Lunchbox Laboratory serves up top-rated burger

Ballard seems to have some pretty good eats. Smokin’ Petes was recently named one of the best bbq joints, now a burger shack is getting national attention.

Lunchbox Laboratory is on the list of “America’s Top-Rated Burgers” by The food site asked critics to pick their “local hamburger heaven” and describe the sandwich in detail. Providence Cicero, Seattle Times restaurant critic wrote about the Burger of the Gods. “This ambitious sandwich combines sweet, balsamic-soaked onions and tangy Gorgonzola cream sauce with a freshly ground mix of grass-fed sirloin, rib eye, and prime rib—served on an organic kaiser bun,” Cicero writes. Mia emailed, “When I read that a Seattle restaurant had made the cut I was secretly hoping for Red mill, but it’s still nice that a Ballard commerce received such an illustrious mention!”

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61 thoughts to “Lunchbox Laboratory serves up top-rated burger”

  1. The Burger of the Gods is… exactly that. I keep going back to the LL, planning on trying something else from their comprehensive menu, but I can't stop myself from getting another 'Gods.” All the six kinds I've tried so far are great, but… MAN OH MAN!

  2. i love LL but stopped eating there because of the rising prices. When they opened, you could get a burger, side and drink for something like $12. Then it was $14. Then it was $14 without a drink. I just can't pay upwards of $20 for a burger, fries and 10oz of soda.

    But I do loves it so very much.

  3. good for them…haven't tried 'em yet.

    i'm curious of course, but everytime i drive by and see the quaint outdoor seating by the overflowing recycling and garbage containers i can't do it for some reason.

    i should check it out, still, but i admit that the prices and numerous comments (not just here) about the rude “take it or leave it) style of “service” isn't a great incentive.

  4. Sad to hear all the service complaints… I've always had good service and they've always engaged in conversation with us. Granted they don't chat a lot when they're slammed but they've always been pleasant. And granted they sell out of things from time to time (big bummer) but it's a tiny place… I get it.

  5. good for them I guess. They need the press to get new customers, because I know I won't be back. If I am paying $20.00 for a burger with tater tots and a soda that quite frankly wasn't anything special you really should check your attitude. When I am spending it with a family of four and the bill comes to $90.00 or so you REALLY need to check your attitude. Just my opinion, but hey my favorite place got it's due in Seattle Metro Magazine go to Zippy's better and cheaper.

  6. I think I would have given my vote to Red Mill. The burgers at LL are a bit too greasy for my taste. Also the portions are too big and I say that as someone who runs 40-45 miles/week so I've got the calories to burn! I'd probably go back more if they offered half burgers or smaller burgers. One of those burgers with a side and drink is probably close to 3000 calories (if not more), with a big chunk of that from sugar and fat. I'm all for the occasional burger but that's just too much.

    Prices I'm indifferent to within reason because to a large degree you get what you pay for. If you want cheap go dine on the processed crap from McD.

    Service has never been an issue the half dozen or so times I've been there though I've always been there when they're pretty quiet. I think I've been lucky but this many complaints can't be wrong.

  7. I'm sorry, but I am just not a fan of LBL. Red Mill all the way. High-quality, done simply and well. Biggest caveat–I seem to always crave burgers on Mondays.

    The vintage lunch boxes at LBL are good eye candy and they have an interesting concept, but the overly complex burgers just don't taste very good to me and are certainly not worth the price. And major gut bomb action.

    My two cents.

  8. never been there. unfortunately probably never will.

    -too many complaints about the service
    -horrible atmosphere?
    -hamburgers? are you kidding? even with all the fancy ingredients (thanks for the ideas, btw!) I could train a monkey to make one of these. if I'm going to pay $20, it will be for something I'm incapable of making myself

  9. @ seaspider I understand you get what you pay for, but in my opinion if you are going to run a burger stand and command the prices they do then you better give the service that goes along with it. If I go to Mcdonalds I expect them to give crappy service, if I am paying as much for a burger as the met or el guacho charges then I expect a little bit of customer service not arrogance. Again just my opinion

  10. I don't expect or accept crappy service anywhere. Simple service is fine, I'm not expecting someone to breakdown the dishes by ingredient and where they're from. But I don't stand for angry or pissy help who think they're doing you a favor by letting you know they don't like you and don't like their job.

  11. I have always found LBL to be a very friendly place. And you don't HAVE to get the $20 meal. You can get the smaller hamburger (bigger than Red Mill's burger) for less. As I understand it, they are looking for a bigger, nicer place.

  12. The shakes are amazing. The Boston Cream shake is killer. The burgers are definitely better quality than Red Mill or other places but agreed, it's pricey.

  13. I've only been there once, the food is oversalted but worth trying. The service we had was fine, didn't fawn over us but allowed some rookie mistakes. Any place that serves tater tots as a side is worth trying. So man up and give it a try!

    They will also do to go orders if you don't want to sit outside, though the indoor seating is nice especially with the fab retro decor!

  14. Hmmm. I'm stunned by the number of people who have chimed in here to say they've never actually been there, but that they don't think they'd like it? Virtual critics…hilarious.

    This is a brilliant local restaurant, and I dare say you will find nothing like it anywhere else in the world, let alone Seattle. If you are expecting them to kiss your a** while you hem and haw over what you are going to order, then this isn't your spot; a la soup nazi, they just might hurt your feelings. You don't get it, clearly, and that is OK, I'm guessing they won't miss your business.

    If your looking for a more ordinary burger that is essentially a Costco frozen beef patty on a QFC bun and “special” sauce i.e. ketchup and mayo (talk about food a monkey can make), go to Red Mill. But if you want a burger like you've never had or seen before in your entire life, and a dining experience that you will never forget, go see what they are doing at the lab. Saying you “just aren't paying $20 for a burger and some tater tots” soundly illustrates your gastronomical ignorance, IMHO. What this joint is kicking out is half food, half art, and 100% unique. Gut bombs? Well, yeah…rather unabashedly, I'd say.

    Red Mill is my wife's favorite burger joint. Been to the lab twice.

  15. The burgers are unique:

    If you ate there all the time, you would die. The cholesterol, calories, salt, etc. would kill any ordinary mortal quickly…

    The 1/2 lb burger (dork is my alltime favorite) is insanely good-my wife says I make the best burger ever, but says LBL is the *special* treat for the occasional splurge when In The Mood for an insane meal.

    So, if you want ALL your days calories in ONE (insanely) delicious meal, LBL is great (like in the midst of a massive hangover) for one over the top meal. I think they may have promoted themselves this way back when they were getting local press-a very over-the-top hamburger.

    Literally, eating one of their burgers is your whole day's meal… Crazy, but good.

    I've wondered about the service complaints-I've had the lady give me friendly sh**t, it was fun and thought that it could be a personality dynamic: perhaps the lady & some folks don't hit it off…? She's always nice to me, but I can sense an edge there. I could see her being less than pleasant potentially, but haven't witnessed it myself.

    If some get the Harsh Edge, Customer Service issues are front and center here (the customer is ALWAYS right-they are paying after all…), one has to question their choice of Customer Service Representative-some people should NEVER deal with the public, and some are absolutely brilliant at it-such a crapshoot for an employer hiring staff.

    So, I am sad to hear some people are being treated badly. I LOVE the Burgers of Death (sparingly) from LBL, hope they stay in Ballard, and hope some try/give another chance despite unpleasant interaction.

    One would hope LBL would also hear these complaints and respond accordingly! Being nasty is not ok!

  16. Just to let you know, MidWest, the customer is sometimes wrong. Frequently wrong, in fact. Only takes a few days working in the hospitality/customer service field to find that out.

  17. I'm not asking for any special treatment of @ss kissing and the customer can be wrong but dont act like your doing me a favor by selling me your product.

  18. Funny how many snarky people there are in Ballard when it comes to every-freakin-thing. What do we want here, a government run burger joint? Imagine the cost then. Imagine the personal touch from them. Against LBL? Don't go there. I'm pro-choice myself. Eating out as opposed to cooking at home costs a ton? Really? How many here have EVER run a business and know about true costs and the fear of it owning you? I now can not wait to give 'em my business and form my own opinions. Perhaps they should have the talents/long lines/wonderful experience of a DMV. Oh yeah, they're closing them on us. More hope/change.

  19. Absolutely, especially when it comes to stores selling products! Sorry, but if you're in a true specialty store chances are the person working there knows more about the product than you do. When I worked retail we had people come in and say “Brand X is better quality than Brand Y” even though I knew the two products were made in the exact same factory by the exact same people from the exact same materials! Other times they'd assume a product made in Italy was superior quality to a product made in Taiwan even though the exact opposite was usually true. People may think they know something because they read about it in a magazine or website but unless you've worked in a given specialty area you probably don't know what you're talking about.

    One reason you shop at a true specialty retailer is to take advantage of the knowledge of the employees who know more than you. That's why I buy my fish from the Fresh Fish Company on 80th instead of getting it from QFC. It costs more but I'm happy to pay the price since I'm also getting advice and knowledge – something I wouldn't get at the supermarket. If I have a home/furniture product and need advice in addition to tools and materials I'll go to Dunn Lumber and Rockler instead of dealing with the minimum wage slaves at the Home Despot. Again I pay more but time and time again they've given me great advice I wouldn't have gotten from the cheaper stores.

    A good rule of thumb: if the person behind the counter makes minimum wage don't expect more than minimum service.

  20. I've been here 4 or 5 times and I really want to like them, but I always leave wondering why. Now that the prices have jumped up I probably will give up on them. Why can't they bring back the Hardened Artery!

  21. Very true. I've noticed a lot of people on this blog have a sense of entitlement the size of Texas.

    They complain when they don't get perfect customer service. It's annoying.

  22. No one asked for yours either.

    It's a public forum. People just might comment on your…comment. Imagine that!

    And you've never been inside. How would you know if it's filthy?

    First hand knowledge is the best knowledge, which I happen to have. It's not filthy. Also, sometimes filthy is good. Taco trucks aren't exactly spotless, yet they have the best tacos in the city. Have fun missing out on good food.

  23. LBL totally deserves this recognition, their burgers are the best in seattle & well beyond. Red Mill's smash patties are nice but they're not the type of burger I'm looking for. I usually split a burger with a friend because yes, they are insanely huge, but in such a good way :>

    I have never seen any problems with service – not only have they always been super nice to me personally, but they've never been anything but polite to other customers in the many many visits I've made.

    Is the outdoor ambience picturesque? No. Is the restaurant itself clean & sanitary? you betcha!

    Oh and the key lime shake is the BEST EVER!!!!

    PS epicurious is a well known food & cooking website, linked to Gourmet & Bon Apetite magazines, that's been around for ages.

  24. Really, why do you need a staff that is more knowledgeable about specialty ingredients than you to make a great burger?
    The perfect burger is so much more simple than that. Either people are trying too hard (LBL) or they don't realize crap when they're eating it (RM).
    There isn't a really great burger in this town and I try them all.

  25. LBL is a lot to handle, but it's all high quality and done with intention. Red Mill tastes fine, but it's really not on par with LBL in terms of the work they put into preparing the meat, fixings, quality of the bun, etc. If you can take on the mess, then LBL will blow you away hands down.

  26. Everyone I've brought to LBL has loved it. Loved it. Yes, it's pricey, but it's worth it. It's ground steak not some crappy ground beef that's god knows what.

    For what it's worth, my naturopath has told me to go there at least once per week to get my iron. She didn't say eat red meat once a week, she said go to LBL for a burger.

    Alegra has always been very, very friendly to me. As someone from Yelp said: not rude, acting with purpose. She's keeps the line going and your food out to you fast.

  27. But their hamburgers are better than ones you can make at home.

    Why wouldn't you want to try the best of what Seattle has to offer?

    A good hamburger is easy to make. An excellent one is not.

  28. i don't understand the mentality of some restaurant patrons who feel they need to be worshipped just for walking in the door. perhaps at a super-fancy white tablecloth kind of place, but a tiny roadside burger joint?? personally, i adore lunchbox laboratory. they are pricey, and their portions are gigantic, but totally worth it. yum yum yum.

  29. i 100% agree. I liked the burger I got there (gogo customization & options), but it was far too big and that's the only reason I haven't been back. I'm bummed, because there are still a lot of combinations I'd like to try.

    I had great service on my one visit, too.

  30. I'm not demanding being worshipped. I don't even need friendly. Neutral suits me just fine. Don't need tablecloths.

    There's a large spectrum between rude and ass-kissing. These guys, in the two times I've been in there, have tipped the scale to beyond rude, all the way to venomous.

  31. I also wonder how many are projecting their own discomfort onto others and claiming THEY are being mistreated. I've noticed a general tone of omg fancy place = elitist jerks in many reviews, which is why I take it all with a grain of salt and choose to check things out for myself.

    A $20 meal between two people isn't an outrageous investment considering the gems you're likely to find when you take a chance. Ironic since many of these comments come from those who don't bat an eye at spending that much on a crap movie and some stale popcorn on a regular basis.

  32. in your opinion.

    and yes, you're entitled to it and I won't judge you for it, but what's wrong with wanting something different? What you consider “Trying too hard” is another man's “doing something different.”

  33. I agree with the 'it's good for an occasional nosh, like after you've climbed a mountain, because it's so caloric, and it's overwhelming to go for the first time, b/c it's not super obvious what yer supposed to do, but the staff aren't rude, but workin' on their own vibe which is a little abrupt but efficient' crew.

    I'll try Zippy's, but why no love for Burgermaster, I prefer it to Red Mill any old day.

  34. 'entitled' is the new buzzword around here. Every time I read it in a post I get the image of the Unabomber scratching away at a manifesto of how he's been wronged (or any crank on the PI comments…same thing). It's been so misused and overused that I can't take it seriously anymore.

  35. So far, I haven't had a great burger in Seattle. Red Mill is only so-so. For consistency, I just go to Red Robin. Hope to try Zippy's soon.
    Still haven't topped Charlie's in Fort Worth, TX. Best burger ever!

  36. We've been to LBL several times . . . including the day the review in, the Seattle Times and a number of other publications featured articles raving about them. And we've always adored the food. In fact, we now regularly take visitors from out of town here.

    The day all the reviews came out we got our burgers, but just barely. LBL had been slammed with tons of business, unsurprisingly. But since none of the publications had bothered to give them any heads up, they were quickly out of basic ingredients and had no extra help on hand to deal with the long lines. Once they were out of food and were turning people away we got a chance to talk to the “the lady” that was mentioned in several of the reviews — once she got a chance to catch her breath.

    In addition to mentioned their frustration with the flood of unexpected business, she said they were annoyed that none of the articles ever explain how small their seating area is — so people are always disappointed when there is nowhere to sit. Also, they mentioned that their burgers aren't really designed to travel well and therefore aren't the best choice for take-out, so it makes them sad when their burgers are being taken to 1st-timers as a take-0ut item.

    These people clearly take great pride in serving up really high quality food and getting it out to you fast while it's still hot. Any rudeness people experience I believe arises out of their frustration with not being able to keep up with demand and take care of all their customers the way they would like to. Which will continue to be hard for them to do in their current location given their popularity with critics . . .

    I just hope that they take all these great reviews and convince some bank to give them a loan so they can move their business to a larger location where they will have some chance of keeping up with demand.

  37. I went to LL and was so disappointed… it was a dark and greasy box of a restaurant so we ate outside, the outside seating is next to the overflowing dumpster, charming. ………. the food was gross, extremely salty and greasy…and i love my salt and grease. I was so bummed.

  38. It's not just a “hamburger”. It's a meal, it's art. It's fucking delicious. If you took any time to look at the menu and the ingredients in the burgers, you'd know why they are $15. Your loss, seriously.

  39. the prices are clearly marked. they shouldn't be blamed for your inability to do math.
    if you don't want to pay what they ask for a burger DON'T BUY ONE

  40. don't act like you're doing them a favor by buying their product and then complaining about it. plenty of others will buy and like it.

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