LAKEWOOD — Since the 1970s, families hungry after a day of swimming and water-skiing at Lake Goodwin have replenished untold thousands of burned-off calories at a nearby roadside hamburger stand called Country Burger.
The tradition continues today, thanks to new owners Dave and Karen Babeaux and their son Zack. The family bought Country Burger in April and, after a scrupulous cleaning and redecorating, reopened the place in early June. Dave Babeaux runs the kitchen, drawing on his many years in the food service industry.
Country Burger offers burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs, served by themselves or in combos. With the latter, you can choose fries, baked beans or pasta salad and a regular-size soda.
A steak sandwich garnished with bacon and blue cheese is the most expensive item on the menu, at $10.95 for the combo.
If you don’t want a burger or sandwich, you can choose one of several salads, which all contain meat. However, during our visit, we overheard Babeaux accommodate an off-the-menu request for a grilled cheese sandwich from a teen girl apparently going through that vegetarian phase.
We chose a cheeseburger with fries, a steak sandwich with an order of onion rings and a couple of milkshakes — one vanilla, the other made with fresh strawberries.
We could have sat inside at one of about six tables or taken our order to-go, but we chose to dine outdoors at one of a half-dozen picnic tables on Country Burger’s large, neatly landscaped lawn, in the shade of a large cedar. There’s plenty of room on the lawn for kids to blow off steam during the wait for food — which, for us, was short.
The steak sandwich is made with tender, prime-grade sirloin from Nebraska. Dave Babeaux says he uses quality ingredients — Best Foods mayonnaise instead of the bargain-brand stuff your cheapskate aunt bought, for example.
The tender steak was cooked exactly to order by Babeaux, placed on a toasted Kaiser roll and brought to our outdoors picnic table by a member of the cheerful young staff, all from the Lakewood neighborhood, for whom Country Burger, in the tradition of a neighborhood hamburger stand, provides first jobs.
“We created 10 new jobs,” Babeaux said. “In this economy, that can’t hurt.”
The milkshakes ($3.25 for the vanilla, $3.95 for the seasonal strawberry) were tasty, although a bit difficult to drink with straws until they melted a bit. We couldn’t wait for the melting, so we spooned ours with the straws.
We dipped our fries in a house-made tartar sauce made with dill pickles instead of sweet pickles. Babeaux also brought back an original burger condiment sauce recipe created by Country Burger’s founder.
Thanks to those milkshakes, to say nothing of the generous order of onion rings, we left feeling like we needed to go burn off a few thousand calories.
Country Burger isn’t the sort of place that’s going to win a James Beard Foundation award, but it holds no such pretensions. If you’re looking for standard American fast food in the north Snohomish County area, you will be much better off at this friendly family-run business than you would be with the clown, the king or the colonel.