Higgins Restaurant
1239 SW Broadway, 222-9070

Every hamburger has its place: the 39-cent McD's, good only for times when you're drunk and/or extremely stoned. The middle-grade indie burger (like the one at Dot's, or the Cup and Saucer), great when you feel like a fried and greasy sandwich. And then there's the high-brow burger, which--when served right--actually capitalizes on the taste of beef, rather than mayonnaise. Quality meat and meat preparation can make such an extreme difference, that the high-brow burger isn't even related, taste-wise, to the low-brow burger, except that they're both beef in a bun.

It's in this high-brow category where you'll find the Higgins burger. Higgins is a classy, very-Northwest kind of restaurant, one where lots of suit-wearing, after-work types hang out in the dark wood paneling to drink and smoke and do other good old boy activities, come six every weekday. But it's also a very modest kind of classy. You wouldn't get any shit eating there if you're, say, a transient hippie who just drove into Portland to sell some stones at a psychic convention, as were my neighboring table of fellow eaters last weekend.

Higgins' humility probably has something to do with why the hamburger is so damn good--it tastes fancy, but isn't pretentious. It's also $8.75. I know, kind of steep, but not bad at all considering the ENORMOUS hunk of tender steak that one gets when one orders the "Sirloin Sandwich." All of the meat is 100 percent organic, something I don't usually care about, but which must contribute to the smoky-rich, meaty taste. Seriously, you'll remember why you ever started liking beef in the first place. It's also ground and seasoned right there at the restaurant.

It's served on a sesame bun and comes with a simple selection condiments--tomatoes, pickles, onion, mustard and ketchup-- which are tempting to put on, but ultimately just complicate things, because, like I said, it's way more about the quality and taste of the meat than it is anything else. The burger is served with a green salad dressed in a simple vinagrette, with beets and hazelnuts. Like Josh Hottie Hartnett, this is one piece of meat everyone will fall for.