D. Lish’s Hamburgers


D. Lish’s Hamburgers opened in Spokane in 1998 and quickly established itself as a leader in the local food scene. When you ask people around here which burger joint is their favorite, D. Lish’s gets mentioned a lot.

I honestly don’t understand why.

I ate here once years ago because I kept hearing about how great it was, but back then, I didn’t like it at all. A lot of time has passed since then, and I was hoping things would be different this time around. I cleared the previous negativity from my mind and walked in with new eyes, ready to be proven wrong.

The Burger

D. Lish’s Hamburgers sources their beef from local meat wholesaler Angus Meats, and since D. Lish’s doesn’t have a freezer, they receive four to five meat deliveries a week. That’s pretty impressive, and shows a level of dedication to quality not often seen in fast food restaurants.

There are a bunch of different cheeseburger options, all of which are pretty straightforward. Anything from 1 to 4 patties comes standard, and I got the impression you could have them pile on as many as you could afford. All of their burgers come with “Special Sauce” (which was described as being “like Thousand Island”), shredded lettuce, tomato, and your choice of fresh or grilled onions. The guy at the counter was urging me to try the grilled onions, so I gave those a shot.

Every burger is made to order, but no sooner had I finished filling my beverage cup when my number was called. The burger didn’t look like anything special, barely peeking out from under two layers of paper wrapping.

The bun was a typical toasted white bread bun, and on its own tasted like you would expect it to. The burger patty was cooked through and juicy, covered in melted cheese, and all of the ingredients appeared to be fresh.

Unfortunately, the special sauce completely overpowered every single other flavor. The guy at the counter practically bragged about their beef, but I could barely taste it. He was so proud of the grilled onions, but for me, they may as well have not been on the burger. It wasn’t dripping with special sauce, either. The burger simply couldn’t hold its own against the amount of sauce that was there. The sauce itself was a bit sweet, but did taste good. I just wish I could have also tasted the rest of the burger.

The Fries

The potatoes D. Lish’s use for their fries come from a local farm, where they’re grown and prepped before being shipped to the restaurant. The amount of fries that came with my meal was larger than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, once again, taste was the enemy. The standard style fries were moderately greasy and not especially crispy, except for the handful of dry crunchy bits I found at the bottom of the bag.

The house-made dipping sauces helped improve the taste, but fries should be more than just a vehicle for sauce. I want to taste those local potatoes, not some random sauce, and certainly not the grease they’re fried in.

The Price

The cheeseburger by itself was about $3, and when made into a meal with plenty of fries and a good sized drink, totaled just shy of $8. A decent value, but I’d rather have more meat for that price. Awhile after the meal, I was sated, but not full, and certainly not satisfied.

Looking at the prices of the two, three, and four patty burgers, the price raises by $1 for each patty you add, so a I would suggest getting at least a double.

The Restaurant

I visited D. Lish’s Hamburgers during the lunch hour on a weekday, and the parking lot was almost completely full. D. Lish’s is one of the few local burger joints with a drive-thru, which was busy the entire time I was there. Trying to leave after my meal, I had to wait for several cars that were pulling in.

Upon walking in, I was warmly greeted and asked if I had been in before. I said I hadn’t, because the only other time I had eaten here in the past was one time about a decade ago, so that doesn’t really count, does it?

The guy behind the counter invited me to step up, and then proudly launched into a several-minute explanation of how the entire restaurant works, and what sets them apart from the other burger restaurants in town.

The short version is everything is super-fresh. They don’t have a freezer, heat lamps, steam trays, or a microwave. Every burger is cooked to order, and their sauces are made in-house.

The restaurant itself was nicely appointed for a fast food restaurant, with a cohesive contemporary look. The music was enjoyable, although very faint.

What really impressed me was how clean everything was. I don’t know if this is standard procedure, or just because it was the middle of the lunch rush, but there was one employee whose sole job seemed to be keeping the dining room clean. Every table, every windowsill, every surface was clean. No crumbs, no dust, nothing. The dirtiest part was the floor, but even this was being actively cleaned. Some of the more upscale restaurants I’ve eaten at for this project haven’t been able to accomplish this.

The bathroom wasn’t quite as clean as everything else, and the aesthetic didn’t even begin to match. It had some kind of weird smell; not a human waste smell, but not a pleasant one either. The handle on the faucet was falling apart, and everything about it suggested the bathrooms don’t get the same kind of attention as the rest of the building.

I honestly want to like D. Lish’s. I like the building. I like how clean everything is. I like the philosophy of freshness. I like the people who work there. I even like their branding and visual style.

The only thing I don’t like is the food.

I would definitely be willing to eat here again, taking what I’ve learned into account, and ordering a double (or even triple), asking them to go light on the special sauce, and perhaps just skipping the fries altogether.

I know a lot of people are going to disagree with this review, so feel free to tell me why you think I got it right or got it wrong. I honestly don’t understand why people like this place so much, but maybe I just ate all the wrong things. Leave a comment and let me know.

D. Lish’s Hamburgers
1625 N Division St, Spokane, WA 99207
(509) 323-7130

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Disagree with my review? That's cool, people have different tastes. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me why you think I got this one wrong. But keep your comments civil or they'll get deleted.

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