Wibbley's, Believe It or Not, Has Great Burgers

Siiri Sampson 2011.
Just a guess here, but do you think they call it the Century Burger because it's the burger of the century, or because it takes a century to finish?
Sometimes the hubbub, fast-paced, tech-obsessed craziness of this generation just becomes overwhelming, doesn't it? Ever wonder what it'd be like if you lived in pioneer days? Come on, admit it, a small part of you played Oregon Trail in elementary school on the computer (floppy disc, anyone?) and thought to yourself, "Hmmm, besides the cholera epidemic and losing our cook to a pack of wild coyotes, this whole forging-out-West thing really has an appeal!"

OK, so maybe the days of Little House on the Prairie are a little too far back, so what about the '70s? If you didn't grow up during the height of bad hair, bell bottoms, and smoky diners, there's definitely a mystique to the whole decade of excess, no? So imagine what it'd be like for the high-schoolers and tweens of today, who completely missed the '90s. What with all that fabulous hair, day-glo fluorescent clothing and developmental synthesizer music, what's not to miss (except maybe the messy politics . . . )?! If only there were a place to take these kids, to give them a taste, a real taste, of how totally radical it was to live in the too-legit '90s.

Pulled straight from the time warp of 1992, Wibbley's in Bellevue (2255 140th Ave. N.E.) is situated in a labyrinth strip mall bringing a mix of Saved by the Bell's Max's and the Cheers bar, with disarmingly friendly service. Everything about Wibbley's transports you back to its infancy; no time machine required. The dark-wood bar tables, with their classic diner stools and fixtures channeling Shakey's or Pizza and Pipes, put you straight back in the days of little league and Girl Scouts. Marvel while you can, because once the majestic combo of beef and bun passes your lips, you'll forget everything else.

Siiri Sampson 2011.
Thank God I don't have a deep fryer at home, because if I did, I'd weigh 400 lbs. just from these deep-fried button mushrooms.
As with any secret treasure hole in the wall, Wibbley's is packed during the midday rush hour. The regulars see the crowds and lines come and go, all the while looking completely unfazed by how quickly the kitchen turns out the orders and busses the tables without skipping a beat. The staff is always willing to give a recommendation, and you'd be wise to take their advice. We couldn't decide between the Century Burger ($5.59), hosting a charbroiled patty, blue cheese crumbles, crispy, thick-cut bacon, bean sprouts, and juicy tomato slices, orrrrrr their daily special, the Picante Burger with jalapeƱos and chipotle mayo.

When told "You really can't compare them, they're completely different," left us torn, the staffer suggested "Why don't you just add the chipotle mayo to the Century Burger?" Yes, why don't we? All the burgers come a la carte, but a half order of fries was only $1.19, so of course we added them along with a side of deep-fried button mushrooms ($3.29) to keep the fries company. The batter on the mushrooms is reminiscent of corn-dog batter, but crispier, not as dense, and more addictive. The half-order of fries looked like a full order, which was a nice surprise.

The impulse ordering of the mushrooms and fries was another sad case of eyes being bigger than stomach, and we gladly took most of that home for later. Unfortunately, there was no room left for a handmade shake ($3.29), which just means another trip is in the works, and friends will be tagging along to create a full shake-tasting experience (they've got vanilla, chocolate, mocha, espresso, strawberry, root beer, and blackberry).

The ketchup (icing) on the burger (cake) at Wibbley's is the almost shockingly reasonable price-to-portion ratio. That, and the fact that you can turn any of their burgers into a chicken sandwich or veggie burger, making it just a little bit healthier, sealed the deal. This place officially outranks Broiler Bay. Plus, it's between Dunn Lumber, a sushi restaurant, and the Skate King. Could you really ask for anything more?

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