Cheap Eats: Welfare Burger at Brews and Cue's is loaded with flavor

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Shattered expectations lead one of two ways.

When the long-awaited fourth season of “Arrested Development” finally hit Netflix, I felt cheated to the point of going on a Kathy-Bates-as-Annie-Wilkes diatribe. In fact, I still haven’t totally gotten over that.

On the other hand, there’s something potentially really cool about shattered expectations — when something is actually much better than you’d thought it would be.

That was the case when I made my first visit to Brews and Cue’s, a downtown spot I’d heard is something of a Yakima institution. I was there to sample the Wednesday night special for this week’s Cheap Eats column.

Brews and Cue’s — I’d been told — is the quintessential dive bar. And maybe it is. I’m not totally sure what criteria an establishment has to meet to earn the qualification. Nor am I sure if the descriptor is supposed to be a pejorative.

What I do know is that everything about Brews and Cue’s, including its Wednesday night Welfare Burger special, is something I kind of dig. There’s the dim interior and the checkerboard floor. And there’s the dart board waiting for a gang of military guys — or maybe some ironic-T-shirt-wearing fratty dudes — to show up and surround it while they swill beers and congratulate each other on making it to hump day. There’s the standard flirting ritual among couples at pool tables. And there’s the relative quiet — finally, appropriately broken by Bret Michaels singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” over the speakers.

On this particular night, the sounds of Poison’s late-’80s power ballad were followed by the unmistakable opening of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” which coincided with the arrival of the meal I’d ordered only a few minutes before. Like the bar itself, there’s really nothing visually spectacular about the burger. But that’s what made both it and this supposedly archetypical dive an unexpected treat.

Loaded with all the great flavor I want in a decent burger, it reminded me of those my dad made nearly every weekend when I was growing up. Just the right mix of salty and savory. Plus, it was loaded with ketchup and red onions, cheese and pickles.

I wolfed it down and sat there for a while, contemplating another order while alternating dips of my crinkle-cut fries in the twin plastic containers that held ketchup and fry sauce. I was already full and didn’t really need a second burger, but I stuck around anyway, just to enjoy the atmosphere a little longer. I was digging it as much as I did the meal.

There was a steady trickle of patrons, an unexpectedly motley assortment, coming in to find tables. And the flirting couple at the pool table finished their game and took a breather over a couple of the same burgers I’d just enjoyed. Smiles could be seen and heard in the voices of the men and women surrounding the bar.

And in the midst of Brian Johnson’s screeching vocals, I suddenly remembered that sometimes it’s the simplest and least complicated moments that make life a little happier and a little easier.

The place: Brew’s & Cue’s, 104 S. Second St.

The food: Wednesday’s hump day special — The Welfare Burger and fries

The price: $2.75

Desk phone: (509) 759-7853

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