Two hands, one knife and seven napkins was my tally. Or maybe eight. I lost count because I was juggling a pretty big burger at the newly opened Red Wagon Burgers in Tacoma.
The tall burgers are the creation of Kyong Kim, who operated Red Wagon Burgers in Tumwater for three years before he sold it in May. (It retains the name via an agreement but is operated separately.)
The new restaurant that opened in early November is in Tacoma’s Westgate neighborhood in one of many strip malls there, sandwiched between a Game Stop and a smoke shop. Kim operates the restaurant with three family members and an edict that I like hearing: Customers should always be happy or he’ll make the food again or offer a refund.
The quick-service restaurant specializes in charbroiled burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes, but also has Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and fried fish.
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Here’s a first-bite report of an inaugural visit. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month.
Dining room: Five booths line both walls, with a communal table for 12 in the middle and two-tops lining the hallway to the restrooms.
Service: Quick-style service. Order at the counter, find your own seat.
Burger basics: His house patty is a third-pound Angus chuck, standard, and charbroiled to order, which gives the patty deep, beefy flavor. Standard add-ons include red onions, green leaf lettuce, dill pickle chips and thick-sliced tomatoes. The house burger sauce is made with sweet relish. The buns are kaiser-style pub rolls from Portland’s French Bakery and always come grilled until crunchy. American cheese is standard on most burgers, but cheddar, Swiss, provolone and other cheeses can be substituted, said Kim.
Burger construction: Larger than a typical fast-food version. Veggies on the bottom and the patty on the top means the burger turns slightly top heavy, but buns held steady under pressure.
Try the: House-named burger, the Red Wagon ($7.99) with sauteed yellow onions, sauteed mushrooms, two thick slices of bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and house sauce. The sturdy grilled bun and a pick speared through the center helped keep ingredients in place, but a knife made it much more manageable to handle. It’s a burger built for sharing. The smaller cheeseburger ($5.29) is built for one hungry teenager.
Other burgers: 15 choices with a beef patty ($5.09-$8.99), ranging from blue cheese and bacon ($6.99) to a California burger with avocado and bacon ($7.99), mushroom and provolone ($6.75); monster burger with bacon, turkey and pastrami ($8.99) and a deluxe bacon with cheese ($6.95). All burgers are served a la carte, but fries and a drink can be added for $3.29.
Fries: Battered, coated fries with plenty of surface area (freezer, not fresh cut, but that didn’t bother me). Crunchy on the outside, creamy inside. $3.50.
Rings: Hand-breaded with shattery-crunchy panko coating, made with yellow onions. $4.95.
Other sandwiches: Garden burger ($5.95), fish burger ($6.49), salmon burger ($8.99) and grilled chicken ($6.95).
Phillys: Two sizes built on rolls from Tacoma’s Baker Boys, $5.85-$8.50, ranging from a basic Philly with onions, peppers and provolone to the works with Cheese Whiz (chicken also offered).
Fish and chips: Beer-battered fish ($5.99 one piece/$8.99 two/$11.99 three) with fries, prawns ($6.99), oysters ($6.99), calamari rings ($4.99), clam strips ($4.99). Kim fries his fish in a beer batter made with Heineken and finishes the fish with panko breading.
Beverages: Sodas, bottled beers, smoothies in eight flavors ($4.50) and shakes in 10 flavors ($4.75).
Red Wagon Burgers
Info: 2315 N. Pearl St., Tacoma; 253-212-3705, redwagonburgers.com.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 am.-9 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays.