Outdoor seating at Bar Bar.
Outdoor seating at Bar Bar. Suzette Smith

On a recent Sunday, Mississippi Avenue was alive with foot traffic. Friends sat in groups of three or four inside the wind-blocking outdoor patios of Mississippi Pizza and Por Que No. Couples window shopped. The scene felt ordinary and unremarkable—hardly 2020—except that everyone within sight was wearing a mask or had one nearby, sitting on the table by their phone.

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It's impressive how Mississippi businesses rose to the challenge of social distancing. Restaurants like Miss Delta, Uchu, and Radar now spill out into on-street dining patios that you’d probably want to sit at, even if there weren’t a pandemic on. For the purposes of this Takeout Club I checked on two burger spots that are almost across the way from one another, yet offer fairly different burger perks.

Black Seed Burger Cult

Just rounding out their first year of burger slinging, Black Seed Burger Cult serves a simple, but versatile menu where everything can be made vegan or gluten free. And they're not dragging their feet up Vegan Mountain either. They've put thought into how to make all their food appealing to the various food methodologies they serve. For instance, Black Seed aren't reliant on vegan patties, but order plant-based, gluten-free ground chuck, from West Coast company Before the Butcher, so they can give it the pressed and charred taste of traditional burgers.

Black Seed got my attention initially with their dynamite standard cheeseburger. It brings a strong pickle game due to a combination of solid pickle slices and the shop’s signature Killer Dill Cult Sauce—which is compared to Ranch for clarifying reasons but stands on its own creamy dill vegan legs. Their strong attention to pickle is evident not only in their sauce, but on their side salads, which can be easily substituted for the fries that come with every sandwich. The salads aren’t fancy, but the pickled red onion mixed in with baby spinach and cabbage kicks it up to a realm of salad respect that is so frequently found wanting. Isn't that what we want in this life? Salad respect!

For pick-up you'll want to swing around the side of their storefront where they have a pleasant, low contact counter and a number of picnic tables to wait at, if you decide to order in person. At this time they're only offering pick-up and delivery.

Bar Bar

Support The Portland Mercury

The quality of Mississippi Studios as a show venue made it easy to overlook the excellence ofBar Bar (their in-house bar), and especially their burgers and the crunchy perfection of their shoestring fries. But since Mississippi Studios hasn’t yet been able to reopen their show doors—due to Multnomah County remaining in Phase One of Oregon's reopening plan—Bar Bar’s excellent fried pickles and baked ravioli snacks are tasked with supporting this beloved artistic institution.

Altruism aside, Bar Bar makes my favorite fries in town and sells them to you for a pittance—a combo meal of a cheeseburger, PBR tallboy, and solid sack of slender, golden crisps will set you back $12. I couldn't ask more of their burger itself, which sits perfectly on an unassuming potato bun, accented with a tangy secret recipe sauce. Unlike many burger spots, Bar Bar also has a full bar in their arsenal, including single-malt scotch and small batch bourbon. This is especially relevant as we are enter Hot Toddy season. (Who am I kidding? We're already in Toddy season!)

Bar Bar's COVID-safe set-up employs plenty of signs instructing newcomers on the flow: Grab a table, flip the table's sign to claim it, order from the patio window, and give them your table’s number. Customers are welcome to spread out across Bar Bar's large, partially covered/heated patio. They also added some charming mint green tables in front, but it's worth noting that Bar Bar no longer allows smoking anywhere on its premises.