MARYSVILLE — The last time I set foot in the building that houses Burger Mill, it was the mid-1970s and Marysville High School was across the street (Pilchuck was still a separate school up north at the new campus, in what was then still largely a farming area). Back then, the drive-in was known as Arctic Circle.
As I recall, Arctic Circle boasted that its burgers cost only 19 cents. That’s about a buck in today’s money.
Since you can’t get a good hamburger today for $1, it’s probably safe to assume that Arctic Circle’s 19-cent burgers were awful. That may well be why my family preferred the Big Chief Drive-In, up north a ways on State Avenue.
Fast-forward to today. The Arctic Circle chain has long since retreated to its home state of Utah, and a restaurant called Burger Mill has been operating at the location for some time now. And with some success, as attested by the “Readers’ Choice” best-burger certificates bestowed by local newspapers in the 1990s and still hanging above the order counter.
Now, new owner Ken Youn is writing a new chapter in the place’s history.
Youn has owned several teriyaki and sushi places during his 40-year career in the food-service business. This is his first burger restaurant, and he says he has big plans for the place that he took over three months ago.
“I want to turn it into an icon for Marysville,” Youn, of Smokey Point, said during a brief break from his busy workday.
But much remains to be done before that happens, he said. He’s training staff and reorganizing and updating the kitchen to make things run more smoothly. After that’s accomplished, he’ll start tweaking the menu — starting with what he knows best, teriyaki.
For now, the menu includes all the Burger Mill tried-and-trues, from the ⅓-pound Mill Burger ($5.99) to the waistline-expanding ⅔-pound Meat Lover Burger ($7.99), with pretty much every imaginable type of burger in between. If you don’t want a burger, there are a variety of other sandwich options. Of course, everything comes with fries if you want.
The teriyaki menu consists of chicken and bweef, regular or spicy, at prices ranging from $5.59 for a small order to $11.99 for combos. My colleague Sara Bruestle chose Spicy Chicken ($9.99) during our visit last week. The heat came from a dark-red sauce made by Youn. It’s the same sauce he’s used for some of his sushi dishes.
“It wasn’t the best teriyaki I’ve ever had, but the red sauce on the spicy (all breast meat!) chicken was an exciting change to your run-of-the-mill chicken teriyaki plate,” Sara said.
Youn also customized the ranch-like condiment that dressed the salad accompanying the teriyaki.
Sara ordered a bubble tea with taro, coconut and tapioca ($4.49), which surely would have blown minds back at the old Arctic Circle in 1975.
I decided to stick with tradition and order a Mill Burger with fries ($8.99 with cheese on the patty and fries on the side). I washed it down with a chocolate milkshake ($2.99), something I haven’t ordered in forever but definitely would have gone for back in ‘75.
Together, the burger, fries and shake probably checked in at around 2,000 calories — which, of course, means they tasted mighty good. That said, I restricted myself to a small salad for dinner that night.
All of this was consumed at one of the picnic tables in the Burger Mill’s rustic dining area. Outside, a steady stream of drive-thru orders kept the grillman on his toes.
The Burger Mill may look frozen in time now, but Youn says that will change, “step by step.”
“All of it is going to be brand-new and very nice,” he said.
If you go
Burger Mill, 707 State Ave., Marysville, is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Call 360-659-1955 or go find the Burger Mill on Facebook.