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?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mini Donut Burgers at The Original Dinerant

Hey, American, Can You Deal With This Level of Freedom? Because part of me thinks food like this should be illegal outside of the State Fair. The Original Dinerant is pretty far from the Salem Fairgrounds, but add "on-a-stick" to most of it's menu items (if not it's actual high minded dishes) and it would fit comfortably between the fry brick booth and the elephant ear stand.  It is a kind of dazzling downtown restaurant that riffs on the make-bad-choices culture of American Cuisine, like, making chicken and waffles into sliders or batter frying Dr Pepper and Oreos. The Original is too sophisticated to serve two of those three things. But don't get me wrong, at the intersection of SW 6th and Oak is the intersection of metropolitan and Americana, tight-roping between the familiar and the experimental over a chasm of superciliousness a.k.a. fancy-pants versions of strait-up basic diner food.

Burger; These mini burgers were amazing little morsels from heaven, DUH. The beef was supple and perfectly medium, a feat for their size. The Tillamook cheddar might as well had been left off, its tang was completely buried under the glazed donut, but who cares? It is delicious burger on top of a delicious donut! I have gazed longingly at the donut burgers at many a Oregon State Fair but never ate one for fear of festival food court beef. There was a feeling of redemption in eating these, like, I can play adult at a classy cocktail hour but do it while eating a burger with effing donuts for buns.  I definitely felt a mixture of joy and shame in eating these, but, I think if I ate one at the  fair I would have just felt shame. Do what you will with that information.

Fries; Nice shoestring fries. Full disclosure; my companions and I ordered a plate of Poutine instead of plain fries. The fries beneath the gravy and cheese curds were fine. Nothing special, bu frankly it's hard to accurately review anything after you've eaten two mini donut burgers. Also, what were we thinking? That mini-meal took AT LEAST a few hours off my life.

Service; Very typical of Portland. Professional and friendly etc. but part of me wished they were a bit campier. In my opinion their faux diner aesthetic would really benefit from a few beehives and bowties.

Where? 300 SW 6th Avenue originaldinerant.com

Monday, February 24, 2014

Frack Burgers, the 90s and Poison Sand Water

I do not associate frack(ing) and burgers, but regardless of the definition, I think we can all admit that Frack is a fun word to say. I remember subbing out f-bombs for the word "frack" as a non swearing child. But now I am an adult (or a very large, swearing child) and even though I don't want to think about poison sand water murdering entire towns while I stuff fatty meats in my face, one odorous waft of grilled beef can change my mind. Why should the term "Frack" in relation to meat and cheese even bother anyone? What are words anyway? Hydraulic fracturing and burger nomenclature are not mutually exclusive, you know. Anyway, it was with the whimsy that accompanies being a large swearing child that I ventured to the very edge of Portland and ate the frack out of a Frack Burger.

Burger; Frack Burgers are basic. There are no high concept "recipe" burgers on their menu, which is structured similarly to 5 Guys, Boardwalk or seminal burger joint In and Out. You have the choice of one, two, three or four patties. Each patty is 1/4 lb. The patties are hand formed and dripping with American cheese. There are a handful of additional topping you can choose from (just like 5 Guys & Boardwalk & Wow Burger) all of them are pretty standard. The patties are dense and juicy, the buns are fresh and airy, the standard toppings (iceberg, tomato and white onion) are fresh and crisp, but the Frack Sauce is what sets Frack Burger apart. It's what I imagine Ed's Sauce from Goodburger tastes like. If you have no idea what I'm talking about go watch Goodburger on Netfllix right now.

Fries: When I saw the fries come out I was disappointed. They had the limp, oily sheen of overcooked handmade fries. You often see these fries at bars, freshly cut and ill prepared. But hold up, after I actually ate one, I changed my tune. They were far better than they looked. The onion rings also looked like they were cooked to death, but on closer inspection (by my mouth) they were pretty great. The sides are nothing to write home about, but they are serviceable.

Service: Counter server looked like he just walked out of a 1995 Gin Blossoms video. But that's not a taunt-the 90s are very much alive in Portland, maybe nowhere more so than it's outer edges.

Where: 8981 SW Barbur Blvd. Frack Burger on FB

Tasty 'N Sons on a Cold Winter Day

Remember when the world LITERALLY FROZE last week? Everyone was simultaneously terrified and thrilled. I wanted to play in the snow but I also wanted to sit somewhere with huge windows and eat a burger. Just so happens that former "Restaurant of the Year" Tasty 'N Sons is about 5 minutes from my house AND it has big-ass windows.  Boom. 

Burger: Tasty 'N Sons has never let me down. Every time I've eaten there, I've eaten something so delicious it makes me angry. This visit, the burger was the dish the I was most furious about. First of all, how dare they top that nectarous burger with bacon they are making in house? Who the hell do they think they are to enswathe all that meat with Beechers Cheddar? I could have honestly smacked someone then immediately hugged them; I eat with a full range of emotion
Tasty 'N Sons pushes some of Portland's best plates out of their kitchen, so it shouldn't have surprised me that their burger would make me so outraged.  Bread and butter pickles, slivers of red onion, a handful of iceberg and a schmear of magical aioli. Simple, classic perfection. Boom

Fries: Nope, but we had enough people in our party to order nearly everything off of the happy hour menu, and I strongly suggest the Radicchio with Parmesan Reggiano Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is so rich I wanted to slather it all over the world, but the brightness of the radicchio cuts through the heft of the meal.

Service: Portland servers really are in a class to themselves. Come to Tasty 'N Sons and expect a lovely experience.

Where:  3808 N Williams, Suite C. tastyntasty.com

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kenny and Zuke's is More Than Pastrami, But Not Much More

Why Would You Go To K&Zs and NOT Get Pastrami? I was screaming this internally as I crossed the threshold of Kenny and Zuke's Deli Bar on North Williams. The space was formerly occupied by francophille feverdream, Pix Patisserie (le sigh), but now smells of briny pork, tart sauerkraut and bitter rye bead.  Despite having my nostrils seduced with the olfactory bacchanal that is their Ruben, I ordered a burger but - real talk - I was thinking about the macarons at Pix almost the whole time.

Burger; The Happy Hour burger is a bargain. Beautifully toasted house baked bun, house made bread n butter pickles, and in addition to ruby red tomato and verdant green leaf, the option of pepper flecked grilled button mushrooms, caramelized onion, avocado or thick pepper bacon. This is the burger you hope to get when your friends drag you to a caraway scented deli but you maybe hate rye bread or something.

Fries; Nope! Kettle Chips, potato salad or a classic slaw that is very pastel and refreshing.

Service; Okay, forreals, our server had this early 90's hip-hop look that was KILLING ME. He was so sweet with his fat, gold chain and silky, purple shirt and dry, jheri-curl fade and I loved it so much.  I want to drink 40s and listen to EPMD on a stoop with him un-ironically.

Where; 3901 N Williams Ave  503.287.0782   www.KennyandZukes.com