2234 1st Ave., Seattle WA 98121 (map); 206-441-9360; local360.org
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: The sizeable house-ground burger with local beef is very good, but the peppers kick too hard and a few small fixes could push it into greatness
Want Fries with That? They're hit-and-miss; such is the nature of hand-cut fries
Prices: 8-ounce Butcher's Grind House burger w/cheese and bacon, $13
As the locavore movement strides ever further into the mainstream, we're going to be seeing more and more establishments like Local 360. Their ultimate goal: finding up to 90 percent of their raw ingredients within 360 miles of Seattle (they're being realistic about the other 10 percent, because good luck finding coffee or lemons growing in the Cascades). A respectable ambition, but all for naught if the food isn't any good. Thankfully that's far from the case here.
Smack dab in the heart of happenin' Belltown, Local 360 is poised to capture a discerning late-night crowd desiring more than just nachos or pancakes to soak up the appletinis. The space is warm, candlelit by night, and sitting in the row of booths off to one side, with their unfinished wood siding and wire-braced light bulbs jutting from the wall, gives one the impression of dining in a mineshaft. A cozy mineshaft.
The burger is massive, a half-pound goliath ground daily in-house. The cuts of meat that find their way into the patties change from one day to the next, and even include up to 20 percent pork if the butcher is feeling so inclined. On this particular visit my burger was all beef, formed from a blend of bottom round, eye of round, skirt steak, and a secret cut I'm not allowed to divulge. All are from Heritage Meats in Rochester.
I ordered it medium rare, and it arrived somewhere between that and medium. It's a thick, juicy patty that's easy to bite through and very well-seasoned on the outside with salt and pepper. The pepper in particular came through strongly, infused into the patty by the flat top griddle. Curiously, the inner core of the beef itself was more muted than I expected, a surprise given the different cuts constructing it. Not bland by any means, but less flavorful than I might have hoped for.
That could be because the burger's toppings were so assertive. This was especially true of the Mama Lil's Peppalilli spread, which totally dominated everything else on the sandwich. The mustard-and-peppers-based relish is a sensory firecracker, great if you enjoy spicy food but not so much if you're seeking a balanced burger. It just tipped the scales a wee too far into the sweat zone for me, and I think a smattering of bread-and-butter pickles would have been a wiser choice. It isn't listed as a component on the menu (and in fact, nothing is, annoyingly), so have a glass of water handy.
Adding cheese and bacon to the burger (a $3 charge) was a smart decision. The bacon is cooked to a lovely crispness and shatters when bitten into, sending shards of salt and smokiness into the beef. The cheese, a white cheddar from Golden Glen Creamery, was sharp and slightly nutty, though they were a bit stingy with its allocation; about twice as much would really boost the overall flavor of the ensemble.
Rounding out the burger was some photogenic lettuce from Full Circle Farm, mild red onions, and aioli on a house-baked bun. The bun was soft, unobtrusive, and sturdy enough to withstand the weight of that hefty patty and absorb any juices without dissolving. Perhaps the fact that the butter in the dough is substituted with pork fat has something to do with its impressive structural integrity. If not, well, I still like the idea of eating pork-fat buns.
The fries here are hand-cut, and as such they're subject to all the pitfalls hand-cut fries can fall into when they're not prepared by an absolute master of the medium. Some are cooked perfectly, firm and crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Others are overcooked and flaccid. All could use a tad more salt fresh out of the fryer. Since they come with the burger, I can't complain too loudly, but it'd be nice if they were better.
Local 360 doesn't serve a perfect burger, not yet, but a few small changes could really catapult it to the next level. Use a smaller patty, swap out the Peppalilli relish for house-made pickles, and double-up on the cheese, and that's a burger I'd spend nights dreaming about. As it stands, it's still very good, and with the mercurial nature of its composition, possibly even better than what I was served depending on when you swing by.