Sunday, June 8, 2014

Average Burgers and Above Average Zombie Programming at Hilt

Every bar in this city thinks it has "The Best Happy Hour Burger" or "Portland's Best Late Night Burger" or some other unregulated nonsense. I assure you, I am here to weed through the free wheeling claims of burger superiority to give it to you strait up. They wont all be winners, and they wont all be losers. Most, like Hilt, will fall squarely in the middle of the road. And there's no shame in that.  The mediocre is necessary. Without regular, boring stuff there's nothing to put spectacular stuff in context. If everything is fabulous then nothing is fabulous- you feel me? Hilt may claim to have some kind of impressive burger situation, but it's really just a regular old bar burger, and there's nothing wrong with that. Yeah, I would eat it again, but I wouldn't brag about it.

Burger: Aside from the heavy handed schmear of mayo, very average. I've noted before that I will typically review a kitchen's basic burger before I review any tricked out chef creation style burgers. My logic is that if a basic burger cant be made compellingly why should I or anyone else give some fancy dagwood-esque burger the time of day? There are some impressive looking burgers on the menu at Hilt, and if their basic burger is any indication, they probably wont suck. The basic burger boasted a fluffy sesame seed bun, fresh butter lettuce and ripe red tomato slices and a luscious, if skimpy, patty. Also, sorry about that picture, it was dark and everyone in the bar was really getting into The Walking Dead so I felt like an asshole blasting my flash.

Fries: Our party did a lot of plate sharing and one of the favorite's was the kasseri fries. These were hand cut and covered in kasseri cheese with some type of lemon pepper situation. Good for sharing, great for choking on when a Walking Dead scene scares the crap out of you.

Service: Very fast and friendly. I think that Portland is shaking off the whole uppity server reputation in favor of personable, more laid back service. I like that much better and Hilt's got it.

Where: 1934 NE Alberta Street www.thehiltbar.com

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The American Local; Weak Necked Heaven/Possible Snoresville

The American Local is one of many exciting eateries on SE Division (driving down that street sucks a lot more than it did 5 years ago but that's beside the point I guess). If you can withstand the intoxicating aromas of Pok Pok or the even more intoxicating muddy drug water at Bula Kava you'll only get as far as The American Local before you and your olfactories are bewitched by the saporous bouquets and cacaphonous festivity within. The community table layout and wide open kitchen is warm and genial. There's an exciting energy that buzzes with Portland pride, the chefs toss fragrant dishes with wide smiles and the servers laugh heartily with the patrons.  It's got that tongue in cheek "high concept-low-brow" approach that is so popular these days but it's execution is razor sharp. Can you tell how much I like this place or what?
Burger: My first bite was heaven. True eye rolling, deep  moaning, weak necked heaven. The burger is simple, letting each component compliment the others without getting too fussy. Now, I'm a champion of simplicity in burgers, I like the taste of beef  between fluffy brioche without a whole lot of brouhaha happening in between. The American Local nailed it HOWEVER, by bite 4, I was bored. Let this be the case against oversimplifying. There should be something to break up the savory meat, airy bread, bit of greenery situation. My utter veneration of the burger that seduced me for two bites was whisked away like a brief (like, seriously brief) passionate love affair. I would recommend the burger, but I would recommend it be shared alongside a few of the seasonal menu's fantastic looking small plates. That way you get all the soft weird moans and none of the equally weird yawn snores.

Fries: Fresh cut Kennebec potatoes, fried up and salted perfectly. Exactly what you expect and nothing more. Served with a side of *special sauce 

Service: Great! Attentive, personable, funny and very easy going. I kinda wanted to high five our server on the way out, he gave us serious high five vibes. Oh and take note, beers are overpriced and under-poured, so yeah... just an FYI

Where: 3003 SE Division  theamericanlocal.com

* I'm pretty sure it's just ketchup mixed with mayo and mustard

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sports, Dorks and The Jolly Roger

At a dinner party a while back, a fellow Californian recommended The Jolly Roger to me with the thrilling claim, "it's just like In n' Out." After a certain amount of years without a beloved Double Double, a person might develop some hallucinatory oral hokum regarding what's arguably the best fast food burger on earf because frankly, The Jolly Roger's resemblance to In n' Out pretty much starts and ends with "they both serve burgers."
The Jolly Roger is a reliably divey sports bar, co-opted, like so much of the SE, by soft pastel grunge hipsters. However, visiting on a Saturday afternoon was a lesson in maintaining a mellow constitution while all of the airborne sports balls being telecast around us worked an entire bar full of jersey clad fanboys and girls into a frenzy (I had the distinct feeling that I was in Beaverton all of a sudden - where was all the pastel soft grunge?).

Burger; Well, dude I met once at a dinner party, these burgers are NOT comparable to  In n' Out. Just no. Maybe if I hadn't gotten my breadbasket all juiced up for something "animal style" I wouldn't have had such an adverse reaction. Put simply, The Jolly Roger is a very basic bar burger. The beef is slapped on a flat top, presumably from frozen, leaving the eater with the distinct essence of 100 years of greasy frost. The gluey american cheese felt more synthetic than it should have and the shredded iceberg and tomato both suffered for it. The dense potato bun was the best thing about the burger, which makes me a little sad. All this being said, if you're hammer-wasted with all your pastel soft grunge friends and you need to soak up some liqueur post haste, this burger will be the best thing you ever ate (probably, because that how drunkenness works).

Fries: Frozen, thick cut steak fries that also have an over-processed feeling to them that is mildly disturbing. But again, the drunker you are, the better these probably taste.

Service; Actually pretty solid. Our server handled our snooty behinds with ease while she juggled an entire bar full of revved up sports heads. It was impressive.

Where: 1340 Se 12th Ave JollyRestaurants.com


Friday, May 30, 2014

Crown Q and the Rebirth of Cool on Killingsworth

Crown Q resides at Killingswworth and MLK  in a storefront that for the longest time was a bummer of a teriyaki cafe before becoming a bummer of an empty storefront. I walk my dog past this place all the time, and when it was empty I would fantasize about what it might be someday. I could not be more thrilled with what it has become; a full on meat palace dressed up like Mardi Gras drag queen. Gary Lowe of the popular NE Portland Crown Q food cart, partnered with Stroupe Farms in Aurora to build my fantasy neighborhood market. Fresh all natural, locally raised meats, grocery odds and ends, a classic soul food menu AND OH MY GAWD YOU GUYS THEY MAKE AWESOME BURGERS

Burger: Well the meat is crazy delicious. The patties are seasoned with a heavy hand, formed to order and smash grilled. Though the onion and tomato were sloppily sliced (somebody needs to get their knife sharpened ASAP) and the lettuce was a little wispy, everything was fresh and bright. The white bun had a nice little toast to it but was otherwise pretty basic. But lemme tell you bout this bbq sauce right quick; the house made sauce had a great balance of tang and sweet, and even though it was slopped on without much grace, it made the burger. Time will tell if this is the burger this neighborhood wants, but it's certainly the burger this neighborhood deserves.

Fries: Opted for coleslaw- it was that kind of day. Not particularly memorable so it must not have been bad- I would have remembered that.

Service: Counter service that's warm and friendly and makes you feel like you're in someone's home kitchen. The family vibe is strong here, and it adds a charm and sweetness to the joint. Growler fills and outdoor seating.

Where: 445 NE Killingsworth St CrownQMarket.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lardo on Hawthorne and the Legend of Porklandia

 
Portland might as well change it's name to Porkland. This city fetishises pork all day every day. Enter Lardo, a porky wonderland of a restaurant with a uniquely Portland evolution. Lardo went from food truck to restaurant to triple outpost chain in roughly five years. That alone is a testament to this city's love of swine. It's not surprising that Lardo has seen such success, they take their pork mad serious, and this is a city that generally rewards dedication and perfectionism especially when it comes to charcuteries on wheels.

Burger: Two 1/4 lb patties, smothered in cheddar and topped with another 1/3 lb of Lardo's famed "porkstrami", a thick cut pastrami that falls apart like the stuff of meaty daydreams. This towering meatscape was habilitated with a rich, velvety aioli and romaine confetti exploding out of the sides like a new year's party popper. The fluffy brioche and  hunk of dill pickle provided the sweetness and tartness necessary to balance the salty mountain of meat. It was a beast to wrangle into my mouth, but once I got my jaws around it I was in hog heaven. Personally, I'm not super-into loads of mayo, but some people are. And if those people are also into bachanals of grilled meat they are going to lose their minds over this burger.

Fries: Lardo fries are legendary. I aint foolin. Cooked in lard and tossed with fried herbs and parmesan. I have some favorite spots for fries in PDX, but Lardo just took a dump on all of them. These are the best fries in Portland and I'm sorry if I ever made you believe otherwise.

Service; The food truck aesthetic is alive and well at Lardo's Hawthorne location where you stand in a fast moving line and order at a counter. They also have an impressive draft beer lineup, if you're into that.

Where; Multiple locations. This review took place at 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland. www.lardopdx.com

Don't Get Your Hopes Up For Redwood


The Montavilla 'hood on SE Stark is real hit and miss when it comes to getting down on big plates of food. Tanuki,  fighting tooth and nail against their popularity, is pretty much making all the restaurants on the street look like amateur baby kitchens. Admittedly I've only reviewed one other burger in Montavilla and it was legendarily bad. Wait, I feel like I'm starting on the wrong foot. Lemme start over -Ahem- *nervously adjusts collar* Redwood is a dark, semi romantic bar with a cozy atmosphere, perfect for a boozy date night. It's got rich wood interior that feels like hanging out inside of a wine barrel. I could drink many craft beers at Redwood but it's unlikely I will be eating any more of their craft beefs.

Burger: Sometimes a burger has everything going it for it except a chef. For instance, even though this burger was dressed with fresh leaves of pastel green butter lettuce, carefully sliced red onion and a hedonistic quantity of white american cheese, the meat was so well done it was like chewing a sponge made of beef flavored leather. The bun was grilled far too aggressively and then sloppily dressed with a flavorless "special sauce" (read; this was bottled mayo someone forgot to season) I thought that this burger was disrespected by its chef and I was disappointed. Even burgers on a Friday night deserve our respect.

Fries: The second the first fry hit my lips I could tell it was at least an hour old. It had begun the process of becoming stale and overcooked. It tasted as though  it had been hovering over a fryer long after the fry basket had been lifted. And every other fry after it tasted the same. Blech.

Service; Redwood has exceptional service. Our server was exactly the perfect amount of chatty and attentive, but there was a sadness in her eyes that totally foreshadowed my burger experience. SHE KNEW!! I should pay better attention to my instincts. She was nice though.

Where: 7915 SE Stark Street Portland www.redwoodpdx.com

Editors Note: My constant companion and I worked in tandem to try both the basic burger and the vegetarian variety. I wasn't impressed my the texture of the vegetarian patty, it was mushy/mealy, but the flavor profile- a hodgepodge interpretation of Southeast Asian - was ambitious, which was impressive considering the "who cares" construction of the beef burger.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Astrolgical Astronomy at Ecliptic Brewing Co

I encourage suggestions, but I'm also kinda lazy and snobby, so I end up saying, "I will totally eat that burger this weekend" lots more than I actually eat burgers on the weekend. Sorry-not-sorry if I've done that to you. Once in a while the stars will align and someone will suggest a burger that I actually eat and review. And the stars aligned so hard for this burger. First off, this place is called Ecliptic Brewing (what's up vague 'stars-aligning' reference). Second, it was Portland's first gorgeous- as in clear and warm-ish- day in months (insert vague reference to the skies/seasons). Third, Ecliptic is in my hood, leaving me with absolutely no godly reason NOT to go there (besides my health)  I love it when a plan comes together (thanks universe, you're okay I guess). Tip o' the hat to Steve* and Megan* for the suggestion. Oh, and to anyone else that's suggested a rad burger; someday, dudes, someday I will eat them all.

Burger;  Great beef, seasoned with a measured hand, cooked a lovely medium, shredded iceberg, and a smattering of pickle coins and red onion with a portiere of white cheddar, all of it smothered in aioli. Aioli aioli aioli aioli rocking everywhere. Aioli dripping off of my lips and into my lap. I wish I had the chutzpah to post a picture of my face after my first bite. I looked like I had just walked out of a bukakke party. Mayo all over the punim. The bun/burger/dressage balance was off. Here was this phenomenal patty of beef with what felt like a pinch of lettuce and a pound of bread. The onions and pickles gave a much needed tang but dang y'all, what is up with all that mayo?!

Fries; Ecliptic Brewing has officially usurped Killer Burger as this blog's favorite french fry. House made, fried up perfectly -not greasy or limp, but crispy and fluffy. Dusted liberally with sea salt. Seriously perfect.

Service; There seemed to be more servers than tables -  just an observation. The service was quick and friendly. But we need to talk about the view this place has. It's perched at the crest of Mississippi, just south of Freemont, with monster-huge bay doors that roll up to reveal a dazzling view of the westside framed behind the Freemont Bridge. I suspect this place will be seeing some packed houses come "patio drinking season".

Where; Ecliptic Brewing 825 North Cook St. (@ Mississippi). eclipticbrewing.com

* No names were changed. Who cares?