Last Friday, we started a new restaurant series in our GO entertainment section called Drop-In Dining. Click here to read my report last week about Honey Pig on South Tacoma Way.
Drop-In Dining reports will be written by TNT staffers. We drop in unannounced, pay for our own meal and write up our experience based on a single visit. The restaurants we're trying are all new or new to us, and will range from burger shacks to linen and fine china restaurants. Have a suggestion for a restaurant we should try? E-mail us at email@example.com.
Craig Hill, our Adventure writer, wrote a report about Scale Burger, a hole-in-the-wall sort of place in Elbe in today's GO section. Here it is:
54109 Highway 7, Elbe; 360-569-2247
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Price Range: $
By Craig Hill
The scene: Scaleburgers pays homage to its weigh station roots with a large stump and an old iron block placed around the burger stand. Large semi-truck tires are used as planters. All seating is outdoors at green picnic tables shaded by green umbrellas. Food is served on orange-and-red trays, and customers' orders are identified by playing cards instead of numbers. The parking area includes a kiosk with maps and information about exploring nearby Mount Rainier National Park.
Type of food: As the name implies, Scaleburgers primarily serves hamburgers. It also serves chicken sandwiches, vegetarian sandwiches, onion rings, chili, fries and chili fries. There's no kids menu, but Scaleburgers offers kid favorites like hot dogs, corn dogs and chicken nuggets.
"I think what people like about us is that we always make sure we have fresh ingredients," Scaleburgers owner Cora Adams said. Adams buys her hamburger from a commercial butcher in Olympia.
Menu highlights: The most popular items on the menu are the chocolate hand-dipped shakes ($3.75) and malts ($4.15), as well as the Overload ($6.15) and Hot Brakes ($5.75) burgers. The old-fashioned shakes come in 20-ounce paper cups. The Overload is a 1/4-pound patty with two slices of American cheese, two pieces of bacon, lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato and a mayonnaise-ketchup sauce. The 1/4-pound Hot Brakes has two slices of Swiss cheese, jalapeño peppers and the sauce.
"The Hot Brakes is getting more and more popular," Cora Adams said.
People in the kitchen: Husband and wife Gayle and Cora Adams bought Ashford's logging truck weigh station in 1969 and moved it to Elbe. With the proliferation of electric scales, the scale shack soon became unnecessary so the Adamses turned the tiny building into a burger stand in 1985. "I turned to what I knew when I was a kid," Cora Adams said. "Making milkshakes."
Cora still cooks some days, but also has four to six employees per day in the kitchen.
Dishes sampled: Our party of four started with the classic: an Overload burger with a chocolate malt. The malt came first, giving us something to keep us busy – and the kids quiet – while we waited for the burger and the rest of our order.
We skipped the special sauce, but with the bun barely able to contain the rest of ingredients, the Overload still lived up to its name.
The Overload was the biggest hit at our table, but the dark brown onion rings ($3.85) and malt were close behind. And the kids got creative ordering a marshmallow shake ($3.75).
The fried chicken fillet with cheese sandwich ($6.90) was adorned more simply than the Overload with just mayo and lettuce.
Unlike sodium-packed fast-food fries, the chunky French fries ($2.45) were lightly salted.
We had fun using these hefty fries in place of spoons to tackle the chili ($3.05), which saved us from having to order the $5.25 chili fries.
We were all stuffed when we were done – glad we didn't pay the extra $2 for an extra patty on the burger – but not too full to pass on Scaleburgers' softball-size chocolate ice cream cone ($3.15).
Service: This is not a McDonald's experience. Count on waiting 10 to 15 minutes – longer if it's busy – while your burger cooks. Let's face it, Elbe is a long drive for a burger and a shake. However, Scaleburgers will deliver if you pay the FedEx bill. Adams says she has mailed burgers as far away as Florida.
Most unexpected moment: At one point during lunch, a strong gust of wind blew a half-full cup of pop across the table.
Wild card: Handwritten signs in the window explain that all animals must be left in the car and smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of the shack.
Particulars: Scaleburgers accepts only cash. The nearest public restroom is a mile down the road at Rocky Point Campground, but guests often use the garden hose on the side of the building to wash their hands and their kids' faces. The burger shack is wheelchair accessible, but the seating area is in a gravel lot, which could make wheelchair navigation tricky.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
Picured here is Keisha Olson of Everett contemplating her lunch at Scaleburgers in Elbe. The place used to be a log scaling station. (Peter Haley / The News Tribune)