Sitting at Montlake Cut's bar near the scale sailboat in the window is like being teleported to the shore. An Olympia Beer motion sign churns in the name of the crisp beer from the Pacific Northwest, and Edison bulbs in a white cage bring the feel of below-decks on a boat. The scent of sea brine from freshly shucked oysters wafts in the air .
When I ask the bartender for a medium-rare burger and he responds, with gusto, “I’ll put that fucker raw on the bar for you," it was a given that the burger would be good. At a restaurant from the people who previously brought Neighborhood Services' consistently delicious 400-napkin cheeseburger, that's expected. The bartender practically promised it with zeal. A guy nearby says he “pre-came” at the taste of his dessert, so the signs are good.
After all, this burger better be good — it’s 17 bucks. But it really is delicious. Maybe it’s the dedication to its main ingredient: a juicy, dry-aged and loosely packed blend of chuck. As the Observer pointed out in its recent review, at Montlake Cut, greatness comes from respect for the ingredients.
There's the soft, addictively buttery bun. The dry-aged chuck patty, from Southeast Family Farms, relaxes under Tillamook cheddar. Juice runs into a wreath of shredded lettuce mixed with red onion, dressed, and topped with a couple big tomato slices. I remove the two wooden spears and slice it down the center.
That’s when I let out an absolute foghorn of joy — this burger is cooked beautifully. Not since Knife have I seen medium rare so precisely honored. A slab of bold crimson gives way to char. In this moment, I could defeat Jaws with my bare hands. Bring it on, sharks. I may have actually said “Smile, you son of a bitch” before taking a bite of the burger.
The flavors are subtle. That shredded lettuce is tossed in a creamy, not-at-all overpowering dressing — imagine the texture of a non-mayo slaw. Good tomato mingles with juicy beef.
Halfway through, silent and enjoying the escape, I'm still dreaming about that medium-rare cook — rejoicing, really. The burger isn't bludgeoned by Thousand Island dressing or given a thick coat of salt. The beef is the star. Maybe it’s supposed to be.
Montlake Cut, 8220 Westchester Drive
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