Judy Lee, owner of Pioneer Square's BRGR Bar, grew up in Korea, where she worked, as she describes it, every imaginable food-industry job. When she moved to Bellevue with her son Daniel (who works at BRGR Bar and acted as a translator during our interview), she opened restaurants in Lynnwood and Sammamish. She bought Dome Burger when its original owner retired after 20 years; the transformation of the popular dive into cozy, wood-paneled BRGR Bar was a response to customer requests. Judy's husband built all the furnishings, from the booths to the carved banisters, for an aesthetic resembling older Pioneer Square taverns.
Judy wanted a name that advertises they serve beer and wine (Dome Burger didn't), and that they still have burgers. She omitted the vowels from "burger" because she thought it was exciting—the burgers themselves have no holes in them. Development of the menu involved extensive research (read: burger-eating) and experimentation. Judy enjoys this process so much, she's doing a rotating Brgr of the Month. Her favorite topping: the Korean-style coleslaw on BRGR Bar's Gangnam Brgr (referencing the Psy song and a glamorous district in Seoul). Her least favorite topping: the absence of toppings. I tried a Meatless Heaven Brgr towering with avocado. The sweet, creamy Bavarian aioli with BRGR Bar's IPA-battered fries could make rebar edible.