First-time diners to Seattle's stellar burger joint, Lunchbox Laboratory, might feel a bit overwhelmed. The endless combo possibilities listed on the chalkboard near the kitchen might look a little like a pop quiz on your first day of Chemistry 101.
You'll need to choose a meat (the beef is a mix of prime sirloin and ribeye; there's also lamb, falafel and churken—which is chicken and turkey—all ground in-house), cheese, various toppings. Or, you could make it easy on yourself and go for one of the daily "experiments," the sandwiches dreamed up by resident mad scientist Scott Simpson. Scott's a recovering fine dining chef, who has amassed a large following hooked on his jaw-testing creations since launching the Lab in 2008.
When I went in for lunch recently, one of the regulars offered sound advice on what to try while finishing his meal. When I sat down at a nearby table (there are fewer than 20 seats) and asked him if he came there often, he said it was his 43rd visit. You can see all the evidence in his Flickr photoset. He was excited to report one of Lunchbox Laboratory's burgers had been posted that day on This is Why You're Fat.
I reviewed Lunchbox Laboratory in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer last year, but I think the place just keeps getting better. I especially love the dork, a mixture of ground duck and ground pork, plus other stuff. "It's 40 percent pork, 40 percent duck and 20 percent secret ingredients," said Simpson's partner Allegra Waggener.
It makes for the juiciest, most flavorful patty I've ever tried—a teeny bit gamey, but in the best possible way. Though the long list of exotic toppings are mighty tempting, I like my dork unadorned. Well, okay, maybe the romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, red onions, and chubby pickle slice on the side add just the right touch. The excellent Kaiser bun from local fave Essential Baking Co. does a decent job of keeping the messy sandwiches intact. But you do not want to wear your dry-clean-only duds to the Lab, especially if you're ordering the Dork. It's a three-napkin sandwich.
While I'm a sucker for the Lunchbox Laboratory's Tater Tots, the carb of choice for the Dork has got to be the crispy sweet potato fries sprinkled in a shower of Bacon Salt.
About the author: Leslie Kelly is the former restaurant reviewer for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She has been working in kitchens around the city and writing about her journey from pen to pan in Critic-Turned-Cook posts on Serious Eats. She also blogs at LeslieKellyWhiningandDining.blogspot.com.