: jenn

                      Red Mill Burgers serve patties the consistency of cardboard. Not that the poor quality meat at LL is much better, but at least its juicy.

                    2. re: AndrewS

                      IMO...the burgers are way too thin and because they pan-fry them they hold the grease which is absorbed by the bun....which makes the 'pile' a GREASY burger. Their toppings attempt to camouflage this burger mess....that doesn't do it for me quality-wise. Plus, the so-called-by-you "absolutey brilliant" fries and tater tots are pre-frozen commercially manufactured and IMO tasteless and also greasy. You want a REAL tasty burger...that can actually be cooked medium-rare, if you so desire, to really enjoy the quality of the meat....try the Pig N Whistle Pub on Greenwood and 85th...not far from LL.

                      1. re: staffstuff

                        I have to disagree on the fries and taters. I know they are frozen commercial products but whatever Scott does to them makes them fantastic. Unlike, I'm sorry to say, what Steelhead does to their frozen commercial fries (which is to say nothing).

                        1. re: Lauren

                          As usual, Lauren, you have a good point. If LL's are frozen and commercial, they sure don't taste like it. However, I'm somewhat in agreement with what some folks here have said about the beef. I just don't think the quality and/or freshness is that high. The condiments and add-ons make it work somehow, but it's not the ultimate, IMHO.

                          1. re: Lauren

                            Really? It seems to me the Tots aren't really all that different from anywhere else that you can get them... I mean they're fried instead of lamely baked and they're seasoned nicely, but I don't taste a difference between LL and say McNemanmin's or even Leny's.

                            That said, tater tots are awesome, so you know, that's what I always go with when I go.

                    3. AndrewS - I'm not bitching, whining or moaning when I say LL is not great. It's mediorce and I'm comparing it to the numerous places in NYC where you can get a far superior burger for less than what you pay at LL. Waterfront Ale House, Jamesons, JG Melon and Corner Bistro to name a few. I'd say LL is on par with Jackson Hole and even that's a stretch. I'm not saying Quinn's is the best, it's just better than most I've tried in Seattle. Having lived most of my life in NYC, I can't comment on LA restaurants but your comment that LL is best in the country? I don't think so.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: misshamburglar

                        I'd say that Lunchbox Laboratory more than holds its own against the following places listed in various 'best burger in the country' lists which I have eaten at:

                        The Counter- Santa Monica- the meat's better at the Lab, especially the ground short rib
                        Bobcat's Bite- Santa Fe- green chiles don't make up for the patty (which is decent, but not outstanding)
                        Your Father's Office- Santa Monica- tops many a 'best burger' list- I'd call it even with the Lab, but I do prefer the Lab's bun (too dense at YFO), and only sweet potato fries, no ketchup is annoying
                        Apple Pan- LA- really should be in a different category, like In and Out, Pie and Burger, and, from what I understand, Red Mill (haven't made it there yet).

                        Haven't tried the NYC joints you mention and I don't have my notes from my last couple of trips (which were more pizza-centric), but I frankly consider East Coast burger standards to be equivalent to West Coast pizza standards.

                        After eating at Lunchbox Laboratory 10-15 times my blow-by-blow is:

                        Bun- excellent- sweet white bread with enough crust for satisfying chew, and enough volume to contain and absorb the (copious) burger drippings
                        Meats- excellent- occasionally I've had a burger come out towards medium well, but I generally have gotten a proper medium (and haven't been asking for doneness). As I understand it, the beef is ground daily. They definitely use a slightly coarser grind than the supermarket standard (the preference of many a burger afficianado), and a looser pack on the patty which has, in my experience, always came out juicy. They usually are using stuff which is organic and regional, too.
                        Toppings- high quality, interesting. I don't remember where they source their bacon, but it's quite good. The sauces are memorable.
                        Sides- consistently excellent fries and tater tots.

                        GQ
                        <http://men.style.com/gq/features/full...>
                        WSJ
                        <http://online.wsj.com/public/resource...>

                      2. I hear some complaints about LL's high prices ($15 for a burger?), so I thought I'd bring this place up.

                        Red Line Burger on Hwy 99 (1-2 blocks from 99 Ranch) in Lynnwood is pretty nice. The ingredients are really fresh, and they charge only $5-$6 for a pretty good-sized burger. It's run by this young couple who opened a few months ago. From talking with them, they emphasize the quality of the ingredients quite a bit.

                        I've never been to LL (it's on my list), but I can't imagine paying 3 times the cost would get me a burger even twice as good, let alone 3 times.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: HungWeiLo

                          It's a worthy entry in the eater's journal.
                          Even if it's only once.

                        2. I guess I am still new to Seattle. I had never heard of this place. I will be going this weekend. Sounds fabulous!

                          1. I cannot say they aren't expensive compared to other burgers of a similar stature. I think that a good way to get value here is to order the specials that they've created ($14 for burger plus side or soft drink). I've tried several and am very surprise with the "dry as a bone" comments. Check out anything with the super beef. My personal opinion is that the hot head is the best burger I've ever had.

                            1. Anyone who has dined @ Delux on Camelback in Phoenix care to compare the two?

                              1. Just ate at LL last night. An overwhelming menu (in a good way) and I, along with my fellow diners, all really enjoyed our burgers. Great toppings, especially the bacon, thick slices which you could actually taste, unlike many other places around town. My two main problems were that the sides were heavily oversalted and the price. Sure you're paying for a higher quality product, which I appreciate, but $20+ for a burger, fries, and a shake is just too much to keep me coming back regularly, sadly because I'd love to try more of their offerings.

                                1. I absolutely love their food and think it's utterly divine, plus the people who work there are so nice! I cannot say one negative thing about that place!!!!

                                  1. I went to LL last week with my partner and ordered the Burger of the Gods, Churken, tater tots and sweet potato fries. It was all way too greasy and salty, not to mention the price.

                                    AndrewS - I'd like to understand what makes a West Coast burger better than an East Coast burger? Nine of the Top 20 from your link are East Coast. What East Coast places are you comparing to LL?

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: exNYer

                                      exNYer,

                                      I said " I frankly consider East Coast burger standards to be equivalent to West Coast pizza standards." - SoCal may not have been where the burger was born but the takeout variety took form there. That form evolved into corporate fast food burgers- one of the most popular foods on the planet. There are places all over SoCal and the West Coast which are small individual places (and some larger chains, such as In and Out, Fatburger, Tommy's) still doing good burgers much like those the whole thing started with in post-WW2 car culture. Just like the east coast (and NYC in particular) has more little hole-in-the-wall places doing pizza right, the west coast has more burger joints in a similar vein.

                                      Andrew

                                      1. re: AndrewS

                                        In my travels, I find $9-12 dollars for a high quality burger to be pretty much the average. Chicago, NYC, Atlanta, and here, it really doesn't vary too much.

                                        I've found a few major burger types:

                                        1) Low quality, small pattie/ large varied toppings
                                        I'd say Red Mill and Red Robin fall into this category

                                        2) Higher quality pattie/large varied common toppings
                                        Fatburger, in and Out,, many small independent joints

                                        3) Multiple size high quality patties/large selection gourment toppings
                                        Lunchbox Laboratory, steak houses, "unique" dives we love and know

                                        4) Nibbles, Bites, and Trios
                                        Chain restaurants reducing the size of entree's and smothering them with
                                        a multitude of toppings. "There's a burger there someplace!". and the server
                                        has enough "flare" on their uniform.

                                        I like fresh burgers, all beef, a nice 80/20 mix of decent quality, medium rare, fresh toppings, and a good bun. That's not too much to ask right ?

                                        1. re: TaylorRoot

                                          I ate at In n' Out in Burbank recently. The burger patty wasn't "higher quality"; it was on par with Red Mill or Red Robin. The fries were cloying, pasty and truly inedible. Granted that was one visit, and I don't know any "secret codes". Still, it shouldn't take a password to get a decent burger and fries.

                                          1. re: equinoise

                                            Locations vary and also remember that with chains you have company owned locations and franchisee owned places. I've actually had Jack In The Box sirloin patties better than many sit down restaurants. It gets that bad.

                                            1. re: TaylorRoot

                                              In-N-Out is privately owned and not a franchise. That being said, the quality of the beef is much better than Red Mill and Red Robin (at half the price), the variety of toppings is far from "large", and the fries are inedible.

                                              1. re: foomie

                                                Carls might be a better example. I think you get my point though. And I'm really not looking at sides (fries, rings, etc).

                                                1. re: foomie

                                                  I don't really care for In-N-Out or Red Mill or Red Robin or Fat Burger. I just don't think the 1/4+ patty works well as a fast food burger. When I eat a patty that big, I need it to be medium rare. When they are cooked through they just don't feel right to me.

                                                  For a fast food burger, I much prefer Dicks. For some reason, the cooked all the way through beef doesn't bother me as much on the thin patty.

                                              2. re: equinoise

                                                In N Out fries has its lovers and haters... it just depends on if you like airy fries. Personally, I love em. They don't feel as greasy to me as others.

                                                Their burger though... at less than half the price AND at a quality as good as (IMHO, better than) Red Mill or Red Robin, it is way way way better. Even without secret codes, it's just a good, regular go-to fast food burger.

                                                1. re: equinoise

                                                  As I've mentioned in a previous post, the Pig 'n Whistle has a great burger but their fries are disappointing. If I could combine the fabulous fries at Copper Gate with the burger at Pig 'n Whistle it would be sublime!