Posted by cma123
on Jan 17, 2011
Lunchbox Laboratory blows-off Ballard for South Lake Union
If you’re one of those people who never understood the lure of Lunchbox Laboratory — the burger-joint some consider the best in town — you’re not alone. There are those who found the Ballard hole-in-the-wall too small, too spendy and way too funkadelic. Others were offended by gruff service and fear of cardiac failure. Even the Lab’s fervent fans were known to balk at its erratic hours. “When they sell out, they close — so call ahead” suggests the 2011 Seattle Zagat Survey, published last week touting the Lab’s “`amazing’, cooked-to-order creations `huge’ enough to `feed two adults.’”
Bet you can eat just one. A bacon-burger deluxe with curly-fries and a handmade strawberry shake at Lunchbox Laboratory in Ballard. [Seattle Times/Greg Gilbert]
Of course, no one has complained as vociferously about Lunchbox Laboratory than the man whose love/hate relationship with food — and his restaurants — has been well documented. “I hate being owner of this place,” owner-chef Scott Simpson told me last week — days before shuttering his joint Sunday in preparation for its big move to South Lake Union. “I’m a terrible businessman. I’m awful at it!”
Simpson made his name as the original owner of the Blue Onion Bistro (since sold, later closed), followed by the short-lived fine-dining-place Fork. And everyone who follows such things knows he’s been looking for a way out of Ballard since he moved into the ramshackle shack at 7302-1/2 15th Avenue N.W. Well, he’s finally found an exit-strategy — thanks to a new business-partnership that has him jumping out of the managerial fire and back where he belongs: into the kitchen with his French cast-iron frying pans.
Providing the platform for his jump is John Schmidt, owner of Southlake Grill.
Schmidt’s South Lake Union grill has not been as popular — nor as profitable — as others in his cadre of Neighborhood Grills: among them the Green Lake Bar & Grill, Eastlake Bar & Grill, Lake Forest Bar & Grill and Crossroads Bar & Grill (another, in Bremerton, is slated to open this spring). In South Lake Union, Schmidt says, “You need more of a cutting edge, a hip, urban product.” He’s convinced he’s found one, thanks to Simpson. “We were trying to find a solution to South Lake Union and Scott was looking for a larger facility,” explains Schmidt. “It was a perfect marriage, a symbiotic combination of needs. He had the product, we had the space.”
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Visti Lunchbox Laboratory online