On opening day of Lefty’s Burger Shack last Saturday, she ran out of food. She ran out of food Sunday, too. On Monday, she served 450 burgers. Four hundred fifty burgers. In tiny restaurant terms, that’s like an indie band selling out the Tacoma Dome – small fish, big numbers. The line? Out the door.
“It was just insane,” said Pam Hubert, who has opened Lefty’s Burger Shack in University Place in a funky building with a cool history of burger lore. It was once home to Dairy Queen and Dairy Dell. News Tribune archives hint that Arctic Circle once called that building home, a few readers here remember it, too. If you’ve been by the building, you’d remember it. It’s octagon-ish and looks like it was built to be a burger shack.
Lefty’s is the culmination of a few years of work by Hubert (read this blog post I wrote back in June for the rest of the story), who runs the restaurant with her mother and two sons.
“I’ve already this morning changed my menu,” Hubert said earlier today when I caught her on the phone before opening for day six of business. “I took clams, fish and chips and chicken strips off the menu … I’m going to focus on hamburgers and hot dogs. That’s what people are buying.”
Why the menu shrinkage? Too much distraction. “It makes us crazy, so I just thought, I’m going to try not to please everybody. I’ve still got chicken sandwiches on the menu, but hamburgers are what we’re doing.” Her idea: focus on executing a few things really well and add the other stuff later if demand and time allows. Fine by me. You can click here, here, here, here, and, oh, here and here to find out how much I like burgers. Sold. Hubert uses burger terms that appeal to my burger loving heart: hand-formed patties made out of fresh beef (never frozen), juicy, tastes like homemade.
A diner’s question: Who is Lefty? And why name a burger shack after him? Lefty would be Mark Leppell. Hubert counted him among her best friends and informal financial adviser for her restaurant, which she originally had named UP Burger Shack.
Leppell, who everyone called Lefty, died last October, very unexpectedly. “It’s hard to even talk about,” said Hubert. “I wanted to call it quits, it broke my heart.” But then, this: “I saw his daughter one day and I asked her if it was OK with her, I wanted to name the restaurant after her dad. That’s how it came about.”
If Leppell were still alive, how’d he feel about a restaurant in his name? “He would be furious and say don’t you dare to do it,” she said. But she did it anyway. With his family’s approval, of course.
Up next: I’ll let them work out the kinks and then pay a visit in August for burgers and frings, a genius idea of a half order of fries and onion rings (this should just be the way the world works everywhere). Stay tuned.
Lefty's Burger ShackWhere: 8317 27th St. W., University PlacePhone: She has a number, just no phone yet. She's too busy to do call-in orders, but look for that at a later date.Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (maybe later on weekends, she's still messing with the hours)