When I found out two new burger joints had arrived in North Seattle, it was a minor holiday for me. As a devoted resident of North Seattle’s Greenwood/Ballard/Phinney confluence and a burger-eating fiend (yes, I know it is bad for the planet, and I am sorry), I needed to know more. So I donned my best eating leggings and began my investigation.
First stop: Crown Hill Broiler, on decidedly uncool, terminally unpleasant 15th Avenue Northwest. The place doesn’t look like much from the outside: It’s located in the space previously inhabited by the Original Pancake House, next door to a sink shop (Morgans, no apostrophe). But do not be swayed by outer appearances because, inside, you’ll find a gem of a cozy neighborhood bar and restaurant, where even on a weekday plenty of daytime drinkers will be watching football alongside solo diners chowing down in peace. The staff are friendly, the beer list is solid and an absurd happy hour (daily from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.) saves you $2 on beer and wine and feeds you a selection of appetizers for just $2.50.
But the burgers are the obvious draw — juicy and well seasoned, with no skimping on cheese. If you’re a meat-eating monster like me, I recommend the Bacon Bacon Burger ($12.99), which comes with Tillamook cheddar, bacon, garlic aioli and other assorted goodies. The bacon is appropriately first-billed, a perfect platform for the generous layer of cheese; together, the two ingredients form a perfect tile of dairy and salt. It’s a study in balance, and a combination I’d eat again on my own dime. (Make use of your table’s store of extra napkins; you will NEED them.)
There are a dizzying array of additional burger options on the menu, but plant-based life forms will appreciate the Planet Burger ($12.99), a Beyond patty that comes with its own vegan cheese. And whatever you get, add on an order of steak fries ($2.99; sadly, they must be ordered separately), which come in a cute little metal basket, and are really something to write home about — crispy on the outside, not too salty and packed with starchy goodness.
The decor at Crown Hill Broiler is nothing special — it’s got the cleanliness of an airport bar at the moment, but give it time. Neighborhood haunts are made, not born, and this one shows promise. In a city where new spots increasingly feel constructed from a Trendy New Restaurant™ Kit (just add subway tiles, succulents and a name employing an ampersand!), a neighborhood-y spot that’s not trying too hard is a rare pleasure.
Crown Hill Broiler is not a cool place, but it is a friendly one, and it feels constructed not as a New Seattle showpiece, but as an unpretentious hangout for folks who live in the neighborhood and just want to drink beer or eat some snacks, maybe in front of a game. If I ever voluntarily watched football, I’d do it here.
Across the neighborhood, Greenwood Flame Burger is another such spot, although it’s not as nice as the Broiler in terms of ambience. It’s in the strip mall at 105th and Greenwood, home — most famously — to Lenny’s Produce, and the interior is quite sterile, with a blaring TV that was set to soaps the day I visited. But don’t worry! You are not here for the atmosphere, you’re here for the burgers, which, while not as stacked as their cousins at Crown Hill Broiler, have a lower price point and are solidly seasoned.
The cheeseburger ($6.99) is pretty classic, with juicy meat and properly melted cheese on a squishy bun. The fries could have been crisper (I like an almost-crunchy fry!), but were well (not excessively) salted and lightly seasoned.
I could envision stopping here for provisions before starting a road trip on nearby I-5 (the shakes are appropriately liquid-y for easy consumption behind the wheel), or getting takeout to eat lazily in front of streamed entertainment on one’s couch. If you do eat in, sit in the corner so you can look into Lenny’s Produce next door. It’s a surprisingly fun spot for people-watching at a Greenwood institution. Old Seattle lives.
Crown Hill Broiler, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 8037 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle; crownhillbroiler.com
Greenwood Flame Burger, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; 10410 Greenwood Ave. N., greenwoodflameburger.com