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Freedom of a great burger

As important as Mother and fireworks, a good burger is also what America is all about

Westside Tavern. Photo credit: Dutch Randle

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Summer weather screams for a backyard BBQ, sprinklers in the yard, and the sound of the ice cream truck roaming the neighborhood.  But sometimes you just need to put the pot-luck burger aside and head out for a burger made by people who make them for a living.  There are as many good burgers in the South Sound as there are bad burgers, so it's important to have a game plan of where the good burgers are.  Fortunately for South Sounders, I've done the leg work, eaten my way through the good and the bad, and finally compiled a small list of some of the best available.

If you are South of Tacoma, your first stop should be at the Westside Tavern in Olympia.  In addition to a great selection of brews and appetizers, the burgers are hard to beat here.  With several unique selections, the white cheddar burger dip doesn't have an equal - a simple classic burger with white cheddar and plenty of au jus dipping sauce.  A summer afternoon with one of these in your hand along with an ice cold beer or well drink ... and your day is made.

1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia - 360.915.7839

The Eastside of Tacoma also offers a pretty great fast burger as well.  Friesenburger offers exactly what you've come to expect from a burger stop, complete with steak fries, fry sauce and gluten-free options for those that need it.  With all the options available, I'm partial to the basic cheeseburger because they do it just right with availability in single through quad size. A great lunch stop if you work your way east of all the mall options.

308 East 26th St., Tacoma - 253.203.6753

Pick Quick. Photo credit: Dutch Randle

Though it's a bit north of Tacoma, Pick Quick in Fife is worth the extra 10 minutes on I-5.  An old school philosophy with a walk-up window and picnic tables just off the parking lot, Pick Quick serves up a great double cheeseburger with thick slices of both onion and tomato to top it all off.  Mix in one of the many shake combinations available and some fresh cut fries, and you will thank me for the suggestion.

4306 Pacific Hwy. E., Fife - 253.922.5599

Lefty’s. Photo credit: Dutch Randle

University Place, though small and sometimes forgotten in the mix of Tacoma, cannot be forgotten when it comes to burgers. Lefty's opened just four years ago, and has quickly become one of the best burgers in the South Sound.  A sloppy take-out cheeseburger with either fries or fried pickles and a milkshake . . . what more could you possibly ask for in a burger joint?  The quick and friendly service combined with a quality product, is exactly why Lefty's is never without customers.

8317 27th St. W., University Place - 253.565.0887

The Spar. Photo credit: Dutch Randle

The Spar Bar in Old Town Tacoma is boasted as Tacoma's oldest bar dating back to, possibly, the late 19th century.  Additionally, it serves up a Swiss mushroom burger that shouldn't be missed.  Served on a fresh Kaiser roll, this six oz. burger is topped off with fresh, grilled mushrooms and a pile of melty, gooey Swiss cheese.  Top it all off with the house made Spar Chips, dip and a cold beer  Then take a quick two block walk to the waterfront to walk it all off.

2121 North 30th Street - 253.627.8215

Dirty Oscar’s. Photo credit: Dutch Randle

Man cannot live on basic burgers alone, and once in a while you just gotta leave that burger box.  When you are ready for this, hit up Dirty Oscars and order the Dead Elvis burger.  It's a bit unconventional, but completely enjoyable from the first bite.  A thick, fresh patty topped with peanut butter, candied bacon, a fried egg and banana chutney (which replaces fried bananas previously offered), is just the unique combination that excites the taste buds across all levels.  Mix in one of their famous Moonshine drinks, and your night is complete.

2309 6th Ave., Tacoma - 253.572.0588

Eastside Big Tom Drive In in Olympia serves up all the expected drive-in delights, however, it is the Big Tom that makes the visit worthwhile.  The Big Tom is the premiere burger here with double patties, double cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato and "goop."  Add in your favorite shake of the 23 flavor options and you will remember why you came here in the first place.

2023 4th Ave. E., Olympia - 360.357.4852

Shake Shake Shake in the Stadium district of Tacoma offers a 1950's feel to your meal, partly because of the recycled seats from the old Elk's club bowling alley, and partly from the menu selections of burgers, shakes and skinny fries.  The classic deluxe fulfills the 50's feel of the place as a simple example of what a good burger can be.  Hand-pounded patties cooked flawlessly with crispy edges and topped with lettuce, onions, pickles and secret sauce.  Plus, as a family spot, it also offers adult beverages for parents.

124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma - 253.507.4060

A simple burger shack is my first choice when I want to get a true American style greasy burger with fries and a shake. Out and About Burgers in Puyallup is just that; a simple burger wrapped in wax paper to hold the dripping cheese and toppings.  Mix it up a bit with some sweet potato fries and malted shake, and you'll understand why a burger shack is often the best option.

14214 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup - 253.677.1974

Just across the bridge in Gig Harbor is the Lunchbox Laboratory, which offers quirky fun for the whole family. With a mix of some off the wall recipes and décor, there is fun here for the whole family.  With the Lunchbox set up of weekly experiments, it would be difficult to nail down just one great burger, as it is difficult to go wrong here.  Whether you build your own burger from the many topping choices, choose one of the already wonderful concoctions, or choose a limited weekly option, you are sure to have your burger craving satisfied here.  Add in adult beverages or the Kool-Aid of the day (KOD), and your entire family will be satisfied.

4901 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor - 253.432.4061

And the winner in burgers you can find all over our local area is The Ram and their long list of local favorites with locations in Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup and Lacey.

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