No matter how chefs try, there’s no getting around the burger. You’ve gotta have it on the menu. It sells on its own. Take the fancy steakhouse Bateau, which makes what might be the best burger in Seattle. Those sneaky cooks quietly took the burger off the menu in 2016, but a spokesman said the Capitol Hill bistro still sells almost as many burgers there now. (Patrons still request the $22 burger as an off-the-menu item). People go to no end for a good burger. For those who have made all the usual rounds of “best burger” spots around town, I give you four more to consider. They’re more like good burgers that don’t get talked about much. That’s because these under-the-radar-burgers are sold at spots where you normally wouldn’t expect to find a burger on the menu — let alone a stellar one.
Skylark Cafe & Club
For many, $10 seems to be the arbitrary price that qualifies as “cheap food.” But can we inch that benchmark up to $11? Because I have a great tip for you: the souped-up burger at this West Seattle bar, a house-ground blend of chuck, brisket and wagyu short plate cut. I prefer this bloody-red, with beef drippings that soak up the Macrina bun. The grilled patty comes with all the fixings and copious amounts of fries. (Cheese will cost you a buck extra. And yes, you should splurge for that cheddar.) It’s the city’s best dive burger. Wash it down with a craft beer from Skylark’s absurdly good microbrew lineup. Oh, and if the barroom shakes while you’re downing this gluttony, don’t take cover. It’s not an earthquake. This arthritic century-old structure creaks every time a bus rumbles by.
3803 Delridge Way S.W., Seattle; 206-935-2111, skylarkcafe.com
Sunset Fried Chicken
This might be the best cheeseburger around the Pike/Pine corridor that no one knows about — I reckon the spot’s poultry moniker has something to do with that. The $13.50 double cheeseburger is made with Painted Hills grass-fed ground beef, two thin patties smashed on the plancha and sizzled until their edges form a thick, charred crust to give you that smoky taste. Thanks to the thick glob of bright-yellow American cheese, the two patties stick together to give you these creamy, beefy layers. This smash-burger gets served on a toasted, buttered soft Franz bun with pickles, iceberg lettuce and mayo, along with a side of fries. The downside is Monica Dimas’ burger is located inside a 21-and-over spot, Queer Bar, so you have to get it delivered through Postmates, DoorDash or Uber Eats if you’re underage. Or wait until early next year when she opens in Concourse D at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
1518 11th Ave. (inside Queer Bar), Seattle; sunsetfriedchicken.com
Executive Chef Shawn Applin smears black garlic aioli on this grilled burger for a sweet, earthy tang. The melted white cheddar coats the entire patty as if it were a second skin. This is served with duck-fat fries for $25 on the dinner menu, but come during happy hour when this burger goes for $14 (without the fries). It’s buttery-rich as is, but this being a French bistro, you can always make it more artery-clogging with seared foie gras for 12 bucks more. Hell, if you’re gonna splurge, you might as well pair this “burger royale” with a half bottle of the 1995 Chateau Ferrand Lartigue Saint-Emilion Bordeaux.
1433 Fourth Ave., Seattle; 206-456-7474, michaelmina.net
At this Peruvian-themed bar in Belltown, you need to squish down this stacked charbroiled burger (it’s more than 3 inches high) to get a clean, full bite. The half-pound patty of flat iron steak is ground in-house and comes with all the fixings, but it’s the little apostrophe-shaped fried batter onions that give the burger a crunchy pop and makes it such great hangover grub. Maybe the meat could use more fat, but the barbecue sauce and aioli will still make this moist burger ($16 with fries) go down easy.
2400 First Ave., Seattle; 206-259-7000, imperialloungeseattle.com