[caption id="attachment_13886" align="alignright" width="480"] The cheesequake from Earthquake Burgers.[/caption]After piling my way through eight burger stands at the Washington State Fair, I found myself uttering two things.
“Wait, how much did I pay for that?!?” and “More grilled onions, please.”
The first was irritating, the second a defining standard for a just-right fair burger.
A fair burger really isn’t a fair burger unless it’s stacked with supple onions straight off a grill. Perfect grilled onions should be colored somewhere between honey and dark caramel. They should be sweet and wispy, not crispy, chunky or oily. Deduct points for pasty whites stewing in juices. Those aren’t grilled onions, those are an abomination.
My burger mission at the fair – which continues through Sept. 22 in Puyallup – was straightforward: Find the best burger with the best grilled onions. I definitely found those, along with a few burgers that sounded as if they should come with a warning label. Read on.
Highest ratio of onions to beef: The Myer Cheeseburger, $6.50Where
: Hamburger Myers stand, Restaurant buildingNote:
Cash only, except for purchases over $10
When asked if you’d like “a little or a lot” of onions at the Hamburger Myers stand, say “a lot” and be rewarded with a ratio of three parts onion to one part burger. I knew I was in good hands when the woman in front of me walked away carrying a tray of fried onions with nothing other than a fork. The Myer burger itself was straightforward – a thin but juicy patty and a layer of melted American cheese on a squishy bun. The onions made that burger. Believe the sign with random acts of capitalization: “The BURGER that made the FAIR Famous.”
Best onion burger worth sharing: The Cheesequake, $10.98Where:
Earthquake Burger stand, near the Showplex
It’s fair tradition to polish off an Earthquake burger, which is no small task considering the half-pounders look to be the size of small frisbees. That’s why I like to share Earthquake burgers. Tall burgers with lots of condiments make for sloppy splitting, but the large surface area of a Cheesequake makes for easy quartering. They get grilled onions right here – and it’s a good thing, because that’s the only burger fixing offered here besides ketchup, mustard and mayo. The sesame seed bun sandwiches a fairly thick half-pound patty with copious fried onions and more melted American cheese than should be safe to eat.
Best value: The Stop-N-Go Burger, $5.50Where:
Stop-N-Go Burgers booth near the Showplex
It’s tough to find a hamburger under five bucks at the fair, but Stop-N-Go came close with its $5.25 onion burger. Mine with cheese was $5.50, a bargain, relatively speaking (because fair food really isn’t a good value, as I’ve made clear over and over and ...). I appreciated the simplicity of this burger, dressed with griddled onions and crispy crunch from iceberg lettuce, tomato and crinkle-cut pickle chips.
Best use of alternative bun: The Bernie Sourdough Burger, $7.25Where:
Bernie’s Burger Stands, multiple locations
Call me a sourdough sucker, but I love a burger built on grilled sourdough. Bernie’s delivered sturdy rounds that sandwiched a decent patty, lots of fried fair onions and plenty of crisp from lettuce, tomato and pickle.
Yes, I would like grilled peppers: Monster Cheeseburger, $9.60Where:
Monster Burger booth, International VillageNote:
A direct competitor with Earthquake Burger, Monster Burger one ups Earthquake with two offerings: flame-grilled meat and loads of green peppers, in addition to fried onions. The burger was built on an onion bun, with melted American cheese.
Best burger with a show: Outlaw Burger, $10.75Where:
Juicy’s Outlaw Grill between Showplex and Centennial Building
The execution of this burger was off, but at least it came with a show. The traveling grill can cook up to 1,000 items at a time and it’s a worthy time killer to watch the grill masters pace up and down the line, flipping meat as if they were competing in the Grill Olympics. Burger execution proved lackluster. I got unmelted cheese and an underseasoned patty with a toasted and buttered bun that was cold. The onions-pepper mix tasted anemic and still crunchy. Beware.
FROM THE ODDITY FILES
Burger with an identity crisis: BBQ Bacon Burger Dog, $11Where:
Lady Luck Cowgrill Up, behind the Skyride/Blue Gate Was it a dog? A burger? It was both! With bacon! Yay! This monstrosity stacked a kielbasa wrapped in bacon on a hoagie with a burger patty embedded with bacon. I thought I’d seen it all. Nope. Skip the barbecue sauce – it’s too sweet.
I find no fault with pastrami: Cascade Burger, $11.95
Where: Butch’s Better burgers, Showplex Food Court
Is this a Reuben? A burger? It’s another burger with an identity crisis! The flame-grilled double patty burger came layered with salty pastrami, a puckery Thousand Island sauce and melted Swiss (extra points for using real cheese, not processed). Good burger, even if it really was a Reuben missing its ’kraut.
Sue Kidd dines anonymously, and The News Tribune pays for all meals, even ones that give her massive heartburn.