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Yum on a bun: Five more Tacoma bar burgers to try before you die

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Nov. 4, 2011 at 5:55 am | 16 Comments »
November 4, 2011 5:55 am
Pacific Grill duck sausage sliders. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

It took months and three bottles of Tums to recover from last December’s bar burger series. Remember that? I wrote about the 20 burgers you have to eat before you die (or die trying).

This time, I took a considerably smaller bite out of Tacoma’s bar burger footprint: Five more bar burgers you should add to your list of must-try-or-die burgers around town.

Just don’t tell your doctor before you embark on your eating project. Click “read more” to see my top five bar burgers of the moment.

Please note: The burgers listed here are available in the bar of the restaurants. Some are on the regular restaurant menus, but all are available in the bar.

Pacific Grill duck sausage sliders. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

1. Pacific Grill’s Duck Sausage Sliders
For the win: Duck and bacon sausage might be one of the best food inventions.
Where: Pacific Grill, 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-3535, Serving lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, dinner Saturday, closed Sunday

Can you really call a slider made with duck sausage a burger?
Heck yeah, you can. I set precedence when I named the Asado burger – a burger made with chorizo – in my top-five bar burgers list last year. I hardly can be considered a burger traditionalist.
Pacific Grill debuted a new fall menu last month and the addition quickly propelled to the top of my bar burger list: duck sausage sliders with house-made potato chips.
The sausage was aromatic with a gamy-porky-earthy flavor. A sour-sweet contrast came from a swipe of whole-grain mustard on griddled sweet Hawaiian slider rolls laden with fennel, sauteed onions and red peppers that had just the slightest touch of snap – with more snap coming from the duck sausage. House-made chips were crispy, salty and purely potato flavored, as they should be.
Two duck sliders and fries were $6.25 in the bar during half-off happy hour, which runs all day, every day during operating hours (for the foreseeable future).

The Marrow burger at Marrow Kitchen Bar. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

2. Marrow Burger

For the win: It’s so luscious, the burger juice runs down your arm.
Where: Marrow, 2717 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma; 253-267-5299, Serving dinner Tuesday-
Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday

A flame-grilled juicy, fat patty on a fluffy, glossy brioche bun was covered in a silken sheen of Mount Townsend Trailhead, a buttery cheese with a full, nutty taste. Crispy frisee gave the burger just enough crunch and cool to cut the fatty, juicy burger (a four-napkin affair). Bacon was chewy, thick and salty, while onions came caramelized and sweet. Aioli with a kick of heat was served with ethereal, crispy house-fried Russet chips on the side. The new fall menu brought some tweaks to the burger. Chef Kyle Wnuk added tomato jam – one of the signatures of his burgers when he was chef at Dirty Oscar’s Annex – and the Marrow Burger now comes with white cheddar cheese and a house pickle. On the side is purple potato chips. The burger is $13.

The Masa burger.

3. Masa Burger
For the win: Bacon embedded fried cheese: Homer Simpson Drool.
Where: Masa, 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-254-0560,, serving lunch and dinner daily

What’s better than bacon? Fried cheese embedded with bacon. Fried pepperjack with crispy chunks of bacon – made on the grill at Masa – added a crispy, chewy, salty, smoky layer of yum to a burger that flavor exploded upon impact. Roasted jalapenos, a poblano pepper-fortified aioli and a zippy pico de gallo added layers of heat, while green leaf lettuce cooled it down some. I appreciated the coarse grind on the patty – made from ground chuck – which tasted uber-juicy and came flame-grilled. The burger is served on a sturdy cornmeal-dusted Kaiser roll. A big pile of hand-cut, skins-on fries on the side came sprinkled with cilantro and cotija and doused with jalapeno garlic butter. The burger is $9.99.

The Chophouse Burger

4. Chophouse Burger
For the win: Smoked mushrooms makes burgers yummy.
Where: Stanley & Seafort’s, 115 E. 34th St., Tacoma, 253-473-7300,, serving lunch Monday-Friday and dinner daily

Wait, what? I can have smoked mushrooms on my burger? Well, OK, sign me up. Applewood-smoked mushrooms (smoked in Stanley’s kitchen), added deep flavor and luscious texture to the juicy half-pound burger that came coated with a pungent layer of Maytag blue cheese. A sturdy brioche bun was a stellar example of why every good restaurant should serve burgers on brioche – they don’t fall apart, even when the burger is a towering mess of ingredients. Thin-shredded iceberg, thick-sliced tomatoes and red onions finished the burger. A ramekin of crispy fries came on the side. The burger starts at $12, with $2 charges for mushrooms, bacon and other add-ons.

The S.B.G.C. at Social Bar and Grill

5. The SBGC Burger
For the win: The taste of char and raw, snappy heat.
Where: Social Bar & Grill, 1715 Dock St., Tacoma, 253-301-3835,, serving lunch and dinner daily

Like Masa, the Social Burger & Grill Cheeseburger (SBGC) came drenched with flavor and spice – crisp, spicy raw jalapeno slices fueled the fire that was continued by the chile-spiked aioli on the side (in fact, all ingredients come on the side, which helps diners control the heat). Grill marks gave the half-pound patty a delicious dose of char. What I liked about Social’s burger was that instead of the standard tomato slice, the Social burger came with roasted red peppers. Caramelized onions lent sweet texture to the burger. A solid brioche bun, melted cheddar and bacon made this burger a win. Formerly served a la carte for $8, the burger now is $9.50 with classic or sweet potato fries.

Read more about last year’s bar burger series here:

My top ranking:Asado, Maxwell’s, Pacific Grill, The Hub, The Right Spot

My second ranking: Crown Bar, Harmon, Bite Restaurant, West End Pub, Cheers South Hill

My third ranking: Engine House No. 9, El Gaucho, Katie Downs, The Parkway, Ram

My fourth ranking:Powerhouse Brewery, Cliff House, Matador, Blazing Onion and Beach Tavern.

Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously. All meals are paid for by The News Tribune. Reach her at 253-597-8270 or

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