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. slowbar.net

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.

WHERE; 1036 NE ALBERTA STREET PORTLAND, OR albertastreetpub.com

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. www.tiltitup.com

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 ate-oh-ate.com

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 fosterburger.com