Restaurant revival: Bite into Lefty's, Twisted Kilt
SUE KIDD; Staff writer
We’re in the midst of a restaurant flurry. I can’t remember a time since 2006 when so many restaurants were opening one after another. By my count, 10 interesting new and noteable restaurants have opened since June or will open by this fall. Keep watching this column in the coming weeks for more details, or visit blog.thenewstribune.com/tntdiner
to see a list of new restaurants open or coming soon.
Today, I take a bite out of two new restaurants worthy of your dining dollars based on two anonymous visits each. Take a look at how they fared on first-bite visits during the first month of operation:
LEFTY’S BURGER SHACK
Look out Pick Quick, you have some competition.
That Fife drive-in burger stand long has been my go-to fast food burger of choice. Burgers with a tangy sauce, crunchy bun, pickles and a from-scratch edict that extends to delicious hand-cut fries is the lure. But I always have had one quibble: The burger patty is too small.
Now enters the quarter-pound, juicy, meaty burgers at Lefty’s Burger Shack, opened July 23 by first-time restaurant owner Pam Hubert in a partially vacant University Place shopping center in need of crowds. And the crowds did come. Like the lines at Pick Quick, the 20-minute wait is worth it.
Hubert’s idea for the burger shack rooted two years ago when she was looking for a business to run after a long career as a food broker. A 15-year Day Island resident, she admired the funky octagonal building that once housed a Dairy Dell and a Dairy Queen. It’s a kitschy little building made for flipping burgers. Hubert leased it with the intention of starting up quickly with the help of her mother and two sons. Extensive remodeling and two years later, she opened to long lines. Barricades blocked the doors to the small dining room on my two visits, so diners should plan to order at the outside window and eat at a scattering of picnic tables or take your bag of burgers to go.
So who’s Lefty? Lefty would be Mark Leppell, one of Hubert’s best friends and informal financial adviser. Leppell, who everyone called Lefty, died unexpectedly last October. Leppell’s family gave Hubert the blessing to name the burger restaurant after her friend.
The burgers start with the basics I like to see at a burger stand – quarter-pound patties that are hand-formed and made from freshly ground chuck on crunchy grilled buns, smeared with a tangy burger spread and topped with crunchy shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes and pickle chips.
A deluxe cheeseburger ($3.45) and bacon cheeseburger ($3.75) on a first visit were dead-on perfect with juicy meat, crunchy bun and crisp veggies. The bacon was crisp, the cheese gooey hot. The burger patty at a quarter pound provided a meaty weightiness that Pick Quick burgers lack.
A mushroom Swiss ($4.35) came on a fluffy Kaiser bun with melted Swiss (processed, not real), a hearty layer of grilled mushrooms (not canned, what a relief) and a tangle of sweet and slow-cooked caramelized onions. A bacon blue cheese ($4.35) tasted way too salty with blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing competing with the pickles for a salty assault on the palate. Order it with burger sauce instead of the dressing.
The frozen crinkle-cut fries weren’t anything special (Pick Quick’s hand-cut fries has Lefty’s beat), but they become brilliant in concept as “frings” ($2.95), a half order of fries combined with onion rings, which were fried golden brown, shattery crisp and stuffed with slippery sweet, tender onions.
A strawberry shake ($3.35) was flavored with strawberry syrup, not real fruit, and tasted like Nestle strawberry milk – cloying. Next time, I’ll order chocolate. The rest of the menu: Nathan’s dogs, corn dogs, junior burgers and a few chicken sandwiches.
TWISTED KILT IRISH PUB & EATERY
When Twisted Kilt Irish Pub and Eatery opened in Puyallup in late June, owner Bryan Purdy said the pub would be to Puyallup what Doyle’s Public House is to Tacoma: a headquarters for soccer fans. Judging by the flat-panel screens tuned to soccer here and abroad, I’d say they’ve kicked that goal (sorry about that lousy pun, couldn’t resist).
Doyle’s long has been my favorite Irish haunt for its well-crafted sandwiches and Irish stew with a side of soda bread from Tacoma’s Corina Bakery. Twisted Kilt, on two separate anonymous visits, provides some hearty meat-and-potatoes competition for the St. Helens neighborhood Doyle’s. However, Twisted Kilt’s Puyallup location trends much more suburban and likely won’t have the burgeoning late-night crowd Doyle’s attracts.
Twisted Kilt joins a downtown seeing some restaurant movement this year with the addition last September of It’s Greek To Me, an outpost of the Tacoma restaurant, and Crockett’s, which opened this year.
Twisted Kilt is operated by local owners Bryan Purdy and Jason Pingrey and is located in the space that formerly housed Bagel Boyz Bakery, and Giggling Greek before that. The fast-casual minimal décor of Bagel Boyz has been replaced with a darker color palate more appropriate for a pub, myriad flat-panel televisions and a long bar.
The menu is American pub food – sandwiches and burgers – with Irish leanings. Chef Greg Savage, who is finishing his culinary degree at the Art Institute of Seattle, designed an affordable menu in the $10 range.
I stuck with the Irish side of the menu: a heavenly Shepherd’s pie ($9) – a base of ground lamb suspended in a boozy, rich Guinness-fueled gravy and threaded with carrots, peas and onions sealed in with a creamy layer of skins-on red mashers topped with melted cheddar.
Corned beef and cabbage ($11) tasted sharp and looked equally pretty in its plating: three thick slabs of tender, braised corned beef fanned across a knot of slow-cooked cabbage. I swiped the velvety, but thin, brown gravy with the colorful side of roasted starches: cubes of purple and red potatoes and carrots.
A Twisted burger ($10) was a fun spin on a Reuben: a half-pound burger patty and thick corned beef smeared with Thousand Island dressing, a cheesy layer of Swiss and puckery sauerkraut all on grilled marble rye bread. Crispy, thin and freshly fried pub chips came on the side.
Irish meatballs ($9) were another boozy concoction with a creamy Guinness gravy swimming around four tender, beefy meatballs over garlic mashers.
Note: The bar is for ages 21 and older only. No kids. A rarity for Puyallup.
Sue Kidd dines anonymously and all meals are paid for by The News Tribune. Reach her at 253-597-8270 or firstname.lastname@example.org