Bill Gates' Favorite Burger Joint

Over the decades there have been numerous stories here in the Northwest U.S. about how the favorite restaurant of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was an old fashioned burger stand not far from Microsoft's campus.

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University District Burger Master

Learning From The past


Based on its altered construction, Burger Master looks like it was once a "Happy Day's" type car hop joint from an era well before my day. You remember Happy Days, the icon of 50's cliché, with Ritchie, Potsie, Ralph, Joanie and of course the Fonze.

I'm not sure if Burger Master had roller skating carhops long ago but maybe.

About 10 miles west of Bill's Burger Master there is another Burger Master just off the University of Washington Campus. Its been there so long, that the carhop motif was stripped away decades ago, leaving it with a big handy parking lot and a menu more like a diner than a burger joint.

I found myself driving past one morning recently and, having missed breakfast, rolled in to see what they serve at that hour of the day. I entered a time warp.

The menu behind the counter was to be expected. But when I chose the eggs dish I was sent back in time. The clerk said, "How would you like your eggs?" I was immediately suspicious of the question.

They don't ask you what kind of eggs you want at McDonalds, "Scrambled?" I guessed.

The clerk was a well dressed 55 year old man. The cooks were adults and there wasn't a teenager in sight. Nothing against kids, but the owner of Burger Master was paying these employees a real wage. Huh.

"And would you like Ham, Bacon or Sausage?"

Another trick question, you don't hear at McDonalds. "Link sausage," I said quickly in case he would remember that offering customers a choice wasn't normal.

"And to drink?" Ok here we are on normal ground. "Coffee, orange juice, tea?

"You have tea?" I mussed.

"Earl Gray, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Chamomile... "

I cut him off, "Earl Gray please."

"Toast, Pancakes, Cinnamon Roll, or . . . "

I cut him off again, "Do you have biscuits".

"Two biscuits. How would you like your hash browns?"

"Crispy. No make it extra Crispy."

"Can do," he said. You won't hear from a teenage clerk at McDonalds. "That will be hash browns, link sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits and tea."



Burger Master Breakfast

And Service Too


I must have been looking uncomfortable, because he said, "We'll bring it to you, sir." Now it was really getting weird. Sir he called me. The price was only a bit more than McDonald's. I'm suspicious. I'll bet they'll even want a tip too. And in a burger joint.

The dining room was very large and very clean with big windows. I grabbed the free newspaper ($1.00 at McDonald's) and crawled into a booth. Before I got through the first page, the food appeared. It was on a real plate, with real utensils. A big napkins and was delicious.

The hash browns? Crispy. The sausage? Jumbo sized and tasty. The biscuits - melt in your mouth. I read the whole paper. I didn't want to leave.

There is a lesson to be learned from Burger Master, for any business. Offer a better product. Provide a few extras, give good service and set a reasonable price.

Burger Master was packed at 10AM on a Wednesday morning. It was standing room only actually and probably has been for decades.

Published on 12/01/10 by May, William Victor