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Unique fast food, burgers, etc.

Was wondering if there were any Northwest fast food recs for places that they don't have on the east coast (like In-n-Out,or Teddys in Hawaii) that should not be missed on our visit? Also husband was asking for recs on good burger joint, not necessarily fast food? Thanks for the advice.

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  1. Fast food, unique and "should not be missed" should never be used in the same post, Daisy!

    1 Reply
    1. re: firecracker

      I agree with firecracker. Dicks, Ivar's, Red Mill, Kidd Valley, Burgermaster, etc. are all very miss-able. Don't waste a meal in any of the fast food chains.

      1. re: babette feasts

        Katsu is one-of-a-kind and highly recommended. The nori fries are great!

      2. Not in Seattle (closest is Centralia) is Burgerville:


        1. I'd say Dick's and Ivar's are the two most iconic Seattle fast food spots. I don't know that they're "can't miss" strictly from a food perspective, but I think they're both part of the Seattle experience.

          Red Mill, Burgermaster, Kidd Valley are a couple of local burger chains . Some folks love Red Mill's burger (and it's been on Travel Channel shows for what that's worth), but I think they're just ok.

          My two favorite burgers in the city right now are UNeeda Burger and 8 oz Burger.

          1. Uneeda burger (in Fremont) is my favorite for a good burger! They have a couple "unique" burgers on the menu... Try the Mediteranean one with Tempura Lemons!

            1. We have tons of burgers around here, from reliable to new fangled.
              Dick's is a local fossilized treasure. A pioneer in the fast-food business, Dick Spady (http://www.king5.com/news/Its-been-a-...) opened his first store in Wallingford in 1953. From that day, Dick's has fed parking lots full of students the same reliably questionable grub that's graduated generations. Last night Maclamore and Ryan Lewis shot a video on the roof of Dick's on Broadway. This is the very definition of local institution and definitely of historical and cultural note, if not culinary, and a worthy pilgrimage on that basis. Never was haute cuisine nor diet food of any sort, but early in the burger game and still serving the same menu. Chow is life. Dick's is chow.
              Uneeda Burger on Fremont in Fremont has a very good basic burger at a very good price. Almost everybody who gets a look at that menu deliciously doubles the cost. I wish you luck and recommend the green chile. This is where James Bond gets his burgers, I'm sure.
              Bruce Willis, though, is more a Two Bells sort of a guy. In-your-face meaty, house ground and as rare as you like. The Tavern Burger is a cardiologists nightmare and a beacon of Chow. Get the grilled onions and the blue cheese and the tavern burger, and the no, wait...do get the Caesar, though.
              Dick's holds the historic golden spike and must be seen. Uneeda is the class of the class.
              Two Bells has The Tavern Burger.
              nuff said

              3 Replies
              1. re: mrnelso

                Hi, mrnelso:

                Really good overview.

                By complete chance last month, I had a burger from another Seattle iconic burgerhaus mini-chain: Burgermaster. I hadn't been there in ages, but my 'opu was growling and I had some time to kill. I had their namesake prep and a peanut butter shake.

                The first bite was still in my mouth, and people were watching me watch the burger. Shockingly good for $5. Blows Dick's out of the water and comes very close to the "we work harder" contestants like Uneeda.

                I believe the Burgermaster on Aurora still has true drive-in service.

                Hardly iconic (yet), but Katsu Burger gets honorable mention for its unique approach.


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  It's been too long, Kaleo, but I do remember a specific tasty grilley flavor there. There has got to be somebody who's mind I can mess with with the car-hop thing. Is it still for real?

                2. re: mrnelso

                  Two Bells is a great recommendation, given the OPs hotel location (a little more than a mile away). It's a divey bar on the questionable fringes of Belltown, but I love their hamburger prep - a handformed patty served on a grilled french roll with horseradish mayo. I personally like their potato salad as my side, but you can't go wrong with their soups either.

                  Thanks for the reminder, mrnelso! Since I no longer work in that 'hood I haven't been for a few years, but must return . . .

                3. No recommendations that haven't already been made, but we do have a Teddy's Bigger Burger in Woodenville if you don't want to go all the way to Honolulu next time...

                  1. I love Uneeda--not just the burgers, but the shakes are fantastic too. I love Red Mill's Verde burger--green chiles and jack cheese. Red Mill can have awful lines at prime times.

                    I think Marination Ma Kai counts as unique fast food. Well, it's maybe not really fast like the chains--you might have to wait 10 minutes. But the food is good, the shave ice is good, and the patio is to die for (killer views).You can take the water taxi to West Seattle from downtown and it's right there. http://marinationmobile.com/ma-kai

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: christy319

                      +1 for Uneeda and Ma Kai. I also love a verde vegi burger at Red Mill with bacon.

                    2. How about Paseo... I'd put them in the fast-food bin, and they're effing terrific. They do get some slow lines for fast food, but their cuban sandwiches are fantastic.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Booklegger451

                        While they absolutely merit a visit (Shilshole too) whatever they are, I'm sure it's not Fast Food. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, we may have just spent thirty years in the company of an unheralded total pioneer. Without even trying, he's set a slow food standard. Let's award Lorenzo Lorenzo the 'waiting for the Interurban' prize for making Fremont the center of the slow food universe before most anybody else even heard of it. Get a side of grilled onions.

                        1. re: Booklegger451

                          I would never place Paseo in the same "bin" as McDonalds and Jack In the Box.

                          1. re: Gizmo56

                            While they are worlds apart on quality, I'd say they have a lot of similarities: You walk up to a counter (Ok, Paseo usually has a longer line than McDonalds), you place an order from a small, easily understood menu of sandwiches, salads, and simple entre's, you wait a few minutes, and you are given a tray or take away with your meal.

                            Now granted, at Paseo what you're given on that tray is a delicious, high quality meal that has awesome flavors, smells and textures. At McDonalds, you're given the rough nutritional and culinary equivalent of a kidney punch from Mike Tyson. But other than THAT...

                            1. re: Booklegger451

                              "While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away.

                              Modern commercial fast food is often highly processed and prepared in an industrial fashion, i.e., on a large scale with standard ingredients and standardized cooking and production methods. It is usually rapidly served in cartons or bags or in a plastic wrapping, in a fashion which minimizes cost. In most fast food operations, menu items are generally made from processed ingredients prepared at a central supply facility and then shipped to individual outlets where they are reheated, cooked (usually by microwave or deep frying) or assembled in a short amount of time. This process ensures a consistent level of product quality, and is key to being able to deliver the order quickly to the customer and eliminate labor and equipment costs in the individual stores.

                              Because of commercial emphasis on speed, uniformity and low cost, fast food products are often made with ingredients formulated to achieve a certain flavor or consistency and to preserve freshness."

                              That's from Wikipedia, and it to me it captures the essence of what I regard as the common understanding of "fast food." Emphasis on uniformity and brand identity at multiple franchised locations, and on low cost, rather than flavor and quality.

                              To me a small business independent sandwich operation like Paseo is in every way a welcome antithesis to the fast food industry.

                              1. re: Gizmo56

                                Slow, not Fast.
                                It's all grilled to order (not the onions - those are in continuous production) and it'll take a half hour to wait the line while they cook for you. Slowly.

                                1. re: mrnelso

                                  This would be a great discussion over a beer and a Paseo Press or Uneeda burger... My contention stands, that they are much more fast food done right than slow food, or bistro food, or any other category of dining. I'm not sure how you can put Uneeda in the fast food category and Paseo in the slow food category unless there is a special dispensation for hamburgers that doesn't apply to other sandwiches.

                                  Plenty of fast food places grill to order (heck, Burger King grills to order). While the line is usually very long, it has little to do with the time it takes to prep a sandwich (under 6 minutes once started for my press). Most of their sandwich ingredients are prepared ahead of time, since most of them have been slow roasted in advance.

                                  I don't think any of those factors are what really distinguishes them as possibly not fast food. Some things that (perhaps) do: Attention to quality over value; use of premium ingredients; decision not to expand at a possible cost to quality, in order to accommodate growing crowds; use of non-industrial cooking methods (and lack of generally industrial anything, for that matter).

                                  If it weren't for the line, they would turn out a (delicious) sandwich and sides at a cost well below that of a meal at a traditional restaurant, they would do so in a very timely fashion (7-8 minutes?), without offering table service, and with a model with strong support for take-away meals.

                                  That still sounds like fast food to me. Splendid, delicious fast food.

                                  1. re: Booklegger451

                                    Booklegger451, long before the term "fast food" came into the lexicon, there were sandwich shops, delis, ice cream shops, and other establishments where a person would order at a counter, wait for their order to come up, and then either take the order to go or sit a table which the person would bus him or herself.

                                    The term fast food was coined specifically to describe the rise of franchise restaurants that order from a corporate commissary and which use rigidly uniform equipment and methods to produce a rigidly uniform mass-produced set of menu items. The excellent book Fast Food Nation Nation ( http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Food-Natio... ) describes the particular features that qualify a business as fast food in great detail, and the book explores the relationship between such chains and social factors such as the rise of the suburbs in the post-war era and the huge growth of the percentage of women participating in the work force beginning in the 1970's. The term fast food exists in order to distinguish those huge franchise restaurants from places like Paseo that operate on an entirely different business model and strategy, and in a different market "niche." Now the fast food industry is laughably trying to shake off the negative connotations of that term by trying to replace it with "quick service."

                                    You are free to call Paseo fast food because it has some features in common with the chains if you wish, but tht would be rather like calling a zebra a horse for the same reason.

                                    If you tell a random group people that you are planning to grab some fast food for lunch, I promise you that the first picture that enters their minds will not be you ordering at Paseo, or at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, or at Katz's Deli in New York City.

                                    1. re: Gizmo56

                                      Well, I wholeheartedly agree that Paseo doesn't fall into that definition for fast food. I suppose that my definition is broader, and therefore less useful, but I think it's important to have a definition that can encompass those folks trying to fill this dining niche without having to do so under the shadow of endemic culinary evil that Schlosser would like to bring to the term.

                        2. Not burgers, but another local chain of note is Taco Time. That is, Taco Time Northwest, not affiliated with Taco Time elsewhere. They emphasize fresh and local and I can't fathom why anyone would go to Taco Bell when they live in Taco Time country.


                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Jeri L

                            Hi, Jeri:

                            I couldn't agree with you more, but I can give you *two* reasons (besides ignorance and millions in advertising) someone would prefer TB:

                            (1) Price. I really like TT, OK? But anything I get there that's substantial (e.g., a budget burrito combo and another budget burrito) is $8. For the same 8 bucks, you can get a pile of shitty food at TB

                            (2) Drunken Hours. TB makes a point to keep its locations open very late into the night if not 24H. TT doesn't.

                            You agree?


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Points taken! I'm certainly no fast-food expert, in fact, a fast-food meal is still something of an event for me. I am my father's daughter after all, and always feel that it's quicker, cheaper and better to just go home and make something to eat than to go through a drive through! (And I love the Dick's Deluxe, so there!)

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I am with you - I love TT, but it's PRICEY for what you get. I don't like spending $8 on a quick-service meal. I don't eat that much, and it still costs alot.

                                1. re: gingershelley

                                  My standby calorie hit there is soft bean burrito and cheap enough.

                                  1. re: mrnelso

                                    We are identical twins save for "soft", but you shall live to remember me...

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      Actually though soft is surely the big winner for $/calorie, I more often go crisp for that quick pick-me-up.

                              2. re: Jeri L

                                The Northwest Taco Time does license the trademarks from, and maintains a very similar set of menu items to, the national Taco Time chain. Examples: "Mexi-Fries," the "crisp" (i.e. deep fried) burritos, etc. I think Taco Time is very mediocre and pricey. In some ways it is better than Taco Bell, but that's a damnation via faint praise.

                                In my opinion, the bar for fast food in the Mexican realm has been set high by the California based Baja Fresh. Thus far there are only two locations in the Puget Sound area, one in Redmond and one in Kent, near Valley Medical Center and Ikea. Their food is much better, and a much better value, than any other Mexican fast food chain.


                                I would continue to recommend that the original poster not waste a meal on fast food during a visit to our fair city. If one is in the mood for a burger, go to Quinn's, not to Dick's.