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The New Lunchbox Laboratory

I stumbled onto the reincarnation of LL last week and had to try it. Maybe I was put off by the change from grumpy "Order at the Counter" to fake hospitable "Laminated Menu Table Service". Maybe it was the location, in the black heart of Allenville (he and his BG were actually there). Maybe it was the down-sized, up-priced version of the Burger of the Gods w/ cold tots.

Now, the old location was surely a Hole Extraordinaire, and the seating was a joke. But I'm kinda wishing I could go back...

Anyone else agree or dis-?

Lunchbox Laboratory
1253 Thomas Street, Seattle, WA 98109

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  1. I miss the Dork patty and DIY aesthetic of the old joint. OTOH, I like the proximity and liquor license at the new location. Both felt about a buck-fifty overpriced per burger.

    Best burger in SEA right now is Local 360, by a mile.

    4 Replies
    1. re: terrier

      haven't been to 360, how does it compare with Zippys?

      1. re: terrier

        Better than Palace and Quinn's? I'll have to get our Burger of the Month club on it. We had a great (on par with Palace and Quinn's) burger at 5 Corner Market last month.

        1. re: Lauren

          Yes, better than Palace Kitchen and Quinn's, for sure.

          I will have to try 5 Corner Market.

          Kaleokahu, can't compare to Pb, never went.

          Palace Kitchen
          2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

        2. re: terrier

          terrier: This is comparing the living and the dead, but my all time gold-standard burger in Seattle was the one at the old Pb (Lead) wine bar on 2nd Avenue. Is Local 360's in that league?

        3. I'm very fond of actual, individual tables--never been a fan of the communal table thing at its best (and the one at their old location wasn't it). I miss the wildly chaotic and ever-changing menu, but the burgers are still amazing. The full bar is a good thing (even though they're overworking the Tang-based cocktails). And most important, they've survived--and it doesn't sound like they would have done for much longer in the old place.

          All in all, I'm okay with the changes. I got my money's worth. I'll go back.

          4 Replies
          1. re: MsMaryMc

            I agree with all of these statements:

            - I miss the Dork patty

            - felt about a buck-fifty overpriced per burger

            - I'm very fond of actual, individual tables

            - I miss the wildly chaotic and ever-changing menu, but the burgers are still amazing.

            - And most important, they've survived--and it doesn't sound like they would have done for much longer in the old place.

            1. re: MsMaryMc

              My burger was certainly not amazing; more like 'good' or even 'fine' (there was not even any drips on my plate or that of my companion). And that makes me SO very sad. I hope they can find their mojo at the new spot. But for now, I don't plan to go back. I think I'll try Uneeda tonight.

              1. re: cburnsi

                Re: Uneeda, I'd recommend getting the regular burger (with or without premium meat).
                Their specialty burgers can be a bit much on the "other" flavors and can drown out the great beef taste.

                1. re: cburnsi

                  I tried Uneeda's plain burger and was very unimpressed. Too bad because they are close.

              2. My wife and I went to LL a couple weeks ago. Never been to the previous location. Burgers were good, tots and fries were hot. Shakes were good. My ONLY complaint is the price. 2 burgers (with tots/fries) and 2 shakes came to $52 with 20% tip. We are more likely to hit up Zippy's, Red Mill, The Counter, or Jak's simply because of the prices at LL.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Cascadian Connoiseur

                  Agree. Hadn't been to the old LL either but decided to try this location. Good burger and shake, but not quite worth what they were charging. Everything needs to be a few $s less for me to put it into regular rotation.

                  1. re: maybelle

                    maybelle: Maybe it's better you had no experience with the old place. It WAS worth the extra $.

                  2. re: Cascadian Connoiseur

                    Sorry, I need to correct myself. My wife said it was $48, tip included.

                  3. Notice the helpful Google map directing viewers to... Ballard?

                    1 Reply
                    1. Do they still have the Boston Cream Shake?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: christy319

                        Christy, my first visit (thanks to Chowhound, btw) got me Burger of the Gods (more like the Oh-My-God's, if you asked me). Though I try not to complain about bounty, I felt an overabundance of blue, but, In the end, I found the thoughtful combinations to be llovely. While I was thinking about the possibilities for balance among all these ingredients, the Boston Cream Shake set my priorities right back in order - taste first, THEN ruminate...

                        OK, the price was slightly dear, but the quality of attention was purely priceless...
                        The new menu, new prices, seem more focused on finance than food, but I hope to be surprised.

                      2. My husband and I went to the new LL for lunch on Saturday. I had the Thai Dork (it was on the paper "Experiments" menu) and husband had a Sweetie (lamb burger). We shared an order of tots.

                        The Thai Dork was not super peanutty (I think peanut sauce was listed on the menu) but the patty was so good I didn't care. It came with a mildly spicy potato salad that I liked. Lamb burger was good but not as delicious as the Dork.

                        I agree with what a lot of people have said. It's expensive, (husband and I used to split a 1/2 pound burger at the old location, since that's no longer available we're ordering two burgers, so the cost has doubled for us.), and I miss some of the choices that were available at the other location. On the other hand, the food is still good enough to make us come back from time to time. I'd rather that they survive and be more expensive/limited than for them to fold like so many restaurants I've loved and lost over the years.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: JayDK

                            About $50 for two hamburgers, an order of tots, and one beer. The food by itself was about $40.

                        1. Went for the first time---to either location---last weekend. Buns are pretty special. I ordered the Cheese Royale b/c I always go for something basic my first time at a new joint. Makes it easier to evaluate what's really going on if you're not seduced by bacon and caramelized onions and blue cheese and spiked mayo. Good, not great. GF ordered the Burger of the Gods, and that was very good.

                          It is pricey, but I understand they only use meat from happy animals, and I'm willing to pay a good deal more for that. They could make it more affordable if sides were optional. Both the tater tots and the hand-cut chips were excellent, but the servings were far too big for either one of us to finish alone.

                          Verdict? We'll probably head back sometime after shopping at REI or hanging out in South Lake Union Park, but won't be making special trips.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                            8IP: The portions of everything--even the burgers--were bigger before the upscale move, BION. That's what *kinda* justified the price; you could feed two people on a burger, the sides and a shake (I think you got 2 sides).

                          2. I can't stand the new LL. I wasn't nuts about how cramped the old location was but I really dislike their new "Red Robin"-like aesthetic. I used to feel like I was eating in someone's crowded but well loved kitchen. The new place is like being at the mall in Bellevue.

                            As mentioned by others here, my burger was much smaller for the same price, and just totally lackluster. Not as much flavor, the buns were not great, not as many toppings. Ugh.

                            The last straw is that the list of patties/cheeses/sauces from which you can customize your burger has disappeared. If you want to customize, you have to pick through all the burger descriptions to find out what's available. That is beyond crazy to me. I thought customizing your burger was one of the major concepts of LL and it used to be very straightforward.

                            Will definitely not be back. I can get way better burgers for cheaper in a much less cookie-cutter environment. Alas LL, you used to be so great! I will just remember all the great food I had at the *real* LL.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: antennastoheaven

                              Not that it matters if you're not returning, but FYI, our server had a handy list of all the patties, cheeses, and sauces you could substitute.

                              I don't love the room's vibe either, but unless you're going to invest mad $$$ in gutting a large space in one of the few remaining warehouses down there (if there are any that aren't already slated for demolition), that is just the South Lake Union aesthetic: modern, cold, vaguely corporate, artificial.

                              1. re: eight_inch_pestle


                                Darth Allen was there when I was, and looked pleased that he had turned LL and SLU to the Dark Side.

                                I'm kinda with antennastoheaven insofar as the change from proud, scrappy excellence to about-to-be-franchised supplication goes. A pity, really.

                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                  Thanks for the info about the list, EIP. I was told to pick through the menu, but that's good news for them if they've brought back the list.

                                  I do totally get that the new LL aesthetic is par for the SLU course...it is just completely at odds with the genuinely kitschy, homegrown original concept, and I really feel the quality and value has been diminished.

                              2. New location is not happening, IMO. It's really too bad. The absence of the Dork Burger, the missing sauces/flavors and the sterile-slash-corporate mojo of the new location add up to a lackluster experience. This place really is a shadow of its former self, which is a crying shame :-(

                                1. Just heard about the unfortunate passing of Chef Scott Simpson at only 38 years old. Not sure what that will mean for Lunchbox Laboratory but I thought it noteworthy for this thread.

                                  Lunchbox Laboratory
                                  1253 Thomas Street, Seattle, WA 98109

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                                    Nancy Leson has a nice tribute to Scott in the Times tonight http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                                    He will be missed...

                                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                                      Wow. Bummer. It took me a couple reads to find the cause. Very sad.

                                    2. re: eat.rest.repeat

                                      I was a regular at the old LL (which meant every other month or else) and hadn't yet made it down to the new one (old one was 5 blocks away). Every time I went in, Scott and Allegra were pushing it hard to put out those great burgers. Very sad day.

                                    3. Rest in peace Scott Simpson. Thank you for all you did for us, especially Lunchbox Lab. That was some amazing food. You will be missed.

                                      Lunchbox Laboratory
                                      1253 Thomas Street, Seattle, WA 98109

                                      1. So sad. Condolences to his family and all his many fans.

                                        1. RIP Scott. Very sad.

                                          I am afraid LL, having lost its soul, will not survive (unless franchised, one particularly hot corner of Hell).

                                          1. Wow, I was just reading this thread earlier in the week and debating whether to check out LL, and happened upon the founder's obit in the Seattle Times http://tinyurl.com/3pmfuvu. RIP Scott.

                                            1. Just sad sad sad news. Thoughts with his family and friends.