Bellevue: El Gaucho's Tribute Burger, the 410

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[Photograph: Denise Sakaki]

El Gaucho

450 108th Avenue Northeast, Bellevue WA 98004 (map); 425-455-2715; other locations in Seattle and Tacoma listed at elgaucho.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Flavorful half-pound burger made with care, using dry-aged top sirloin and Certified Angus Beef filet
Want Fries with That? Comes with thick-cut fries enjoyed best with chipotle aioli and curry dipping sauces
Price: 410 Burger, $9 during happy hour (Mon. to Fri., 2 - 6 p.m., Sun., 5 - 10 p.m. in the bar), normally $15
Notes: Burger also available in Seattle location during happy hour for $11; not available in Tacoma

It seems crazy to order a burger at a steak restaurant—why grind up a perfectly good cut of meat? But at Bellevue's steakhouse El Gaucho, they put the same attention on their custom-ground, dry-aged 410 Burger as they would a juicy porterhouse, and if you visit during happy hour, you can get it for $9.

It's not just about bargain dining—the 410 is a well-made burger, and having it a cushy lounge, beer or wine glass in-hand, isn't a bad way to end the day. The patty is a half-pound, 50/50 combination of 28-day dry-aged All-Natural Certified Angus Beef Top Sirloin from Niman Ranch and Certified Angus Beef filet ground in-house. After a short time on the charcoal grill, the beef comes out juicy with the heady flavor of dry-aged sirloin and a little smokiness from the grill.

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The meat is seasoned with El Gaucho's custom house blend that they use on their steaks, which includes kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic and onion, and cayenne pepper. It's a balanced seasoning that enhances the beef's earthy flavor. They cook the patty to a medium just-pink center as a baseline, but if you want more rareness, let the server know (I recommend medium rare to medium). The coarse ground beef mixture is gently combined and has a delicate texture.

El Gaucho's 410 has two variations: The flagship Seattle restaurant serves its burger on a focaccia bun from Seattle's Essential Baking Company; the Bellevue version uses a custom Kaiser-style bun from Mario's Bakery in Kent. The difference between the two is mostly texture: a chewier focaccia-style bun versus a more traditional sponge-like bite with the Kaiser roll. I prefer the traditional Kaiser roll—with such a big, juicy burger, a softer, more absorbent bread helps mop up the flavor before it runs down your hands.

Both versions of the 410 come topped with slices of bacon, melted white cheddar, thick slices of fresh tomato, iceberg lettuce, and white onion slices. The cheddar has a pungent, tart bite that goes nicely with the aged beef, and the extra thick slices of tomato add fresh sweetness. El Gaucho slathers housemade Thousand Island dressing on the bun, adding a tangy flavor of sweet pickle relish to the mix.

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The burger comes with thick fresh-cut fries seasoned with salt and pepper. The fries could easily be passed up in lieu of the towering burger, but the little spuds become crave-worthy when dipped in the custom sauces on the happy hour menu: a smoky chipotle aioli and a sweet curry sauce. Skip the ketchup and go for the specialty sauces—the dueling flavors of savory chipotle and sweet curry are a delicious supporting cast to the burger.

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The burger's name is in homage to the 410 Restaurant, opened by famed Seattle restaurateur Victor Rosellini in 1956. Rosellini's 40-year restaurant empire elevated Seattle to a city where people could come to dine. It's a fitting honor, as the burger is a combination of casual comfort with refined taste. Juicy and flavorful, with the affordable happy hour price, El Gaucho's 410 Burger will leave you full and guilt-free about ordering a hamburger at a steakhouse.

About the author: Denise Sakaki is a freelance writer, photographer and designer, blogging and eating her way through as many adventures as her stomach can handle. When she's not exploring the world of hamburgers for AHT, she's thinking about what burger she wants to tackle next...

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