Steak 'n Shake, the 80-year-old fast food chain founded in southern Illinois, is making its way to Seattle. And I could not be happier—my college years in St. Louis were fueled by Frisco melts, shoestring fries with cheese sauce, and ungodly large milkshakes. More erudite fans include David Letterman and Roger Ebert.
The chain known for its flat, griddled steakburgers will open this winter downtown. Franchisee Joe Fernandez, a former marketing guy whose love for the steakburger dates back to his childhood in Florida, says this one will be different from the freestanding drive-thru locations most people know from the Midwest and east coast.
Seattle's first Steak 'n Shake will be an example of the company's more streamlined, urban concept. The basic gist: a smaller menu that focuses on burgers, fries, and shakes, and beer and wine. A few such locations already exist in places like Santa Monica and San Antonio, as well as New York City. The more narrow menu doesn't include the chain's five-way chili, but fans of the Frisco melt (basically a sourdough patty melt with two kinds of cheese and a Thousand Island-esque sauce) can rest easy.
Fernandez says he chose the location, formerly the venerable Bruno's, at 1417 Third Ave, with care. Most Seattleites aren't familiar with Steak 'n Shake (the closest locations are in Las Vegas and Billings, Montana) so he wanted major visibility. That said, in a city swelling with transplants, he's already hearing from other Steak 'n Shake fans clamoring for an original double 'n cheese. "As we expand into other neighborhoods, we hope our first restaurant will help our customers' knowledge of who we are," says Fernandez, though he won't be thinking about other locations until this one is open and has its sea legs.
This location will open in late December or January, with 86 seats and serve food from 10 to 10; hopefully late night hours will follow.
Editor's note: Updated later in the day to reflect that the location is downtown, not Belltown. Epic Google mapping fail on my part.