Lunchbox Laboratory

Written by on December 16, 2010 in I Eat Seattle, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(lunchboxlaboratory.com/) – Ballard* (*for three more days, until it moves to South Lake Union)
How I heard of this place: It was mentioned to me by several friends in the past year, I sampled it for the first time in June and have been eager to go back for the $20 gourmet lunch burger and sides since. Today, with out-of-town guests, was the day.
Type of cuisine: Burgers and sides with a fancy, Northwest flair. Meats include: super beef, pork, churken (turkey and chicken), vegetarian bean, and lamb.
Ambiance: Small brightly colored space which has just enough room for the ordering counter, one line of patrons and almost not enough space for two plastic fold-out tables lined with seating for 12-14 on benches and folding chairs on either side. Very much a cozy space, extra casual lunch appropriate and a great way to make friends, as diners are seated in very close proximity! There is also outdoor seating with umbrellas for those sunny (or often busy) days. The order counter is lined with old, metal lunchboxes, adding a nostalgic flavor for those of us who grew up with them, and something fun to look at for the children, as they are displayed just at eye level for kids. Three extra large green boards are directly in view (hiding the kitchen staff) with daily specialties, meat, cheese, topping options and beverage selections, which include a large variety of chocolate and vanilla milkshakes.
What I ordered: I have learned that at Lunchbox Labs it is easier to stick to the specialty board due to the huge selection and options from which to choose. The fragrant smells of delicious bacon, fried cheese, tater tots and special sauces fill the air and open the taste buds. Among the three of us, we had one order for le Truffle Love: super beef with Swiss, bacon Lbox onions and black truffle mayo ($12 for a baby 1/4 pound patty; the full 1/2 pound is $14) with a free generous side of Lunchbox tater tots tossed in garlic-pepper salt. To wash it all down, he ordered a Nu Grape cane sugar soda ($2.50) in a glass bottle. My second dining companion strayed from his 500 calorie-per-day diet to enjoy the Lil Devil ($8 for the churken patty): pepperjack cheese, Lbox onions, jalapeno, zesty red devil burger sauce. He also needed the brunch-like tater tots, his tossed in cajun fire salt, and a side of Thomas Kemper vanilla creme soda ($2.50). I asked for the recommendation of the staff between the new – available for a limited time only (through Sunday) – Enchilado or le Truffle Love and was steered to the Enchilado ($12 for the 1/4-pound patty): super beef, a healthy helping of bacon (at least five crispy strips), Lbox onions, monteray jack cheese, mayo and a secret organic enchilada ketchup sauce. My tater tots were tossed with Tex Mex taco salt, after I asked the chefs to surprise me with what they felt best complemented the Enchilado burger. Having been thoroughly satisfied by the shake on my last visit, I could not refuse the chocolate peppermint shake ($5), topped with a heaping helping of whipped cream and decorated with a web drizzle of chocolate sauce on the inside of the large cup. We were offered four dipping sauces on the side: spicy mustard, jalapeno ranch, red devil burger mayo and the spicy ketchup.
What I loved: I loved the chocolate peppermint shake, full of flavor, creamy and too-thick-to-slurp through my straw immediately! I loved the crispy, flavor-salted tater tots, a huge portion for each of us and enough to store in our pockets for later, Napoleon style! The Enchilado burger was large and tasty with the amazing tastes of juicy meats and sauces dripping down your hands and arms, and along the sides of your mouth as you savor each bite of delicious, juicy, full of taste morsel. The buttered, grilled bun, served warm, alongside cool fresh vegetables (a slice of tomato, lettuce, red onion and two large slices of a pickle). The tater tots were presented in a mini, metal pot and placed neatly next to the fresh vegetables, followed by the burger to the far left, all on a white, ceramic, rectangular plate.
Why I loved it: I love the friendly, helpful staff that work hard, non-stop to quickly serve their fresh burgers to the masses lined up outside. I love and will miss the tight quarters, the bustling space and the diners around us who were interested in splitting burgers so we could try more than just our own! I loved the quality of the burgers, the spiced tots, the fresh sauces and the fact that they had a “mystery sauce” in a container at the condiment bar. Everything about this place screams friendly neighborhood joint with all of the best ingredients and creative flair to boot.
Cost: High for a burger lunch, but totally worth the cost ($12-$16 for a burger and a side)

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