I’ve given the obligatory test run of Five Guys Burgers and Fries – the first South Sound stores of the national chain opened in Lakewood last week and in Puyallup in November. I realized as I was eating at Five Guys that I had not collectively written much about our home-grown burger stands since my burger-stand manifesto in 2009. So I hit the pavement and revisited some of my favorites, along with two new burger stands you may not yet know. Click “read more” to see my top five South Sound burger stand picks.
4306 Pacific Highway E., Fife
Note: The stand is on winter hiatus right now, but reopens next Wednesday, Feb. 1. I visited the last week of business before they closed for winter break Nov. 30.
Fresh-cut fries and hand-formed patties made from fresh beef long have been the lure of this walk-up burger stand that has operated in Fife since 1949. My single complaint about Pick-Quick is that the patties are too thin, but that’s solved by ordering a double. The burgers here are sans lettuce. Instead, thick slices of onions and tomatoes stand in for the cool crunch required of any really good burger. If you like pucker in your burger, you’ll appreciate Pick-Quick’s construction with the one-two punch of pickles and sweet relish. American cheese, mayo and mustard finish the burger, with no ketchup, as purist burger law requires (ketchup is for fries only, please make a note of it). Fries are fresh cut and come with a decent surface area, which means that occasionally you’ll hit a squishy one. $2.85 for a cheeseburger. $1.95 for an order of fries.
2. Mary’s Burger Bistro
2301 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-779-0777, website
Mary’s Burger Bistro is a fast-food diner that follows my preferred burger edict – hand-formed patties and fresh-cut fries. What I like about Mary’s is that the burger patties are substantially larger than the competition – a third of a pound comes standard on every burger. The burger here is built on a griddled Kaiser bun, with leaf lettuce, thick cut onions, pickles and a heavy smear of tart burger sauce. My only complaint is the 50 cent upcharge for a side of fry sauce – that’s double what most places charge. $4.99 for an American cheeseburger (Swiss and jack cheese also available). An order of fresh-cut fries will run you only $1.69.
3. Don’s Drive-In
925 S. Meridian, Puyallup, 253-845-1790
Located across the street from the fairgrounds, Don’s is in a quirky little building where diners can walk up or walk in to order. If I’m going to Don’s, there are three things I’m going to order – homemade pie, soup and a deluxe Smitty burger (skip the fries, they’re from the freezer). The Smitty burger is different than what you’d expect – it’s served on a sturdy foundation of a French roll and comes with a long patty. It’s like a burger hoagie. Light pucker comes from house-made special sauce and crunch comes from pickles, shredded lettuce, diced onions and three thin slices of tomato. A deluxe Smitty is $3.99 and fries are $1.99.
4. Out & About Burgers
14214 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup, 253-677-1974, website
The burgers at Out & About are small, but big on flavor. They come with assertive pucker from a sauce that’s sort of the sassy offspring of thousand island dressing and an in-your-face secret sauce. This mobile burger stand on wheels opened in 2009 and has been beating the quality of nearby Sonic from day one. The burger is built on a soft, squishy bun that is griddle toasted, and finished with leaf lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. Patties seem to be somewhere between an eighth and a quarter pound, which means that like the Pick-Quick burger, you’re better off ordering a double. Fans of sweet potato fries will find those here. Cheeseburgers are $3.29. Sweet potato fries are a whopping $2.99.
5. Lefty’s Burger Shack
8317 27th St. W., University Place, 253-565-0887
Lefty’s is the newest kid on the burger block, opening last summer in an old building with a funky octagon shape. The walk-up burger stand serves burgers, fries and something that isn’t found here very often – frings, a half order of fries and onion rings. Burgers here come standard with a quarter-pound patty and are built on a griddled cornmeal dusted Kaiser bun, which makes a sturdy surface for a messy burger. Pickle slices are thin but wide, which ensures a taste of pickle in every bite. Shredded lettuce, diced onion and a thin tomato slice add crunch. The cheese is American and the burger sauce varies in tang from visit to visit, but I like it best when it has mustardy pucker. A quarter-pound cheeseburger will run you $3.55.