The Ham in Hamburger

Thanks to Uncle Mo, Georgetown hasn't lost sight of its roadhouse roots.

Remember when industrial little Georgetown was hailed as the next Capitol Hill? Didn’t happen, and probably never will. Why? Where to start: If you live in one of Georgetown’s many one-story dollhouses, an extreme tolerance for low-flying jets—and we mean low, as in could-land-on-your-front-lawn low—is a must, since Boeing Field is a prominent neighborhood resident. Ditto a laissez-faire attitude toward sharing real estate with chemical drum manufacturers and scrap-iron dealers.

Previous “next big thing” Ballard also has more than its share of heavy industry, but has long contained a robust residential sector (granted, the collective face of said sector has changed considerably). Georgetown, meanwhile, is squished in among the airstrip, the freeway, crisscrossing boxcar traffic, and large industrial tenants. Blink and you might miss the charming colony of artists, entrepreneurs, and blue-collar characters that live here.

There’s a song off Bruce Springsteen’s vastly underrated album Tunnel of Love that contains the signature lyric “One step up and two steps back.” This is emblematic of the past year in the neighborhood, which has nursed a compact yet thriving nightlife and arts scene while crankily grappling with dual public proposals to site a red-light district and a transfer station (aka “dump”) within or adjacent to neighborhood boundaries. The former proposal, hatched in the mayor’s office, was enough to grab the attention of neighborhood restaurateur Maurice “Uncle Mo” LeClech. For months, his Uncle Mo’s Planet Georgetown, on the corner of 13th Avenue South and Albro Place, posted a faux help-wanted ad seeking topless dancers.

What made this marquee hoax all the more effective is the fact that, amid the hipster haunts of Airport Way, Uncle Mo’s is one of the few holdovers from Georgetown’s hardscrabble past where a little burlesque might be par for the course. Walking into Uncle Mo’s is like traveling back to a time when Seattle, much less Georgetown, was regarded as little more than a dreary Northwestern company town, where people punched in and out on life with little to fill in the gaps. At Uncle Mo’s, the popcorn’s fresh, the televisions are tuned to football, pull tabs pass the time between beers, a 10-ounce steak is $8.45 each Monday, and a blue-collared shirt bearing one’s name is hardly, if ever, worn as an ironic fashion statement.

In such a no-bullshit hall of fellowship, it’s heartening to find a menu that features, among other heartland delicacies, deep-fried chicken gizzards, barbecue meatballs, and mini corn dogs. The burger menu contains a couple curiosities as well: the Soul Burger and the namesake Mo Burger, a one-third-pound concoction containing ground beef, Swiss cheese, and a thin slice of ham.

If ham and hamburger together sounds a bit redundant, the execution is anything but. The slice of ham brings out a little extra oomph of flavor from the ground beef, and vice versa. Odd coupling: sweet music.

Bottomfeeder is a biweekly tongue-dive into Seattle’s fast, cheap, and out-of-control culinary underworld. It alternates with Jonathan Kauffman’s biweekly Voracious.