Jennifer Richard

Circa

We especially love their beef hamburgers and veggie burger. Juicy, flavorful, and yum! —Disco Mama

At the burgeoning Admiral junction in West Seattle, the tiny Circa (2605 California Ave SW, 923-1102) has grown into a haven of haggard parents desperate for a beer with their dinner and friendly neighborhood types who enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and appealing grub. And though they've got a full menu, most fans stick with the burgers.

We decide to evaluate the half-pound Painted Hills natural beef burger and the veggie burger according to Disco Mama's criteria—namely, are they juicy, flavorful, and yum?

Juicy is easy. My medium-rare beef burger ($9.50) oozed delicious pink-tinged liquid with each bite; I found myself remembering the bad old days when I was a wan vegetarian plaintively staring through steamed-up windows at those carnivores licking their self-satisfied fingers. The veggie burger ($8.95)? Not so juicy. The lesson? Vive le boeuf!

As to the second criterion, the beef burger tasted almost gamy (in a good way), as though the cow had spent its life wandering through those Painted Hills, living off the land. The veggie burger tasted mainly like the cheese that adorned it like taffeta drapes on an unwanted prom date.

On to "yum"—necessarily more amorphous, but the most important category of all. "Yum" implies not just tastiness, but a high comfort level, a plate of food you'd turn to on the day you lost your job or your love. Both burgers pass the "yum" test, the beef on its own merits, the veggie in no small part because of the crunchy hand-cut fries that cleave to the melted cheese. The lesson? Stick to the beef, Disco Mama.

Red Mill Burgers

You wait a good long time for a burger that is no more memorable than something ordered at Burger King. Disappointing. —Homage to Me

I think they have the best burgers in Seattle. Made fresh, not too fatty, yummy sauce. And the onion rings are incredible. —Stella12345

There are times when public opinion diverges so dramatically that the truth can be discovered only by going to the source. Such is the case with the opinions about the venerable Red Mill Burgers (1613 W Dravus St, 284-6363; 312 N 67th St, 783-6362) proffered by Homage to Me and Stella12345.

There are certainly good things about Red Mill. The onion rings—thick-cut, sweet, and not overwhelmed by batter ($2.39)—justify Stella12345's gushing. The famed pile of bacon fulfills its reputation as perfectly crisp and peppery. The toasted kaiser bun on my blue cheese and bacon burger ($5.69) stays firm despite a soaking of the Mill's special sauce, which is indeed yummy. And even though we arrived at dinnertime, our food was ready five minutes after we ordered it.

There's only one thing, really, that's unexceptional about Red Mill and that's the burgers. They're overdone, greasy, and not much different than the standard fare at any fast-food chain. Not even the roasted Anaheim peppers, the gobs of blue cheese, or the strips of bacon that crisscross the burger like a bandolier can redeem the humdrum Red Mill patty.

Good hangover food? Sure. The best burgers in Seattle? I don't think so.