308 East 26th Street
Hmmmmm…. Burger…. That quintessential North American sandwich. And I will be more than willing to admit I am at times guilty to have one too many burgers. Something that can be really cheap (and done well) and something where you can also make it fancy for no other reason just because (and, in my opinion, break its simplicity). Despite its bad rap, if done well, it can be a thing of beauty. And, again, who better than Americans for this creation? So, on my last day in Tacoma, on my way back to Vancouver, I had to do a small stop for lunch and what better place, than, well, a burger shop? And that’s how I ended up in Friesenburgers.
As mentioned, there is nothing to observe from the outside – Given the general area, it can easily be considered a dive. But, then again, considering that I have been to two already in this trip, a third one won’t kill me (OK, the fat might but you get the gist). My only concern was whether it will be a mess eating it and I end up staining my work suit (fortunately, it didn’t).
Because of the time I arrived, there were no customers so, from that perspective, it was OK, unlike other places where, if it is empty by lunch and/or dinner, I would get some suspicious. Looking at the menu, again, nothing extraordinary: your basic burger shack menu. The probably “notable” item would be what they call a Friesenburger, 1/2 pound worth of patties, cheese, bacon and topped with a fried egg. Well, other places have it as well so, I guess this would be their version… But, I chose not to order that (hey, again, I am conscious of it!) and instead went for…
A double hamburger with a side of fries and drink. Now, if you were in a hurry or thinking this will be McD’s, don’t. I would say that it easily took ~10 minutes from ordering to have it ready for me taking pictures (hey, you know what they say, you have to let us take pictures first before you can dig in!). Now that you have seen it, let me ask one question: Had I not mention this was from Friesenburgers, would you say it doesn’t look quite similar (down to the wrapping) to one particular place, namely… Red Robin? Yup, that’s what I thought as well!
So, let’s start with the fries: I will have to say these were good. While could have had some additional crispiness on the outside (but this is me nitpicking), once you bit into it, there was that starch texture. Did I mention they were piping hot? One thing they did warn me about (and really appreciated) was that the fries weren’t seasoned but the fact they were still piping hot gave me a window of opportunity to do so. However, noticed in the picture above that container? Well, it just happens they have sort of a dipping sauce for it made up for some “secret” ingredients but I was told it includes mayo, catsup, mustard and liquid from relish. Whatever else is in it, let’s just say it really complemented the fries.
Now back to the burger. One thing I noticed right away was the texture of the patty: it was crumbly. Usually there is some form of binding agent (eggs, bread, et al) but here it felt… strange but in a good way. And there was something really interesting: It was quite juicy! And bite after bite, unlike a lot of burgers, I actually tasted some meat as well as some other seasoning. As for the rest of the burger, it was a text book burger, nothing fancy and served to complement the meat.
After the meal (and washed my hands), I talked briefly to the operators and couldn’t help ask one question: given how “juicy” it was, did they prepare their own patties? Their answer shocked me: They buy frozen. To paraphrase that ad, yes that “F” word. So how come they prepare such a juicy burger and have such a char and flavouring? The answer was two-fold: they season the burgers before cooking and, rather than going by time (as would a lot of places would do), they use a thermometer. As soon as it hits a specific safe temperature, it is ready. No wonder, considering a lot of places burn it to crisp in the hope of it being “safe”.
So, was this a good burger? I will have to say it was quite good. Not something I would have in a frequent basis but, certainly, a good burger shop. Alas, it is located almost in the middle of nowhere and its working hours are short (then again, due to its location, it can’t be helped).