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Have Yourself a Happy Heart Attack at The Red Onion

Salad, schmalad. This place is about burgers and barbecue.

Just to mix things up a bit, for this week’s restaurant review I decided to head a bit farther afield. Not to worry, I’ll soon be returning to our regularly scheduled programming in Edmonds. But for this go-around I chose to visit the exotic land of Mountlake Terrace and a little restaurant called The Red Onion.

 Located on 56th Avenue West just north of 236th  Street, The Red Onion is a homey joint with an obvious soft spot for our men and women in blue. Giant police badge cutouts decorate the walls and the menu proudly proclaims sponsorship of the local Shop With a Cop program. On the occasion of my visit, a state patrolman was dining in. This may not be where you want to stop for dinner if you’re running from the law.

Having no outstanding warrants personally, I parked myself at a table and was soon set up with a pint glass of Big E root beer ($2.50), featured on tap at The Red Onion. Barq’s can just step back, as Big E’s bite is a much fiercer one. Each sip packed a wintergreen wallop, which proved an excellent bright counterpoint to fried fare. For those wanting a more “adult” beverage, the restaurant also offers beer, wine, and wine coolers.

The Red Onion bills itself as offering “Burgers, BBQ & more” and indeed, the menu is a lengthy affair. I set out to induce a heart attack in three courses, and thus began with a basket of Terrace Tri-Fecta Fried Bacon ($3.99). That would be bacon from nearby Double DD Meats, battered in tempura and deep-fried. Uh huh.

As appetizers go, tempura bacon proved to be more a novelty rather than something I’ll go on to crave. The gnarls of fried batter and salty meat were, however, excellent vessels for The Red Onion’s signature “Kick Ass” sauce blending the flavors of onion and horseradish. The creamy concoction is certainly fitting for burgers and fries as well as for tempura bacon.

Among The Red Onion’s many offerings are numerous sandwiches, flatbread melts, platters of fried seafood and chicken, and barbecue plates. The hamburger line-up is an impressive one, with choices ranging from miniature Cheeseburger Babies Slammers to Red’s Major Triple By Pass and its three hamburger patties. Central to the burger menu is the “Profile Burger Bar”, a nod to social networking allowing diners to tailor their burger (just like an online profile page—get it?) for a flat rate of $5.99.

After no small amount of deliberation, I chose the Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Bar-b-Que Cuban Sandwich ($6.99). Make no mistake, this is in no way an “authentic” Cuban sandwich. While the requisite elements of roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickle are all there, so are the very untraditional additions of caramelized onions and generous applications of barbecue and horseradish sauces.

Providing you aren’t married to the idea of having a classic medianoche, The Red Onion’s take on a Cuban sandwich is a tasty, albeit messy one. I resorted to using knife and fork, not trusting my luck in successfully wrangling the sandwich by hand. Sweet, tangy barbecue sauce oozed over the tender pulled pork, bites of crisp garlicky pickle mingling with ham displaying just a touch of char from the grill.

Burgers and sandwiches are served a la carte at The Red Onion, and for $1.89 patrons can add their choice of a “sidekick” such as regular or sweet potato fries, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, or house-made smoked bacon clam chowder. I upped the ante and got Triple Topped Tater Tots ($3.99), a gooey mess of yummy naughtiness involving tots, cheddar, bacon and a side of sour cream. A sprinkle of chopped green onion or chives on top would have finished the dish perfectly, though the roughage might have run contrary to the artery-clogging capacity of the other ingredients.

Whereas my meal was in no way lacking in calories, it’s worth noting that The Red Onion does offer several options for the more health-conscious diner. Sandwiches offering lettuce wraps in place of bread, skinless sautéed chicken breast, and a meatless veggie burger can be paired with sidekicks such as salad and fruit. Clearly, I didn’t take advantage of any of these choices.

On the occasion of my visit to The Red Onion, the dining room and kitchen were adeptly managed by a trio of hard-working women. Orders were prepared quickly, and the two cheerful servers tag-teamed the tables to ensure no lengthy waits for attention of any kind. At one point, a server rushed out a basket of food to a youngster on the verge of low-blood-sugar-meltdown, thus staving off major waterworks.

Should your local travels take you east of I-5, The Red Onion is a nice little pit stop in Mountlake Terrace. Pack your defibrillator and stop in for a fully-adorned burger or plate of barbecue ribs. Your heart may not thank you, but your stomach will.

Jack Fleming April 18, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Your best review ever. Thanks Jennifer!

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