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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

September 21, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Lunchbox Laboratory says: “Hello, Bellevue!”

Wild Ginger. El Gaucho. Blue C and Boom Noodle. Monsoon. Cantinetta. And now make way for the Lunchbox Laboratory, another Seattle-born sensation soon to make its Bellevue debut. With a lease just signed, permits in the works and design plans underway, owner John Schmidt expects to open the Eastside version of the popular Seattle burger joint in late December.

You’ll find it on the first level of the high-rise Elements complex at 989 112th Avenue N.E., in the spot that formerly housed Zen Asian Bistro.

Schmidt, owner of five Neighborhood Grills in and around Seattle, added Lunchbox Lab to its restaurant roster in January after relocating that beloved Ballard hole-in-the wall to his (now-defunct) Southlake Grill in South Lake Union. “Growth is what we’re about,” he told me last December, after forging a partnership with Lunchbox Lab’s creative force, Scott Simpson, whose death months later shocked and saddened Seattle’s restaurant community.

Yesterday’s Lunchbox lunch at South Lake Union: sweet potato fries and an “Homage to Dick’s Deluxe” with Kobe-style beef, American cheese and honey-cured bacon. Unlike at Dick’s, I couldn’t possibly eat two.

Unlike at his Neighborhood Grills in Seattle, Lake Forest Park, Crossroads and Bremerton, each with its own personality, “our ultimate goal is to keep the Lunchbox Lab’s design consistent,” says Schmidt, co-founder of the Taco del Mar chain. That consistency will extend to the burger-driven menu, overseen by grillmen Phillip Twiss and Adam Berberich. The pair’s long history of working for and with Simpson — before and after the move to South Lake Union — will inspire their continued creative license on both sides of Lake Washington, Schmidt says.

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