Seattle is stacked with restaurants serving excellent American-style burgers, the best of which are tracked in Eater Seattle’s burger map. But the cosmopolitan nature of the city has also birthed noteworthy variations of burgers with international influences, containing intriguing ingredients ranging from shrimp to dried pomegranate seeds to Lao fermented pork belly.
Here is a guide to six of the best international burgers in the city, with fried panko-crusted katsu-style burgers from an established local chain, Pakistani street-style burgers served with raita and tamarind chutney from a new food truck, and more.
Heyday Bar & Restaurant
When co-owner Dang Nguyen was envisioning Heyday’s menu, he wanted to include a burger reminiscent of his mom’s cooking and his birth country of Vietnam, hence, the Saigon burger was born. Its centerpiece is a 1/3-pound patty made with a combination of 50% beef, 30% pork, and 20% shrimp, cooked medium-well while remaining juicy. The burger is banh mi-like with its pickled daikon and carrots, Srirachi aioli, jalapenos and cilantro. For more Vietnamese flavors, start with an order of Heyday wings with honey muoc cham sauce.
Translated from Korean, bulgogi literally means “fire meat,” and the Bulgogi burger at Just Burgers (with outposts in the University District and Fremont) is both spicy and beefy. Chef/owner Kevin Park uses ribeye steak for the burger because it’s rich and buttery. The meat slices are cured overnight in a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, and other “secret” ingredients that make the meat tender and flavorful. The burger also includes caramelized onions, grilled jalapenos, roasted garlic, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and housemade aioli in a brioche bun. Get the garlic fries for the perfect accompaniment.
Katsu Burger serves a slew of Japanese-style, panko-breaded, deep-fried meats for its burgers. While beef, chicken, and even tofu, are options, pork is the classic choice for katsu, fantastic with Japanese mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce along with the standard toppings of cabbage, tomato, red onions, and pickles. If you can’t decide, try tackling the Mt. Fuji, stuffed with three katsu patties (chicken, beef, and pork), three types of cheese, and three sauces, plus egg and bacon. Nori fries and a matcha milkshake help round out a decadent fast-food fusion meal at this local chain, founded more than ten years ago by Hajime Sato (later sold to Stephanie Kang) as a casual Japanese alternative to his former sushi restaurant Mashiko.
When Aldo Góngora worked on his Sazón Kitchen menu, he wanted an “American” alternative to his tortas, burritos and quesadillas. A burger made sense, but to distinguish it from other burgers in the Ballard area, he went back to his Mexican concept, making the patty with 80% Angus beef and 20% chorizo. In addition to a smoky barbecue sauce, the burger comes with mustard, which nicely matches the sharp flavors in the chorizo. Also within the Macrina Sodo bun is a generous slather of guacamole and a mozzarella cheese “crust,” while pickles and lettuce sit to the side. The burger is served with spiced potato wedges along with more of that barbecue sauce and ranch for dipping, both made in-house. The music — with the kitchen staff singing along — will further transport you to Mexico.
Lari Adda is Pakistani for “truck stop,” and Sheraz Malik and Saira Bano’s food truck is appropriately parked by a gas station and bus stop in Bellevue. Music and scenes of Pakistan pervade the truck and tented sitting area, and the menu includes a variety of zesty burgers. The Zami Chapli has a beef patty with dried pomegranate seeds added for crunchy texture and comes with raita (a spice and herb yogurt sauce), house-made ketchup, and green mint tamarind chutney. Then there’s the bun-kabab, a beloved street food in Pakistan that is considered the “poor man’s burger,” which subs out the beef patty with a vegetarian one made with lentils and potatoes (and various spices), topped with an egg.
Taurus Ox prepares unapologetically Lao dishes, but when the trio of chef owners (Khampaeng Panyathong, Sydney Clark, and Jenessa Sneva) surveyed the collective mise en place for the restaurant menu, they immediately imagined a burger built with some actual Lao ingredients. A pair of pork and beef patties, smashed and seared but still juicy, are accompanied by som moo — fermented pork belly that serves as a slice of Lao-style “bacon.” Pickled red onions lend acidity, sliced taro stems offer crunch, and cilantro cuts through the richness. Aged provolone cheese melts nicely, its funkiness reminiscent of what you find in Lao cuisine. And then there’s the use of the Lao dipping sauce known as jaew, normally made with fish sauce, chili peppers, and sugar. In this burger, find the spiciness of jaew bong spiking the mayo-based sauce and tomato jaew adding umami punch. The net result: a complex and captivating burger.