The search for the greatest hamburger

burger3For the last several years my husband and I have been on a leisurely search for the perfect hamburger. I don’t hunt with the same intensity that I might approach a quest for the Fountain of Youth. I have to be in the mood for a burger, which only happens every so often.

It’s hard to define what makes the perfect burger. Reminiscent of those who say they know art when they see it, I know a great burger when I eat it. The quality of the bun figures into our ranking system as does the way the meat is grilled, the trimmings — tomato, lettuce, onions, just the basics — and, of course, the sauce. The special sauce is an essential ingredient.

I thought about the search last week, because we ate lunch at an upscale hotel restaurant where my husband ordered the $16 burger only to say later, “It was okay.” We’ve tried one local “gourmet burger” restaurant, and the hamburgers were very good, but not great.

Another kind of restaurant where you won’t come across the dream meal is the burger bar that specializes in adventurous and original creations, like the quadruple patty which, when you slide it into the bun measures eight inches in height, requires a long-blade instead of a toothpick to hold it together, and is impossible to fit in your mouth. It becomes even harder to eat when the cook adds a half-pound of bacon, a few jalapeños, three kinds of cheese, sauerkraut, and a few layers of barbecue sauce.

So where do you find the authentic but elusive taste treat?  At certain fifties-style drive-ins. You know, a place that has no seating indoors, not one charming feature about its exterior, possibly a long line but not always, and a few burnt-out bulbs in its neon sign.  If you thought about it, which you don’t, you might wonder how long ago the health inspector stopped by.

Our most recent find was Giant Burger in Cle Elum, WA. We weren’t sure what to expect. The crew consisted of two, somewhat slow-moving, elderly women, but we shouldn’t have prejudged.  The burgers were the best. One other favorite, despite the fact that it doesn’t qualify as a drive-in, is the Bistro at Campbell’s Resort at Lake Chelan.  That burger is also worth driving across a mountain pass for. has an eight-page list called Burger Joints in Washington.  Large chain restaurants don’t qualify to be considered for my ranking system. Even if I zoomed in on only those on the list with “Drive-in” after their names the challenge of visiting and testing them all would be too big for my lifetime and too hard on my heart. I’m content to limit my searches to times when I have an overpowering craving.

Can anyone recommend a favorite burger joint worth traveling to?

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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7 Responses to The search for the greatest hamburger

  1. Marilyn says:

    Good story which brought memories and made me salivate!

  2. Donna Tonella says:

    Not sure if their current burger would taste the same, but I have very fond memories of going to the Burgermaster (just north of the old garbage dump by Hec Ed Pavilion and UW stadium) in 1954! Yum Yum!

  3. R says:

    Crazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  4. K says:

    My husband and I have tried a few of the “hp” places (where we are always out of place by about 35 years!) My fav is Skillet – and go to Capital Hill where you get to sit down..the bacon jam IS truly heaven. Laboratory Box’s item of interest was this giant milkshake served with optional liquor served “on the side” in oversized test tubes! The burgers were ok…but I sure wished I’d tried one of those milkshakes.

  5. Sharon says:

    My suggestions would be the great burgers at (1) either of the locations of The Red Mill in Ballard and on Phinney Ave – AND the burger at the (2) Phinney Market Pub on Phinney Avenue is really great–smaller but one of best I have had in ages. (3) The Bay Broiler [hope I recall the name correctly] in downtown area of Bellevue is one I loved on Eastside when I worked there. (4) Scooters on 24th in Ballard near QFC is also wonderful — as are the milkshakes there. Happy research. Happy to join you in the study anytime. Sharon

  6. You’ve got to drive to Yakima for a Miner Burger. Lots of signs. And be sure to visit The Pumphouse in Bellevue. Though surely you ate there when you were still at the ESC?

  7. Martha says:

    My favorite would have to be the lamb burger at Barking Frog. I also like the turkey burger at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Woodinville (one of only three locations outside of Hawaii, including Tokyo – and the latest – Iowa City, Iowa – my home town).

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