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In Praise of Burgers


The holy trinity of meat, bread, and condiments reaches its apotheosis in burger form—the combo of patty, bun, and what-have-you can be nothing short of divine. Maybe you've heard enough about burgers lately, but over the past few weeks a number of new spots have opened up for you to get your burger on. We'll tell you what's flip-worthy and what's skip-worthy, and it ain't all beef, either.


Chameleonic restaurateur Micah Camden recently expanded his oddball empire to encompass fast food. A locally minded take on the classic burger joint, Little Big Burger has a focused menu (burger, cheeseburger, veggie burger), a kitschy-yet-functional retro vibe, and a few high-end flourishes (hand-cut truffle fries, anyone?). Slider-sized burgers are small but dense, and cooked to order (a perfect medium if you don't specify); a locally made veggie burger ensures that vegetarian options don't feel like an afterthought. With a busy Pearl District location and a Killingsworth branch on the way, the formula for Little Big Burger's success is simple: good, fast, cheap, local. ALISON HALLETT


Turns out, peanut butter is pretty damn infallible. It also turns out you can smear some on your burger with obscenely awesome results. They've done just that at the aptly named Killer Burger, with the Peanut Butter-Pickle-Bacon Burger—just reading its name on the menu will shave years off your life. The grilled greasiness of the burger, fried snack-bar-style and served with excellent puffy fries, is amped up to fearsome proportions by the sweet, creamy peanut butter. Pickles add a suitable crunch, while bacon is nearly rendered irrelevant by all that meat-juice and peanut butter swirling around your maw. Yeah—turns out peanut butter trumps bacon. I'm as surprised as you are. NED LANNAMANN


After undergoing a change in ownership, Hamburger Mary's—perhaps the world's only gay restaurant franchise (not counting Kentucky Fried Chicken)—is back. Tucked neatly into Old Town, Mary's attempts to revive their Portland heyday via menu improvements and plenty of fabulous flair. And for the most part they're successful. Eschew the kinky toppings on other menu items for the simplicity of the Mary Burger: a perfectly charred half-pound of meat with just a touch of pink, resting on a pillowy bun slathered with "special sauce." Grab a cocktail from the bar, and belt out some Garland on karaoke night—for indeed, happy days are here again. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

BAR BAR (3943 N Mississippi)

Judge away, judgy vegetarians: I haven't eaten meat for a decade, but I still get cravings for McDonald's cheeseburgers. The Bar Bar Veg Burger is the most convincing simulacrum I've found of that cheap, fast, lethal American staple—in other words, it's delicious. Bar Bar's vastly improved the texture of their once-mushy vegan patty; on a soft bun and topped with American cheese, lettuce, and "Bar Bar Sauce," you'll swear you're digging into a Happy Meal. (Trust me, that's a compliment.) The drawback: $6.50 is a lot to charge for something so incredibly basic, and once you add fries you've dropped $9 for a vegetarian version of a meal that usually lives on the dollar menu. ERIK HENRIKSEN

STAR BAR (639 SE Morrison)

I was pretty damn eager to try the Specialty Burger at the newly opened Star Bar. Their menu boasts house-ground beef from grass-fed cattle living on local farms: "no hormones, no bullshit." Sounds promising, right? Maybe not. The beef, while fresh tasting, was overdone by my standards, and the burger on a whole was completely overpowered by the spicy red and green pepper garnish chucked on top of my cheese. The bun was good, though. I ate more of it than I did the beef. A burger's gotta be about the beef, though—right? NOAH DUNHAM

OFF THE GRIDDLE (A La Carts Food Pavilion, 4926 SE Division)

The art of a homemade veggie burger is a lost art among vegetarians. Located in the cart pod at SE Division and 50th, the solar-powered Off the Griddle assembles their burgers from scratch, like the O.T.G., which is made from leeks, mushrooms, and wild and brown rice to form a soft, favorable patty. Go nuts and get the Messy Bessy, which takes the O.T.G. and piles it high with a fried egg, Tillamook cheddar, and avocado. You'll need a fork and a dozen napkins for that one. If you are looking for faux-meat at Off the Griddle, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a great meat-free burger, you will be in heaven. EZRA ACE CARAEFF

OVER THE TOP (A La Carts Food Pavilion, 4926 SE Division)

Sure, you vegetarians can have it your way at Off the Griddle, but a couple carts over is a meat eater's paradise, and not just cow. Over the Top specializes in wild game burgers, which means they've got bison and wild boar—they even have motherfucking emu. The Elk Burger is excellent: densely lean, succulent meat sandwiched in a compact Dave's Killer bun, bolstered by caramelized onions, cherry demi-glaze, and provolone, and served with tangy apple slaw. With all meat sourced in Oregon, Over the Top is serving the most adventurous burgers in town. NL

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