Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Portland Burger Blog; Los Angeles Edition

Bright Lights Big City, Real Tan Fake Titties: I hail from a quaint oceanside village called Long Beach, California. You may know it as the city that brought you Snoop Dogg, sailor tattoos, and the street scenes in every action movie ever. I visit once or twice a year to remind myself why I moved, but my last visit left me with an excess of feels - the feels that make it particularly hard to bail. In and Out Burgers may have contributed to some of those feels. 
I traveled from the warm beaches of Hermosa to the rich hipster paradise of Silverlake all the way to back to the cacophonous streets of dowtown Long Beach and no joke I ate a lot of burgers. The results are in; here are the best burgers I ate on my Smog Angeles adventure:

Umami Burger: Everybody and their momma wanted to get me to Umami Burger... 5 years ago. I'm obviously too cool (or dorky- they're the same thing now, right?) to be on trend, plus I live 1,500 miles away, but hallelujah! I finally made it there half a decade after I first heard about it.
Umami, for the uninitiated, refers to the satisfying mouth feel of meat, or any other dense, savory protein. It calls to mind certain satisfaction. A sense of "yum". Umami Burgers are aptly named, not just for the flavorful beef of their patties, but for the deliberate composition of their cleverly constructed burgers. There is a lot of "yum" happening here.
The classic Umami Burger (shown here) consists of shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, and a house ketchup. Depending on your way of looking at burgers, it may seem basic, or it may seem over-thought. I assure you, it is both, and therein lies Umami Burger's genius. It's essentially a cheese burger with grilled onion and mushrooms, but it's on some next level sh*t. If low brow in the key of high concept is your bag, and you find yourself in  Los Angeles or NYC  it's worth your while to seek out an Umami Burger.  Visit for locations

Congregation: In the new (to me) promenade of downtown Long Beach, tucked in the bottom corner of a high rise with ocean views, Congregation is nestled. It's stark resemblance to East Portland's Church gave me immediate religion shivers- but I poured one of their craft brews down my neck and was all, "Bring me a burger, Satan! Also, get behind me!" Pictured here is their signature Turkey Burger, because variety! Served on a lightly toasted english muffin, (a style that I was first introduced to at Dig A Pony) and topped with a roasted tomato, caramelized white onion, wild bitter greens and some fancy aioli, the picture does not do it any kind of justice. The turkey patty- notoriously easy to dry out into a cardboard mockery of a burger- was moist and seasoned with a sweeter, less savory profile than a traditional beef burger. And though I could have done with a tad more brown on that muffin, I was too happy to be scarfing a burger on my beloved hometown's sparking Promenade to really care. Your experience may vary. Visit Congregation Alehouse online. I understand their pretzels are also the jam.

Rockwell: Right off the bat, I know that picture should get me fired, but look, Rockwell is romantic and dim and very stylish and I was not trying to be that blogger in the corner blowing up everyone's spot with multiple obnoxious blasts of Iphone flash. When it comes to delicious foods, Rockwell don't play, so lets imagine that instead of that Instagram fail over there, you could clearly see the juicy char of a half pound of medium rare, freshly ground chuck, smothered in pepper jack cheese and thick, smokey pepper bacon. A simple, A1 aioli is dripping from the sweet, whole grain bun and the bright green of the romaine is contrasting spectacularly against the crimson hothouse tomato and the paper thin red onion. Beside this masterpiece of a burger is a huge pile of onion rings, breaded in Capt'n Crunch Cereal. Yes, you read that right. Yes they were delicious. Yes, this is "fine dining." Put away your WTFs and marvel at what will surely be my heart attack in 5 years. Let it also be known that there is a goddamn tree growing in the middle of the dining room up into an open air, roofless situation that could literally NEVER happen in Portland. Thank you L.A. The reasons I hate you are the reasons I love you. Visit Rockwell LA for reservations.

In and Out: If I was giving out fast food Michelin stars I would give In and Out ALL THE STARS. As in, it is worth the drive, ride, flight, price of travel, etc. to experience it. It’s everything you want in a fast food burger- the grease, the salt- with the winning amount of freshness. Prepared almost exclusively by idealist teenagers in paper hats and clean white uniforms, it is a warm Southern California night on the beach, it’s a mouthful of sunshine, it’s the wind in your hair while you drive down PCH in your dad’s convertible. Alright, maybe I’m confusing my objective burger science with my hometown pride, but honestly, as a burger lover, you must eat an In and Out Double-Double at least once before global warming or type 2 diabetes makes gross corpses of us all.

Hey, chill out. Of course I’m going to talk about the secret menu. What am I, new here?

In and Out has the same limited menu it had the day it opened; Burger, Cheeseburger, Double Double (as in double meat double cheese-get in my mouth double time!), french fries, ice cream shakes and a slew of sodas. BUT, if you are a person in the know, you can make your double double a 3x3, 4x4 ad infitum, you can go animal style, go protein style (thank you LA diet jagoffs), make your fries extra American and insane by adding 1000 island dressing, cheese and grilled onion. I mean, the list goes on and on- anyone willing to do a Google search on “secret In and Out menu” is going to be richly rewarded for their burger sleuthing.

Afterword: I know that Los Angeles has many, many fantastic burgers.  These were the best burgers of  the burgers that were most convenient for me to eat. One day I will make a trip down south for no reason other than eating burgers all day every day for a couple of days (because any more than a couple of days will probably kill me). PS, any LA readers who are planning a trip to PDX, holler at me and I will blow your burger socks off. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Portland Burger Week in Review!

I ALMOST ATE THE WHOLE THING; And I really would have had a handful of kitchens not grossly underestimated the sheer burger consuming power of Portland during burger week. Victory Bar sold out of their burger an hour after they opened their doors and, understandably, quickly threw in the towel. Widmer Bros had signs in their windows regretfully declining burger specials after lunch time and Rockin Robyn strait called in sick. I bullied my way up to the bar at The White Owl 3 nights in a row attempting to secure their vegan beet burger, but they had repeatedly sold out. Obviously, I was denied all three times. All things considered, I still managed to do some respectable damage to my lower GI tract at Foster Burger, Ate-Oh-Ate, TILT, Club 21, The Alberta St. Pub, Slow Bar and Pause. My biggest takeaways from Burger Week are:

  • Some places are gonna shine, other places are gonna whine
  • There is a thing as too much cheese
  • It's maybe not a great idea to eat burgers 7 days in a row.
Damnit, there were some life changing, event burgers happening during burger week. If I may, my top 3 Portland Burger Week burgers are (drumroll)..

Welcome to swan island A.K.A. layer upon layer of sloppy burger mayhem. Double patties? Check. Triple buns? Check. Bigger than your face? Check.  Even though a little part of me wants to never see it again (probably the part that lives in my GI tract), the bigger part is like, "I'm gonna eat that burger so hard, like, once, maybe twice a year". Here's to hoping this beast-mode-big-mac will make it's way on to their everyday menu.
Click here for the review of the BIGTILT

#2 Alberta St. Pub's Elk Burger

Once I got over the shocking renovation of what used to be one of the more dependable dives on Alberta, I could really enjoy this gamey take on burger week. Though the fancy dressings were lost behind the grassy meat, the patty was fantastic enough to more than make up for the lack of pickled cherrys and chaterelle aioli.
Click here for the review of Alberta St. Pub.

#1 Ate-Oh-Ate's Spam Musubi Burger

Truly the one transcendent, eye rolling, tear jerking moment of Portland Burger Week. Whereas I have never been a fan of spam, I am now a convert. Everything about this burger was harmonious. It was simple greatness. Dear Ate-Oh-Ate, Please-Oh-Please put the spam musubi burger on your regular menu.
Click here for my review of Ate-Oh-Ate

Naturally there were some disappointing moments during burger week; the aforementioned premature closures, some less than awesome offerings and the wait times. Honorable mentions include:

  • Slow Bar (duh)
  • Club 21 (who knew?)
  • Pause (what up dark horse?)
My last burger of burger week was had at Pause. In a bittersweet moment of closure, one of the chefs came and chatted with me about what a cluster f*ck burger week was for all the participating restaurants. How nearly none of them had anticipated just how slammed their dining rooms would be, or how backed up their tiny kitchens would get, or how exhausted their entire staffs would be before dinner service was halfway through. Though I know just how tough it was for some of these places, the reward must be so much greater. People going all the way to swan island for a burger? Heck yeah! Scene kids, punks and foodies all hunched over Perkins Burgers at perennial old man bar, Club 21. Diversity! A line out the door at Foster Burger? Well, that's just annoying, but you catch my drift. I can only imagine how many people who may never have seen the inside of these restaurants otherwise, now might have a new favorite restaurant. I know I do (I'm looking at you Ate-Oh-Ate)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Portland Burger Week Edition! That's My Slow Jam: With Guest Blogger Jenny Keene

( EDITORS NOTE) I have enlisted one of my favorite buddies to tap me out for this burger blog- but don't get it twisted, I ate this bad boy, and it was ah-mah-zing. As always , Slow Bar burgers are a joy and I highly recommend that you drop what you're doing and go eat any one of their stellar burgers. Wait, though, don't leave just yet.  Finish reading this sweet blog first.

Brave New Burger Blogger
Well, our dear friend and burger blogger, Brianna, has been working so tirelessly and is surely taking one (or a dozen) for the team during this uber-eventful Portland Burger Week, dining and dutifully reporting on all of the delectable offerings.  But I wanted to give her blogging muscles a little break, so I volunteered to cover one of these babies for her.  Yes, when the opportunity to chow down on a brand new and all original Slowburger from the infamous Slow Bar arose, I sort of pounced on that mother faster than you can say "atsa spicy meatahball!"

So, first of all, Slow Bar is one of my favorite bars in Portland.  As Brianna has mentioned in previous blogs, it's a pretty impressive and foolproof place to show to out-of-towners. But as a straight single lady, I would like to talk with you for a second about how Slow Bar's clientele is ALWAYS 85% men, and a solid 60% of those are stylish, sexy dudes in skinny jeans.  I will admit that, for me, personally, sometimes the indisputably excellent burgers are the second best feature of Slow Bar. Single ladies, please note: the Slow Burger is basically catnip to plaid-shirted men with hip side-parts and tasteful high tops.  Go forth and get yo flaahhh-hirrrrt on, girl.

The Beef;
Okay, SO.  The burger.  The burger was clearly aiming for an Italian theme.  Slow Bar's signature 1/2 pound Painted Hills beef patty is topped with Finochianna salami, provolone, arugula, caramelized onions, and a kicky spread that bursts with fresh basil and oregano.  My first bite made me think of spaghetti!  But in a pleasing, comforting way, not in the weird way that you would expect of a spaghetti burger.

Prior to reading the description of the burger, Brianna thought the salami was actually prosciutto.  It was so thinly sliced and delicately spiced with fennel and pepper, it could have been prosciutto's more complex twin.  The provolone was satisfyingly chewy, and slightly sharper than one might expect.  The onions were thick and sweet, just the right balance for the juicy, salty patty, although perhaps just a wee bit overdone.
This, my friends, was a satisfying burger.  Slow Bar had clear Italy-centric goals for this burger concept, and it reached all of those goals with aplomb.  My only complaint was that the fat, rounded patty and slippery arugula caused one of those pitiful situations where the patty fell out from between the buns when I gripped the burger.  Jeez, round patties, get it together!

The Fries; My side of fries was pretty tasty, and went peachily with what I shall forthwith refer to as my spaghetti burger.  I was going to whine to you about how the ketchup that accompanied the fries was clearly store-bought, but then I realized how embarrassing and prissy that sounds when you say it out loud, so pretend I said something poignant about neo-marxism instead.

I recommend staying tuned to the action as it happens, as Brianna is going to eat as many of the remaining four Burger Week entries as is physically possible, and she'll be back blogging tomorrow!

WHERE; 533 SE Grand Avenue, Portland.

EPILOUGE; This blog posting was sponsored by James "Bobo" Fay of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot. And when I say sponsored, I mean he bought all of our burgers. Guest Blogger Jenny Keene is a content specialist who really kept her verbosity in check for this blog (thanks, yo!), you can see more of her fine work here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Portland Burger Week Edition! Club 21's Perkin Burger

An Old Guy Walks Into A Bar: And orders a hybrid patty melt/french dip. The bartender gapes, the cooks cheer, the patrons rejoice, for this man had created a wanton beast of a burger that will live in infamy for the rest of Club 21's existence. I have been to Club 21 on a few occasions, and I find it to be an authentic PDX dive. Honorable and legacied and done up with all the best vintage beer lamps and mounted stag trophies, and rightfully co-opted by the next generation of hard drinking, hard living, chain smoking badasses. This is not your ultra modern Portland pub of today, it is LEGIT.

BURGER; With so much high concept burger creation happening during Burger Week, it was nice to sit down to an established low brow burger. Already popular with the bar regulars, The Perkin Burger is the best of a french dip and a patty melt, married on a soft hoagie roll and served with au jus. The swiss cheese, 1000 island and red wine caramelized onions were relatively pedestrian additions, but they imparted a tang, a necessary contrast to the soft bread and well cooked beef. It's participation in burger week, to me, seems like a reprieve from the deliciously pretentious burgers being served around town. Sure, it's a great concept burger too, but It's simple and it works. No pretense, no flamboyance, you could probably make it at home pretty easily. Like I said- LEGIT.

FRIES; Feeling not quite fat enough to really be LIVING burger week, I gots me some tots. They were greasy and salty and dive-bar-delicious. My only regret is that I wasn't drunk enough to enjoy them as they were truly meant to be enjoyed.

WHERE; Club 212035 NE Glisan Portland (503) 235-5690

Portland Burger Week Edition! Alberta St. Pub

Somebody Got A Makeover! Just a short while ago, The Alberta St Pub was the embodiment of the dark, back alley London pub. It was the perfect place for a mysteriously dapper gentleman to duck into on a stormy night to conduct some "business". Although in reality it was more trucker-hat-and-pabst than velvet-cloak-and-pipe, it could really sustain the illusion. But, alas, gone are the dark, insular wooden booths of yore. Today the Alberta St Pub is full of wide open spaces, windows for days and garage doors that roll away to reveal glorious patios. Though the scenery has changed, the vibe hasn't. I still would've like to have seen a few Sherlock Holmes pipes though. For old times sake.

BURGER: With it's singular contribution to Burger Week, Alberta presented us with an exquisitely  prepared elk burger with pickled cherries, rouge blue cheese sauce, chanterelle aioli, caramelized onion and arugula. This patty was savory and gamey, with a wild grassy finish. And though elk is remarkably easy to overcook and dry out, this burger was cooked to med. rare, juicy perfection  The spectacular sounding dressage was lost beneath the dominating flavor of the elk, which was unfortunate because I was really looking forward to pickled cherries and chanterelle aioli. The brioche bun was denser than some of the other offerings this week, but it worked in favor of the burger as a whole. It was a small, sophisticated burger with a lush, natural feel. Frankly, it was a nice reprieve from a week of massive amounts of beef. Good foresight Alberta St. Pub!

FRIES: Fresh hand cut fries, a little droopy but well seasoned with coarse sea salt. Very au-naturel.

SERVICE; Between Alberta St's relaunch and Burger Week, these poor kids seem stretched pretty thin, but pleasant otherwise.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Portland Burger Week Edition; The Big TILT

TILT IN MY MOUF! I'm loving Swan Island more and  more these days. On my first visit to TILT, I was really taken by what I still think is some of Portland's most arresting scenery. An industrial hub nestled beside a sparkling blue river encompassed by an emerald green forest. It's like a weird, dystopian oasis that you can ride your bike through. TILT is an oasis within an oasis, not only serving some noteworthy burgers, but cranking out granny approved baked goods AND biscuit brunches for days y'all. Days...Totally worth the surreal drive to the center of everywhere/middle of nowhere.

BURGER: A bold contribution to burger week, The Big TILT is Swan Island's answer to a Big Mac. Custom baked buns ( 3 of them! Fluffy as glazed donuts!), 2 patties, a heap of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, fresh pickles, thick cut bacon (*deep breath*), a fried egg, a curtain of gooey american cheese and, yes yes y'all, secret sauce like a muhhhh. Everything in perfect excess, balancing on the precise line between artistry and farce.  Look at how glorious that monster is! I broke into a slow clap 2 bites in, and shot a double thumbs up to the entire restaurant.

FRIES: Spot on batter fries, but when you're playing a game like this you might want to stick to colesalw. That being said, the jalapeno slaw is a slam dunk. Spice-phobes need not fear it, the razor thin jalapenos are crisp and mild.

SERVICE; With a smile! And the air conditioned dining room is a dream. These cats have burger week handled. Respect.

TILT3449 N.Anchor St., Suite 200 Portland.

A Word About Portland Burger Week

THIS IS HAPPENING; And it's awesome. And there's no way I'm going to be able to eat all of them in a week (I keep telling myself-don't be a hero).
Burger Week is sponsored by The Portland Mercury, one of the fine weeklies of PDX.  It's a 7 day celebration of the burger, the burger arts, and the burger aficionado  The participating restaurants have invented some of the most interesting $5.00 burgers this town has ever seen, and many of the joints have appeared on this blog- crazy right!? I feel like it's my birthday or something.

Participating Restaurants:
Alberta Street Pub (1036 NE Alberta)
Ate-Oh-Ate Hawaiian Restaurant (2454 E Burnside)
Club 21 (2035 NE Glisan)
Dick's Kitchen (3312 SE Belmont)
Foster Burger (5339 SE Foster)
Pause (5101 N Interstate)
Rockin' Robyn's Sassy Burger (5221 NE Sandy)
Slow Bar & Slow Burger (533 SE Grand / 2329 NE Glisan)
Skyline Burgers on Broadway (2200 NE Broadway)
TILT - Handcrafted Food, Built For The American Workforce. (3449 N Anchor)
White Owl Social Club (1305 SE 8th & Main)
Widmer Brothers Gasthaus Pub (955 N Russell)

Yeah, that's a long-azz list, but you can rely on me eating atleast 3/4ths of it. As of this blog, I'm 2 down, 10 to go. Can she do it? Will she GO ALL THE WAY?!
(Full disclosure- I'm probably going to tap out at 8)
Check back for daily burger updates, and get on my FB & instagram game for real time burger updates

Portland Burger Week Edition! Spam Musubi Burger at Ate-Oh-Ate

Do People go to Hawaii for the food? I don't know, but if I had to guess, I would say...maybe? That was the bottom line of the convo I was having as I crossed the threshold into Ate-Oh-Ate. Having heard fantastic thangs about their spam and egg stacked contribution to Burger Week, I was pondering my limited experience with the cuisine, admittedly confined to loco moco and weirdly sexy island fruit. Oh, and spam.

BURGER; For anyone who rolled their eyes at a burger with fried spam on it (I was one of you), know this; spam abso-effing-lutley rivals bacon as a deliciously logical burger topper. This burger was a testimony to balance of flavor. A voluptuous patty, precisely perched on a tailor made, aioli dressed brioche. Two thick slices of grilled spam and an over easy egg that broke with the gentlest nudge, enveloping the tightly constructed burger in a veil of smooth, velvety yolk. I had the pleasure/displeasure of arriving at the tail end of a massive rush, which resulted in about an hour wait- the consequence being a burger patty that was seasoned and pressed to order. As far as I'm concerned, I got there just in time.

FRIES: Noope. But macaroni salad is a decent beach-bbq-throwback side dish. I could almost hear the waves crashing (not really).

SERVICE; It's day two of Burger Week and they're overwhelmed, but dang if they're not pulling off with some serious grace. Maybe it's an island thing.

WHERE; 2454 E Burnside St, Portland (503) 445-6101

Monday, August 5, 2013

Portland Burger Week Edition! Kimcheese Burger at Foster Burger

 I've Waited My Whole Life for This Week: With burger week celebrations exploding around the country, it was only a matter of time before Portland, with it's acres and acres of organic farro and frise fed bovine, got behind the trend. The crazy business that is Portland Burger week will see all types of madness manifesting in $5 dagwood-esque, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink burgers. Today, we beat the rush to Foster Burger, a blog favorite, to go nuts on an illogical fusion burger that somehow made me reconsider my idea of illogical fusion burgers.

BURGER; When venturing out to revel in the spoils of burger week, one must remember that, for 5 bux, you might not be getting the burger monstrosities that you may be accustomed to getting at these participating restaurants. For example, my affection for Foster Burgers thick, succulent patty was defeated when I realized that the kimcheese burger was a mere 4oz patty. No biggie, except that the cook at that size will be medium well, not a huge thumbs up for we who enjoy a pinker patty. Also, the inspired accouterments, a heap of locally made kimchi, mildly spiced cilantro spread, thick cut applewood bacon, glut of cheddar cheese and sky-high sesame brioche overwhelmed the smaller patty, and all that delectable foster beef just sorta disappeared beneath so many strong flavors. Now, that said, this was still easily one of the best five dollar burgers i have ever eaten in my life (I mean, seriously? Kimchi and cheddar? I can't even...) and I can only hope that Foster Burger recreates the insanity that is the kimcheese burger with their signature Foster Burger Patty in the near future.

FRIES: I've mentioned in previous reviews how solid Foster Burger's fries are, so I decided to really set off burger week in style, with a big-azz plate of poutine. I stand by my previous assessment- the fries are solid- but I made a mistake ordering a bowl of disco fries AND an insanity burger. Learn from me, just get some coleslaw instead. Cabbage is excellent for digestion.

SERVICE; Be gentle, it's burger week, they're moving as fast as they can.

WHERE; 5339 SE Foster Road Portland

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Top 5 Burgers To Eat in Portland Before You Move To Brooklyn (or Austin, or Minneapolis, or Los Feliz or Whatever)

I get a lot of burger based questions, but none more often than -So what's your favorite burger? After 3 years of burger exploration, I think I'm finally ready to answer that oft uttered query, and compile my first "Best Of" list. Let's take a trip down burger avenue AKA memory lane.

5. Best Sunday Afternoon Brunch Burger - BAR BAR

This low key burger is a perfect way to round out a debaucherous weekend. Between 2 moderately dense potato buns is some serious upscale faux fast food paydirt. The supple, cheese swaddled patties, crisp shredded iceberg and thoughtful tomato jam will soak up your residual party juice from last night while giving you the fuel you to continue day drinking. Bonus points for Mississippi Studios being a great place to patio-relax with your hungover self. Click Here For My Original Review
Where: BAR BAR 3939 N. Mississippi

4. Best Lunch Break Burger- Killer Burger

With a handful of locations to serve your meat hungry palette, Killer Burger is nailing the daily afternoon
burger experience. They have a menu that is equal parts "Oh hell yeah" and " WTF?" with burgers to please even the most dangerously adventurous pallets, that is to say they have a peanut butter bacon burger AND a burger so spicy you are required to sign a waver before ingesting it. Click Here For My Original Review
Where: Flagship-4644 NE Sandy Blvd

3. Best Happy Hour Burger - East Burn

I love this burger. It is some of the best seasoned meat in town, served on a cibatta roll with a quadrillion nooks and crannies for  ultimate juice absorption. Embellished with fresh, hyper green butter lettuce, thinner than paper red onion and tomato so succulent that your first bite will result in maaad tomato ejaculate. The service is stellar, the patio is an oasis, and the basement arcade is a really fun place to deal with your lifelong claustrophobia issues. Click Here For My Original Review
Where:  EastBurn 1800 E Burnside 503-236-2876

2. Best Burger To Feed To Your Out-Of-Town Buddies- Slow Bar

Consistently on every foodie's top ten Burgers of  Portland list, and with good reason. Slow Bar's Slow Burger is a game changer. The impossibly thick patties are like fleshy cushions, yielding a spectacular arrangement of flavor that seems to grow more complex with each bite. The flagship burger is topped with a ridiculously huge onion ring, but the summer slow burger (shown here) was a masterclass in thoughtful restraint. I await it with baited breath each summer season. I mean, c'mon, look at those pickle slices. They are perfection. Click Here For My Original Review
Where: 533 SE Grand Ave

1. Best Burger In Portland- Foster Burger

From the moment I first walked into Foster Burger I just had a great feeling that I would be eating the burger to end all burgers that day. And while it's insanely close to Slow Burger in terms of life change-ability, it's comes out ahead for one reason; fatback. Their ground beef recipe is so neck snappingly delicious that I restrict myself to one foster burger a year. For fear of breaking my neck. With a signature burger based on the Australian standard of burgers, topped with pickled beets and a fried egg, Foster Burger is doing something so different, yet so friggin familiar that it borders on crazy magic. Also, they framed all of their worst Yelp reviews and that's funny to me. Click Here To Read My Original Review
Where: 5339 SE Foster Road

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Tardis Room; A Bar Full of Inside Jokes I Will Never Understand

What is a Tardis Even? Apparently it has something to do with Dr Who, the long running BBC sci-fi series with an enthusiastically dedicated fan base. The Tardis - and I'm sure I'm going to get corrected in the comment section on this one- is a time machine shaped like a phone booth and The Tardis Room is a Dr. Who fanboy's bedroom shaped like a labyrinthine bar in North Portland. It's a strange mashup between niche-theme bar and old timey fish and chips pub but despite the amount of black lights, it's not as clumsy at it might seem. An abject curiosity, yes, but deftly conceived. I never fell into science fiction, and at this point I'm not holding out hope that someday I will, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the amount of weird effort it took to put this bar together. Bottom line - some people are going to love it and never set foot in another bar as long as they live, but I will be fine visiting maybe once or twice a year. Spoiler alert; it won't be for the burger.

BURGER; Since we're already turning the WTF knob to 11, I actually ate a deep fried burger. The whole thing wasn't deep fried, just the patty. The batter was the very same that they use for their brilliant fish and chips, a light flaky masterpiece that, in burger form, was nearly inedible after 5 bites. Though the burger had an interesting depth of flavor, a well seasoned patty and the aforementioned batter, it became an obvious mistake after bite 5 when my dining companions implored me to stop eating it. They could no longer bear the smell. Topped with grilled mushrooms, iceberg, swiss cheese and a smattering of pickle coins, you have to be a brave mofo to ingest this in it's entirety. Otherwise it's just an abject curiosity.

FRIES: Aww yeah. Not just fries, but english style "chips". Thick, fresh cut, and perfectly greasy. A good reminder of what is good about the eats at The Tardis Room, the fish and chips are great, but they should back off of the experimental american comfort food.

SERVICE:  Well, I could go a few ways with this one. I had a fiercely uncomfortable interaction with the server over the course of this visit. I honestly don't think he knew how racist the things he was saying were, because no one ever explained to him WHY certain slurs are racist. I won't go so far as to insinuate that he, or any of the other bartenders or servers are racist, that's crazy. This particular dude just didn't understand the words "That's offensive." I won't go into how weird this got for for me (I'm half black) because this is my burger blog, not my deep social commentary blog.
Just, if you don't like hipster racism, maybe don't sit near the bar.

WHERE: 1218 N. Killingsworth St.  503-232-3344 The Tardis Room on FB

Monday, July 8, 2013

Whatever, Satan. I'm Just Here For The Burger.

Repent Sinner, Put This Burger in Your Face; Church is a new little watering hole on NE Sandy. It's an unassuming storefront, the corner unit of an unassuming little strip mall, stashed in an unassuming area of Sandy Blvd. The whole deal is very drive-by-able. However, after missing the turn for the new Slowburger outpost on 24th and taking the next turn I was all "waitaminnit- lookit that unassuming little corner unit..."-you get it. Enter; Church. The second you cross the threshold, you get a faceful of "big concept". The building is new, but the interior of this bar has been furnished to look like that of an old, country church, possibly one you'd find in the backwaters of Louisiana. It looks, quite literally, as if a church was disassembled, shipped across the country piece by piece, and then (sorta) reassembled in a strip mall so we can get our tongue in cheek sin on. The sacrilege is great, and I love the spot for it. But seriously, when is Portland's penchant for satire going to bite it in the ass? I mean, there's a "confessional" in the bar where anyone can take naked pictures of their junk. Whatever, if Satan had showed up while I was eating I would have been all, "I'm just here for the burger, man."

BURGER; Possibly the most over-thought burger I've consumed in 2013. Gorgeous ingredients, respectably prepared, and beautifully presented. But much like the interior of the bar, painfully high concept. The burger is a perfectly seasoned half pound, cloaked in aged white cheddar and then piled high with an alarmingly tart pickled slaw, a healthy slathering of sweet, smokey house made bbq sauce, and --this is almost flip-- a handful of fried onion straws. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, your typical bar burger. The first bite is a wild ride, full of weird emotions and burger based feels. Therein lies the discord, everything about this place- including the burger- is like a strange harmony, discordant yet mellifluous, traditional yet shockingly nontraditional. Bottom line; This is a delicious burger, but it is not for the faint of mouth.

FRIES: As per usual these days, I went for the mixed greens. However, a side dish of fried okra met the requirement for salty, crunchy burger accompaniment. It's popcorn-like appearance threw me, a bit blonde for a deep fried snack, but overall, quite satisfying. Great bar nosh.

SERVICE: Ladies and gay dudes, read closely; this bar is well stocked with hunky mens. As if the person in charge of hiring took note of every adorable Portland archetype and then hired the best of each one; Vaguely ethnic gentlemen with a well coiffed mustache? Check. Gloriously bearded faux lumberjack? Double check.  Adorably twee choir boy? Check. They are here y'all. Come and look at them.  I doubt they care if you're creepy, I mean, you're drinking in a fake strip mall church for God's sake, I think you'll be forgiven.

WHERE: 2600 NE Sandy Blvd. Portland.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lunch in the Very Real Bar of an Imaginary Hotel

Snow, Insanity and Lloyd Not Included
The Central Hotel was not very long ago a dive bar called St John's Pub or something. I went to a dancehall party in their back room a couple of times and it was the most black people I've ever seen converged outside of church since I moved to Portland. This historic building, the center of St Johns' charmingly antique downtown area has seen a few inhabitants over the past decade. As it stands, it is very much the dive bar of it's recent past, with a fresh coat of paint and new stemware, however the owners are working towards rebuilding the historic building back into it's former glory as The Central Hotel. The plans are grandiose to be sure, and it will be no small feat to build a multi level, ultra modern hotel in the middle of itty bitty St Johns. Well, as long as the cafe serves burgers I'm all good with it.

BURGER: A half pound of grass fed northwest natural beef on a lightly toasted grand central sesame brioche bun. With a few healthy leaves of butter lettuce, slices of tomato, red onion and  a slathering of mayonnaise (aioli? are we still calling it that?) The burger was beautiful, carefully constructed and  lit by a soft St Johns sunset filtered through an IPA. It's arrival was a bit of a swoon moment hampered only by the gut feeling that it was arriving much to soon to be medium rare. And then I bit into it, and my fear was confirmed. Just south of rare, just north of edible. Look,  I like a bit of the gore, but that shit needs to be cooked too. Halfway through the burger I had given up on the idea that at some point my tongue would hit paydirt of medium rare meat. HOWEVER, the potential for this burger was astounding. Just 3 more minutes on the grill would have guaranteed full marks. The meat was nicely seasoned and of high quality, and all the accouterments were on point. Crazy what can go down in 3 minutes, amirite?

FRIES; Run of the mill shoestrings with  a dash of kosher salt. No big whoop. I appreciate the tiny paper cup of ketchup because I know someone thought "Hey, you know what would class-up this plate? A paper cup half full of ketchup!"

SERVICE; I kid you not, as we were leaving the bartender/host/apparent owner called out to us, "If you have any investor friends looking for new projects tell them about us!" That would have been charming had she not said it to every patron that had left before us. After five or six good natured laughs it just seemed kinda sad. Kid friendly during daytime hours.

WHERE: 8608 N Lombard St. Portland.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grain & Gristle and A Weird Beer

Wherein the Author Creepily Watches A Stranger Drink A Beer; On a perfectly gray and drizzly Portland afternoon, my friend and I decided to meet up on our lunch breaks for some shenanigans  After having heard an interesting story about a beer made with cow lungs (or something equally disgusting) being served at Grain & Gristle, I knew I had to get in there and watch someone else drink it. Luckily, they also serve other parts of the cow in burger form. And it's quite respectable. Spoiler alert; Neither I nor my companion sipped the aforementioned beer, but I think someone across the bar did.

BURGER; Though seasoned with a heavy hand, this burger was balanced by it's fresh accouterments  I am a huge fan the sweet, fluffy Grand Central brioche buns, I think they are a perfect foil for a well seasoned burger. The fragrant, perfectly cooked patty was adorned with a healthy handful of fresh, crisp green leaf and a few playfully tart sweet pickle coins. That's it y'all, and truthfully, it lacked nothing. In it's simple construction was something reverential. This was not some over-thought "masterpiece", this was a simple burger made with the freshest local ingredients in a manner that allowed each to be truly enjoyed.

FRIES; Alright for serious, I can't be dogging out big plates of burgers AND fries every time I write this blog. I'm trying to live past 35, for shit's sake. So on that note, let me tell you all about this precious little mixed green salad that accompanied my burg; it was a green salad with a vinaigrette  It was tasty. I felt good about myself after I ate it.

SERVICE; Admittedly, this was early during lunch service, so there were really only us and 2 other people there (including the cow-lung-beer drinker), nevertheless, our bartender/server was affable and informative without being imposing or hovering.

WHERE1473 NE Prescott, Portland 503.298.5007