The Onion

Grilled Onion Burger

For nearly 40 years, The Onion has been serving gourmet burgers in Spokane, using fresh and local ingredients. According to their website, The Onion is “Spokane’s Original Gourmet Burgers & Brew,” and they’ve been “exceeding expectations since 1978.”

The Onion’s original menu had over 44 different kinds of exotic burgers, and while the number of burgers has gone down over the years, the number of other items has grown.

I’ve eaten at The Onion many times, both at their downtown and North Division locations. Most of the food has been pretty good, although I’ve had a few misses in the past, so I was interested to see if they could nail the food that made them famous: Burgers.

The Burger

Ordering a simple cheeseburger from The Onion was tricky, because there wasn’t a simple cheeseburger on the menu. Two burgers came close: The Cougar Gold Burger and the Grilled Onion Burger. The Cougar Gold Burger sounded amazing, but seemed unfair to compare to other burgers. The Grilled Onion Burger didn’t come with cheese, but adding a slice of cheddar was as simple as asking my waitress to include one. Plus, the restaurant is called The Onion, so the Grilled Onion Burger seemed like a natural choice.

My first impression of the burger that arrived was that it looked small. Burgers can be ordered with quarter-pound and half-pound patties. I went with the quarter-pound patty to make my review as fair as possible, and while a half-pound patty may have resulted in a burger that appeared larger, I think I made the right choice.

The bun looked great, and tasted great too. It had a distinct flavor I enjoyed, but which didn’t overpower any of the other flavors. It was pleasantly toasted, as you can see in the photos. The other ingredients all seemed fresh, which is something The Onion prides itself on.

According to the menu, patties are cooked to medium unless otherwise specified. I prefer my burgers cooked well done, but my waitress didn’t ask how I wanted it, and according to the rules of this project, I can’t specify without being asked. The patty I received was probably closer to medium well, which I was pleased to see.

The grilled onion on the Grilled Onion Burger was different than what I expected. I expected grilled onions that were soft with a good amount of caramelization. What came on my burger was a nearly half-inch thick slice of onion that had been lightly grilled. It wasn’t raw, but it was still quite firm and crunchy.

The onion really detracted from the burger, and is the primary reason it didn’t score higher. The problem wasn’t the way the onion was prepared not meeting my expectations, the problem was there was so much of it. Seriously, the onion flavor killed nearly every other flavor. Which was a shame, because what I could taste of the flavors, I really liked.

It also made the burger hard to eat, because layers of onion kept sliding around and sloughing off. When I tried to pick up the second half of my burger, the onion burst out of the bun into a pile on my plate.

Annoying as this was, it gave me an opportunity to eat the burger without any onion on it. It was really good! Adding back just a few slices of the onion changed the burger from something I wasn’t enjoying very much into one that was delicious.

My main takeaway was this burger would have been much better with way less onion on it. It can still be a “grilled onion burger” without having a slice of onion as big as the patty.

The Fries

The fries at The Onion were extra thick cut and super hot! I nearly burned my mouth on the first one, which was a surprise. They had perfectly crispy exteriors, and hot, fluffy interiors.

The were moderately greasy, and seemed to lose their temperature quickly. The first few were piping hot, but within a matter of minutes, I was pulling fries from the pile that were much closer to room temperature.

The seasoning was fairly bland, and I ended up adding salt to make them more palatable.

The Price

The Grilled Onion Burger from The Onion with a quarter-pound patty cost me $9.75 before tax. Add a slice of cheddar cheese for $1, and the whole meal ran me $10.75.

I’m not sold on this as being a good value, since I had to modify both the burger and fries to get them to taste good.

The Restaurant

The Onion has been serving Spokane from their downtown location since 1978. It was a shoe store before that, and was originally built as a hotel in 1907. Despite the addition of many televisions and a motorcycle, the downtown location retains much of its turn-of-the-century charm.

When The Onion opened their second location on North Division, they brought the downtown location’s signature style with them. But the North Division building isn’t from the early 20th century, which makes the dining room’s décor feel oddly old fashioned and out of place.

Punctuating this feeling are the newly remodeled Area 51 Taphouse, as well as little touches around the dining room. For example, the salt and pepper shakers at each table are very modern, and near the ceiling are diamond plate steel accents. The fake flowers at each table don’t feel out of place—they just feel tacky.

Further adding to the dissonance was the music, which was modern pop, although it switched to country at some point during my meal. It played at a low enough volume that I could hear the music without being able to make out any of the words.

The dining room was busy despite my visit occurring in the mid-afternoon.

The tables, chairs, and floor were mostly clean. Some crumbs were visible, especially on chairs, but overall I was impressed with the state of the dining room post lunch rush.

The room was nicely lit, although the angle of the afternoon sun forced most of the blinds to be closed, so there wasn’t much natural light to be had, despite the many windows.

After being seated, my service was prompt and friendly, but after the meal, I felt forgotten about. I sat for roughly ten minutes with an empty plate and empty water glass just waiting for my bill to arrive. Maybe my waitress was on break or something, but either way, I was getting bored of waiting.

The bathroom was in need of attention, both to clean up the indistinguishable puddle on the floor in one of the stalls, but also to clean up the graffiti on many of the surfaces.

The Onion has a great philosophy, and I’ve eaten some food at the restaurant that I’ve really enjoyed. The Grilled Onion Burger, however, cannot be counted among them.

I’ll be back to The Onion in the future, and I’ll probably order burgers from them again (I’m looking at you, Cougar Gold Burger), but unless the Grilled Onion Burger gets a major overhaul, I’ll be avoiding it from now on.

The Onion
7522 North Division Spokane, WA 99208
(509) 482-6100

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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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