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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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April 22, 2008 4:41 PM

Two Bells Burgers: love 'em. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are people who go to the Two Bells , just off the corner of Fourth and Bell, to sit at the scarred bar and hoist a beer. Or meet their business-pals for the day's sandwich special (egg salad, grilled Reuben). Some even show up for Sunday brunch. I go -- but no where near as often as I should -- for lunch, to see just how well a fresh baguette can hold up to the fabulous fat that pours from the Bells' appropriately "famous" burgers. The answer: very well, thank you. Now you might suggest that a burger on a baguette is not a burger, but trust me, you'd be wrong. Besides, that baguette, baked right up the block at Boulangerie Nantaise and strengthened by plenty of whole wheat, turns what might otherwise be a glorious mess into a visually elegant one: a two thick-napkin extravaganza of beefy ground round:



My friend Marc eyeballed the heap of sauteed mushrooms that escorted his Mushroom Burger ($9.95), then finally gave up trying to eat it in a gentlemanly fashion, instead, hoisting and attacking. He could have had chips, slaw, baked beans or soup alongside, but he's a sucker for that potato salad (a chunky classic of the genre). And while I'm with him on the potato salad, I'm frequently swayed by the soup -- old-fashioned diner-style renditions of everything from navy bean to clam chowder to the (not so) French onion I spooned today whose onions cried out for a far longer saute. But who's complainin'? Not me. Not after I lit into my favorite among the half-dozen burgers offered here, slathered with a mix of crumbly blue cheese and cracked black pepper ($9.95) melting into that baguette with its schmear of mayo and mustard:



Enjoyed with a bottle of Boylan's black cherry soda ($2.50), it's why, when it comes to burgers, Two Bells rings my chimes.

Now dish it: Which burger (and burger joint) does the same for you?

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Posted by Ballard guy

7:11 PM, Apr 22, 2008

On the day we moved to Ballard 9 years ago, we ate dinner at Scooter's (all the kitchen stuff was packed). Loved it then and love it still. I'm partial to their blue cheese burger. My wife goes for the chicken sandwich. They also make great fries and real old time milkshakes. A timeless treasure and darn close to home, too!

Posted by jay

7:37 PM, Apr 22, 2008

Quinn's burger is my favorite right now. While 2 bells is great, the baguette isn't quite the best bread choice for a burger. We need more good burgers in this town...start the revolution.

Posted by Chuck

7:55 PM, Apr 22, 2008

Go to the Stumbling Goat Bistro on Greenwood and get the mini-Wagyu burgers (2) during happy hour or as an appetizer for your meal in the dining room. Served medium-rare with carmelized onions and truffled aioli. Divine.

Second best -- The lamb burger at Eva in Tangletown. Served on a grilled brioche with carmelized onions and blue cheese with a tangy mixed green salad on the side. For any mutton-haters out here, this one will win you over. You need to sit in the bar and order it off the bar menu, as it's not available on the dinner menu. Pair it with one of their myriad "off the beaten path" wines by the glass.

Best hefty burger if you're really hungry-- Conway Tavern in Conway. Try the 1/2 pound hand formed pattie coupled with hard fried onions, blue cheese, and bacon. Better yet, eat it out on thier patio in the summer. OK...I like blue cheese and onions!

Third best bet -- grind your own. Get a meat grinder attachment for that Kitchen Aid stand mixer of yours. Use a combo of chuck roast and sirlion. Cut the meat into long thin strips, toss with kosher salt and refrigerate for an hour. Grind twice, gently form patties (don't overwork the meat), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill to your liking. Since you're grinding your own, you can prepare it more as you would a steak. Style to your liking. You'll never buy pre-packaged ground beef again.

Posted by mama g

8:50 PM, Apr 22, 2008

C'mon, for a real burger, no fuss, Red Mill. But Voulas bacon cheese burger is fantastic..with great fries to boot...

Posted by workerbee

10:12 PM, Apr 22, 2008

I recently had the Widowmaker burger from Claim Jumper and was really impressed. Juicy burger, avocado, bacon, cheddar, tomato relish (fancy ketchup), onion rings. Really good onion rings. My 76 year old grandma said it was the best burger she'd ever had. Worth dealing with the ugliness of Alderwood Mall.

Posted by gt

5:43 AM, Apr 23, 2008

i like red robin in spite of the trashy bimbo greeting mob that accosts you at the door - if they would only offer a "no bubblling: section -
but my ALL TIME FAVORITE is (was) the chuck wagon drive-in at 50th and aurora - big meaty double patty burgers on french bread - good chewy crust and that incredible sauce! i'd give my eye teeth to find the recipe for the stuff
gt

Posted by jtoskey

7:53 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Lunchbox Laboratory on 15th in Ballard has taken burgers beyond anything this town has ever seen. Pick your patty, cheese and sauce and get ready for a food coma. Meat ground on premises? Check. Choice of fries, curly fries, sweet potato fries, tots and more? Check. Makes Red Mill look like McDonalds.

Posted by Nancy Leson

8:37 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Anyone interested in learning more about Lunchbox Laboratory and the chef behind the new burger joint can read about it here:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/restaurants/2004242562_taste270.html

Posted by Dabrewst

9:13 AM, Apr 23, 2008

While I am a decidedly Edmonds kind of guy, the trials, commuting and otherwise, of my eastside jod are sometimes balanced by a visit to Wibbley's Gourmet Hamburgers, in the shadow of 520.

Posted by Teri

10:41 AM, Apr 23, 2008

I've been telling people for years that the best burger in town is at the Two Bells. Sigh, I miss working downtown.

For burgers now, we head to the Maddox Grille on 99 in Lynnwood. You can order a Maddox Burger and for anywhere for .75 to 1.25 more, substitue prime rib for the burger. Now, that's a taste sensation. Juicy and medium rare!

Check out their Caeser Salad and cheese bread. Yummy.

Posted by Teri

12:49 PM, Apr 23, 2008

That's Caeser Salad and cheese bread at the Two Bells. Sorry, I split my paragraphs wrong.

Posted by jwatson

Posted by Mr Burger

6:41 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Hands down the best burger in town. Sure, Red Mill has great onion rings, but we are talking burger! The Tavern Burger rule!

Posted by elm

3:26 PM, Apr 24, 2008

Two Bells' Tavern Special Burger with swiss cheese and chips. A little A-1 and some extra sweet, hot mustard, and I'm about as happy as can be.

Posted by Dave Colby

7:38 AM, Apr 25, 2008

Well Nancy,
Maybe we don't agree on oysters, but you're on the mark with Two Bells 'burgers. Only the atmosphere comes close to being as good as the burgers. Use to be the regular lunch spot when I worked around the corner.
Now miles away I'll still travel into town for a Two Bells breakfast and red beer.
The people behind the counters sometimes changes, but the food standard stays high and stories and conversations great.

Posted by Nick Tattinger

1:15 PM, May 07, 2008

A $10 dollar burger in a Tavern!!!
Gee, now I know why I miss Seattle so much...
Pretentious little overpriced joints selling $15 dollar martinis and $6 dollar beer along with sandwiches for $10-$20 buckaroos!! Than when you're done eating, you can go to your 350 square foot condo that costs $3000 a month. Than later you can put some $5 dollar per gallon gas in your SUV and sit in some of th USA's worst trafiic..
God, I miss the PPNW(Pretentious Pacific Northwest).

Nick

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