Flash From the Past

Whoever Uncle Curley was, he knew his way round a burger.

There's a story behind Uncle Curley's. You can read all about it on a table tent as you down your burger and fries. Seems that the original Uncle Curley opened his restaurant in Winfield, Kan., back in the 1940s. Then it was called Curley's Inn and specialized in hickory-smoked hamburgers, served with a special barbecue sauce he invented. And what does all this have to do with the Uncle Curley's in Kenmore, you say, as you wipe your lips and prepare to bail? Not a hell of a lot, if anything, though you can buy a bottle of that barbecue sauce, patented by Mrs. Curley and distributed throughout the nation. The reason you came here is already history: It's the third-of-a-pound all-fresh ground-chuck burger you've just scarfed down with a large cola (or, for the big in appetite, a milk shake, maybe). I know it's hard to believe, kiddies, but before McDonald's, every little burger joint in America did what Uncle Curley's of Kenmore still does: They made their burgers out of fresh meat, some better than others. Each made its own fries, its own shakes, its own sides to a recipe determined by the proprietor, not a formulary issued by accountants. And Uncle Curley's, God bless whoever's running it now, still does it. The burgers are great and, at $2.99 to $4.29 depending on accessorizing, alone worth the trip, but the fries ($1.39 for a serving big enough for two) are nothing to sneeze at, either, and the tart, crunchy cole slaw (89 cents and "Kansas style," whatever that means), the onion rings ($1.89 and perfectly cooked to the proverbial golden brown), and the stuffed olives ($1.89, and they're not what they sound like, but you have to try them anyway) are sides like sides used to be. But wait, there's more! Does $4.89 sound like a lot for two pieces of fish and chips? Not when it's Curley's beer-battered "hand-cut" halibut, served with slaw and housemade tartar sauce (three pieces, $6.75). There's a tasty traditional grilled-cheese sandwich ($2.29) and a distinctly non-trad version incorporating roasted green pepper ($2.99). There's a chicken club ($5.29) with Swiss, avocado, and mayo oozing out from the bacon-and-tomato-piled bun. There are, in short, all the things a burger joint ought to have and hardly ever has now. Drop by. Enjoy. Introduce the kids to how it used to be. rdowney@seattleweekly.com

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