Friday, September 23, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Have it your way — really

Special to The Seattle Times

A Burger Place

4234 University Way N.E., Seattle; 206-547-5096



Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

No liquor license / major credit cards / no smoking / no obstacles to access.

Rating: recommended.

Most people have strong feelings about their burger toppings, but nobody wants to be that fussy special-order person, the one waiters hate.

It's not fair — you always get to choose your pizza toppings. Why should burgers be any different?

A Burger Place, a new locally owned restaurant on the Ave, invites you to be a control freak. Every sandwich is a customized Pimp My Burger affair, built from the bun up according to a form you fill out at the counter.

Check here for single, double or triple beef patties, or a chicken breast or veggie burger. Check there for teriyaki sauce, sautéed mushrooms or pineapple. It's like going to the polls, except that checking the wrong box gives you hot sauce instead of, well, insert your least-favorite politician here.

Of course, all the usual toppings are available as well. Basics like lettuce, tomato and sauce are free; other toppings such as stir-fried mushrooms or onions are 50 cents, and bacon adds $1. There is no choice of bread, but it's an uncontroversial fluffy, toasted sesame-seed bun.

ABP serves student food, and I don't have any college students in my family, so I brought my daughter along to help with the review. At 20 months, Iris is a little young for admission to the UW, but she pronounced the burger "good" and the onion rings "nummy," which is her highest compliment. (She had never eaten onion rings before, however, so her assessment may be biased.)

In short, ABP's open kitchen produces a totally respectable fast-food-style burger, and they do it in a bright and welcoming space.

Since this is the Ave, I must also note that the restaurant is impeccably clean and, needless to say, everything is made to order.

There are plenty of tables where students and professors could sit down together and work on a cure for spring fever, or whatever it is students and professors discuss these days.

It's easy to start thinking of other toppings ABP could offer. Blue cheese? Pesto? A fried egg? But maybe it's best to keep things simple.

In any case, in several visits to the place, I tried as many burger configurations as I could think up and never once angered a waiter.

Just the opposite: On the way out of the restaurant, I faced a gauntlet of smiles and thank-yous from the staff.

Check please:

Cheeseburger, onion rings and soda: It's not a criticism so much as a fact of life that when you start with a thin patty and you cook it well-done, it needs some help in the juiciness and flavor department. Here, assistance arrived in the form of stir-fried onions with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon and jalapeños. The onion rings are frozen but fried to order in fresh, hot oil. And for the moment, ABP is offering a free drink if you order a burger and fries or rings.

Chicken sandwich, fries and soda: Like the burger, the grilled chicken breast is a piece of protein that doesn't have enough personality to stand alone, so it won't upstage ABP's toppings — and maybe that's the point. I chose stir-fried mushrooms, Swiss cheese and a slightly sweet hot sauce. The fries are thin, crispy and just the thing.

Itemized bill, meal for two:

Cheeseburger and onion rings $7.50

Chicken sandwich and fries $7.00

Tax included

Total $14.50

Matthew Amster-Burton:

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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