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 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.
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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.
Lefty’s Burger ShackWhere: 8317 27th St. W., University PlacePhone: None yet. They’re too busy for phone orders.Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (tentative)