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Lunch Box Laboratory

Last year I noticed that Matthew, a flickr friend of mine, was posting some outrageous burger photos he’d taken at Lunch Box Laboratory (those are his photos they’re using on their website). While I love a good grilled burger (it doesn’t get better than a burger and dog from the grill in the good ol’ summertime, man), restaurant burgers tend to have such ginormous patties, I’m not interested in a huge hunk of ground beef when dining out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for a Carl’s Jr cheeseburger, but there’s beauty in balance when it comes to the perfect burger. I want to be able to taste all of the ingredients, not just the meat. However, the photos I’d seen from the Lab appeared to focus more on the toppings than on the meat, so I was ready to try. More than that, the desserts and side items appeared to be as outrageous as their burgers, so I was just drooling to try those (jalapeño mac & cheese, sweet potato fries, tater tots, fish sticks for grown-ups, Nutella pound cake, obscene milkshake options, I mean, really? What took me so long?).

For three years Chef Scott Simpson had that place in Ballard and for about a year of that time I planned on visiting right up until I missed my chance. Good for me they just closed the Ballard joint to move into bigger digs in South Lake Union. Really good for my hips, I no longer live on Capitol Hill so I won’t be torturing myself on a regular basis. They’re on the corner of Pontius and Thomas and, according to the guy dining next to us yesterday afternoon, increased their location size by a whole lot.

We were downtown yesterday afternoon and I remembered that the re-opening was scheduled for “late January” and decided to drive by to see if it had happened. I knew they were on the brink because I’d seen recent photos of a luscious Nutella pound cake floating around on Urbanspoon. Luckily for us, they had re-opened on Saturday. Amazingly unlucky for us, the mac & cheese and pound cake hadn’t made their way to the official menu yet.

The fun thing about an opening is the party atmosphere. Everybody seemed happy to have their favorite burger place back open. Check out this group of smiling folks, and they haven’t even eaten yet.

You can’t call it the Lunch Box without throwing in a Charlie Brown lunch box. I guess the lava lamps bring in the Lab?

Our server was awesome, friendly, and even when I wanted to cry when he told me that there would be no pound cake, he reassured me it would appear soonly. Very nice, that guy.

Burger of the Gods with a side of tots ($13). Bleu crumbles, balsamic onions and creamy gorgonzola sauce. The thing is, I wouldn’t have considered this as an option, but when I asked our server what the favorite was, he pointed to this. I decided to give it a whirl, and damn. That’s a good burger. Who knew vinegared onions would go so beautifully with all that creamy cheesiness? A crock of tots being hit by a squeezied stream of ketchup. Awesome.

James had the Hot Head ($14), which has honey cured bacon, pepperjack cheese, and is swimming with jalapeño ranch dressing with a side of shoestring fries. He liked how pretty the presentation was and loved the bun, but said he thought my burger was better. It wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be, but the peppery flavors were nice. I loved the goosh factor and how it went all over the place when I took a bite. The joy you take is equal to the mess you make. Sorry, Paul. The fries were good, but didn’t hold up to my tots.

When two guys sat at the table next to us, I asked if it was ok if I photographed their burger. The free-lovin’ atmosphere continued, because these guys couldn’t have been nicer. They did everything but offer me a bite of their burger, which is completely, totally understandable. One of them ordered the same Burger of the Gods (nice, but selfish–couldn’t have have suffered for art and ordered something different?), but the other took one fo the team and got the Tear Jerker ($14). Loaded with pepperjack cheese, Lunch box onions, and diced green chiles. They like the spice at the Lab.

All jokes aside, the people in this place really made it a great experience. There’s something about burgers that creates that good time atmosphere, because who can take themselves seriously with a pot of tots in front of them? Not me. While the prices are in the double digits, the flavor is triple what you’d expect from your everyday burger. Flavor that good can’t be cheap, and I’m guessing the customers who find this place won’t mind paying the additional Lab fees for fantastical food. 

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