SORRY, COWS. We knew this was coming. And yet: We did nothing to stop it.
Indeed, those of us at the Portland Mercury did everything we could to make it happen. Because, since time immemorial, the Portland Mercury’s Burger Week has served as one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments: A week in which our city’s finest bars and restaurants bring Portlanders the greatest food ever created. This year, a whopping 35 of Portland’s most beloved restaurants are part of Burger Week—with each offering a special, one-of-a-kind, $5 burger you can’t get anywhere else! (For real: We know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but we also know that if a restaurant is claiming to be part of Burger Week but isn’t listed here, well… they aren’t part of Burger Week. Also, their burgers are probably made of rat meat.)
So prepare yourself for Burger Week, Portland—and read on for the Mercury’s take on each of Burger Week 2016’s unmissable burgers! But first, keep a few things in mind:
Burgers are not infinite.This is sad, but true. Lots of people love Burger Week, and occasionally, locations will run out of burgers. If they do? Just come back the next day! It’ll be cool.
There’ll be waits.See above, re: lots of people. Stuck in a Burger Week line? Know that your fellow line-standers are not your enemies—they are your brothers and sisters, your compatriots, your intimate confidants. Burger Week binds us all.
Tip, and tip well.Countless hard-working chefs, cooks, and wait staff make Burger Week happen—it’s a huge, exhausting endeavor for each and every restaurant. These are the heroes of Burger Week! Make sure they know they’re appreciated. With money.
Order other stuff.All Burger Week burgers are only $5! That means restaurants often sell them for far less than they usually would. It also means you’ll have scratch left over for drinks, for sides, for whatever else. Pony up—you’re still getting a great deal.
Check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. With #portlandburgerweek, the Mercury will be keeping you updated throughout Burger Week—and so will your fellow burger nerds. Stay tuned for reviews, pics, hot tips, free swag, and shocking revelations.
That’s it. Now go forth.
Go forth and burger, from Mon Aug 8 to Sat Aug 13, 2016.
Alameda Brewhouse’s “Reuburger”
The Reuben’s place in the pantheon of deli sandwiches is deserved and irrevocable, so it’s only proper the sandwich gets a tribute in the 2016 Burger Week Parade of Excellence. For its “Reuberger,” Northeast Portland’s Alameda Brewhouse has masterfully combined this high prince of sandos with the hamburger’s all-American supremacy, and come away with something special.
Envision: a chuck patty “smashed” together with ground corned beef, seasoned with allspice and clove, topped with Alameda’s excellent bacon sauerkraut and thinly sliced pickles, and slathered with melty Havarti cheese and a spicy Thousand Island. We wanted to ask for two, but decorum prevented it. The Reuburger is a crunchy, acid-tinged delight, like its namesake, and it’s only getting better: At the Mercury’s tasting, Alameda was still tinkering with the bun they wanted to use. We sampled the soft house bun, but experiments for a pumpernickel or pretzel option were in the offing. All will do nicely—pumpernickel would even bring the Reuburger a step closer to its namesake. Whatever Alameda decides, plan a trip to Beaumont Village this Burger Week. DIRK VANDERHART Alameda Brewhouse, 4765 NE Fremont, alamedabrewing.com.
Alberta Street Pub’s “Peach Caprese Juicy Lucy”
Alberta Street Pub’s Burger Week entry isn’t just some recipe that owner and operator Laina Amerson put together because she thought it sounded good. Instead, she was inspired to create something that would put a spotlight on her Midwestern roots. In her words, Alberta Street’s burger is a “peach caprese meets a Juicy Lucy.” According to Amerson, a Juicy Lucy is an iconic Minnesota cheese-stuffed burger that creates a bridge of stringy goodness from your mouth to your hand every time you bite into it. Alberta Street has taken local Painted Hills beef, seasoned it with garlic, salt, pepper, and minced basil, and stuffed it fat with mozzarella cheese. From there, they’ve piled on whole basil leaves, strips of crispy bacon, and sliced peaches caramelized in a bacon vinaigrette. The burger is certainly true to its inspiration: The stretchy mozzarella suspension bridge takes hold once you get to the center of the patty, and the basil and subtly-sweet peaches play quite well together. A good dish that’s personal and inspired could be considered an art form to some food connoisseurs; for those looking to do more than just fill their bellies, Alberta Street’s Burger Week entry could be that masterpiece you’re looking for. ARIS HUNTER WALES Alberta Street Pub, 1036 NE Alberta, albertastreetpub.com.
Bar Bar’s “The Hat Trick”
Bar Bar is a no-brainer for Burger Week: 52 weeks a year, it’s a go-to spot for burgers in the bustling (or, more accurately, bursting) neighborhood around N Mississippi. The walk-up window on the patio entices passersby, and with a burger special changing monthly, the audiences attending shows at the attached Mississippi Studios know there’ll always be something fresh on the menu. For Burger Week, the kitchen crew could have simply repeated one of those burgers-of-the-month—but in the spirit of Burger Week, they went with something new. The Hat Trick boasts green chiles, caramelized onions, and pickled jalapeños, with pepper jack cheese and a sriracha aioli, all held together in one of Bar Bar’s admirable potato buns. Unlike some potato buns, these (from Alessio) are dense enough to hold up to the steam of a foil wrapper and spongy enough to soak up any excess aioli. And if you’re worried the Hat Trick might be too spicy, don’t be: It’s sort of the Paul Rudd of burgers—noticeably but not offensively hot. And, like I assume the affable Paul Rudd would be, it’s vegetarian friendly, and, in fact, seems tailor-made for Bar Bar’s house black bean patty. THOMAS ROSS Bar Bar, 3939 N Mississippi, mississippistudios.com/bar-bar.
Bird + Bear’s “The Joe Pesci”
If you like burgers—and you obviously like burgers, or at least have an academic interest in them, or you wouldn’t be reading this—chances are the burger is not the only meat and bread combo you’re into. Well, at Bird + Bear, the hamburger meets one of its co-champions in meat sandwich history: the Italian grinder. Pepperoncini and a fresh, green spiced Italian salsa verde mayo set the stage for the classical romantic meeting of ground beef and grilled capicola. Grilling the capicola is brilliant: The slight char and smokiness makes it feel a little like bacon, but it’s spicy and thin, and never pulls your burger apart like gristly bacon sometimes can. (I know it’s heresy to say anything bad about bacon, but sometimes it’s not worth the trouble, and Bird + Bear makes a good argument for salumi as a replacement.) Meanwhile, the pepperoncini keeps things bright and tangy, and the salsa verde mayo drips all over the plate. It’s a burger you can justify having twice in the week—once as a grinder/burger and once as a burger/grinder. THOMAS ROSS Bird + Bear, 2801 SE Holgate, birdbearpdx.com.
Boise Fry Company’s “Kombucha Burger”
Boise Fry Company does not fuck around when it comes to fries. There are six distinct potato varieties to choose from (including “Kennebec” and “Okinawa,” which I didn’t even know were kinds of potatoes), and five ways to slice ’em, along with premium options like duck fat and truffle salt (which, yes, do that, obviously), and a veritable Rainbow Road of dipping sauces. But how would BFC’s “burgers on the side” mentality translate to the very burger-centric Burger Week? The answer: surprisingly well! BFC’s “Kombucha Burger” features a hand-packed seasoned beef patty, kombucha-infused mayo, Gruyere cheese, butter lettuce, and sautéed onions, nestled on a freshly baked whole-wheat and potato bun from Pearl Bakery. The kombucha flavor isn’t overwhelming, adding a slightly vinegary/collard greens aftertaste that contrasts well with the sweeter-than-usual bun, and the combination of onions and Gruyere gives sort of a French onion soup vibe (without the actual soup part). As a kombucha-agnostic native Portlander, I was a bit worried about the gimmick factor here—but the end result is a hearty, distinctive burger that’s stout enough to hold its own against the three different kinds of fries you’ll most likely be getting too. BEN COLEMAN Boise Fry Company, 1902 W Burnside, boisefrycopdx.com.
BTU Brasserie’s “General Tso’s Chicken Burger”
If you’ve ever eaten a hom bao (the best kind of pork roll, ) at a Chinese grocery store, you know that a good, pillowy bao (the bun part) is one of life’s great pleasures, just a little softer and sweeter and lighter than anything else resembling bread. So it’s with unmitigated glee that I bring you this news: A chewy, fluffy bao is the vehicle for brewery/Chinese restaurant BTU Brasserie’s Burger Week meal, and the centerpiece isn’t a slab of beef because it’s a General Tso’s chicken burger! Chicken burgers can be pretty boring; this one is not. Building on what he describes as the “touchstone of junky American Chinese food,” BTU chef Chris Bogart has created a burger using crispy fried chicken covered in napa cabbage salad, Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushroom jam, all piled high between two bao buns topped with toasted sesame seeds. The General Tso’s chicken is golden, a little bit gooey, and the perfect ratio of savory to sweet, with a soft texture to match the miracle that is the bao. MEGAN BURBANK BTU Brasserie, 5846 NE Sandy, btupdx.com.
Burnside Brewing Co.’s “The Paisano Burger”
The building that houses the Burnside Brewing Co. was constructed in 1927—meaning that, depending on who you choose to believe, it’s been standing nearly as long as burgers have been in existence. Let’s put that debate aside for now, though: There will be plenty of time to brush up on burger history while waiting on tasty offerings throughout Burger Week. Besides, Burnside Brewing’s Burger Week creation, the Paisano Burger, merely uses the classic burger as a jumping-off point before completely reverse-engineering the formula with an Italian flair. Sandwiched between two toasted buns, the Paisano packs a mozzarella cheese-coated, quarter-pound beef patty that’s layered with thinly sliced pepperoni and a hearty scoop of tomato-and-olive marinara slathered over the top. In one final, inspired twist, the Paisano forgoes boring old iceberg lettuce, instead piling on a fully tossed caesar salad that gives the whole thing a pleasant Parmesan crunch, and the slightest hint of anchovy in every bite. You won’t be sleeping with the fishes by any means, but the Paisano is sure to have even the most hardened wise guy licking their chops in anticipation. CHIPP TERWILLIGER Burnside Brewing Co., 701 E Burnside, burnsidebrewco.com.
Church’s “The Figgy Smalls”
I’ll admit to a twinge of trepidation when I heard Church was making a “sweet” burger: Since I consume 99 percent of my sugar in the form of table wine, I don’t have a ton of room in my life for dessert foods. Happily, the Figgy Smalls is far more complex than merely sweet: Ground chuck is given strong character with the addition of a remarkable housemade fig and jalapeño jam, which finds a perfect balance of sweet-and-spicy savoriness. Much like a dessert, though, indulgence is the name of the game here, with a healthy smear of double cream brie and butter-toasted almonds, all on a Grand Central potato bun. The concoction takes its inspiration from bacon-wrapped figs, and it’s one of the most inventive takes on the burger you’re likely to find, this week or ever. Plus, the Church staff is ready for those who’ll come knocking with ravenous curiosity, making the odd but charming promise that each burger will be served up by “two guys wearing shade-less sunglasses.” Apparently, it’s a thing. MARJORIE SKINNER Church, 2600 NE Sandy, churchbarpdx.com.
Club 21’s “Cantina Club Burger”
Sometimes when a restaurant wants to make a featured burger, they feel the need to make it a towering monstrosity. For some reason there’s a belief that in order for a burger to be special you have to dislocate your jaw to eat it. Thankfully, for this Burger Week, Club 21 is offering their Cantina Club Burger, a delicious creation that’s both functional in size and huge on flavor. The burger is made of local Painted Hills ground beef and seasoned with a secret blend of spices, then topped with crispy tortilla strips, lettuce, bacon, queso fresco, habanero salsa, and a chili-lime crema. (Before you get your panties in a bunch about the heat of the habanero salsa, know that the smooth queso fresco and chili lime crema work together to extinguish the flame before the fire burns out of control.) The burger’s southwestern flair, the graceful coexistence of its spicy and cooling flavors, and the lack of lockjaw make Club 21’s Burger Week entry a must try. ARIS HUNTER WALES Club 21, 2035 NE Glisan, facebook.com/Club21PDX.
Davis Street Tavern’s “’New’ American Burger”
By far the juiciest of all the Burger Week burgers I tasted, Davis Street Tavern’s “New” American Burger boasts a charbroiled Painted Hills bison/beef patty topped with crisp butter lettuce, plump summer tomatoes, pickled zucchini and cucumber, and whole-grain mustard aioli on a Portland French brioche bun. In Davis Street fashion, all the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and the final burger will put you in the frame of mind of a classic backyard BBQ burger—but with that Davis Street quality that your uncle can’t match. (Another year, another dangerous, ash-coated patty thanks to “It’s Still Good!” Uncle Brad.) The pickles, though, are what really take the “New” American to its manifest destiny: Cold-pickled in house in a mustard seed brine, they really pop when you take a bite. SUZETTE SMITH Davis Street Tavern, 500 NW Davis, davisstreettavern.com.
Delicious Donuts’ “Grand Ave. Breakfast Burger”
If you’re planning on getting this bad boy for lunch, skip breakfast. Delicious Donuts’ offering is a monstrosity of high-octane ante meridiem goodness built to soak up hangovers and dole out food comas. You already know Delicious has some of the best donuts in the city, so envision two of the shop’s glazed creations bookending a third-pound beef burger, a hash brown patty, bacon, cheese, and a scrambled egg, and you’ve got an idea of what’s in store. The full picture doesn’t fully emerge until you take that first bite, which is also the time you realize you’re going to eat the whole thing. (We recommend a liberal coating of Tapatio.) Delicious is in the process of revamping its menu, and has been offering something similar to this burger on the QT for months. But Burger Week represents the Grand Ave. Breakfast Burger’s formal coming-out party, and it’s important everyone treats that with the solemnity and pageantry it deserves. DIRK VANDERHART Delicious Donuts, 12 SE Grand, deliciousdonutspdx.com.
Double Barrel Tavern’s “Whiskey Ginger Burger”
Walking into the Double Barrel feels like you’re entering the dusty saloon of Bonanza, but with much better food. The Division watering hole is replete with mounted steer horns, a floor-to-ceiling deer tableau, and its namesake—stacked pairs of barrels holding up each end of the bar. This year they’re putting a libation-inspired spin on their Burger Week entry, the Whiskey Ginger Burger. This Painted Hills ground chuck patty is succulently juicy and smothered in rich smoked jalapeño cheddar and butter leaf lettuce. The whiskey comes into play from sweet, whiskey-grilled caramelized onions, while the ginger’s in the candied ginger aioli. It’s the kind of burger you can’t help but inhale, then dream about ’til you have another. CIARA DOLAN Double Barrel Tavern, 2002 SE Division, facebook.com/doublebarrelpdx.
Doug Fir Lounge’s “BBQ Yeti Burger”
If the Jetsons’ hometown of Orbit City were located in the Pacific Northwest, the Doug Fir would likely be the space-age family’s go-to hangout. The inside of the bar-slash-restaurant-slash-concert venue looks like a futuristic log cabin, the kind that might detach from Earth and return to its mother planet at any given moment. This year the folks at the Doug Fir decided to dress up their beautiful Burger Week entry in BBQ: It’s got mouth-watering, thick-cut bacon and frizzled onion straws, but the real stars are the Jack Daniels BBQ sauce and the jalapeños. The sauce captures both the rich warmth of whiskey and the sharp sweetness of BBQ, while the jalapeños are smoked and candied, hitting the tongue with invigorating spiciness. It’s all held together under the protective umbrella of a fluffy brioche bun. CIARA DOLAN Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside, dougfirlounge.com.
Elephants Delicatessen’s “Le Pig Mac”
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that a bacon cheeseburger would be the perfect food if only it had macaroni and cheese inside of it, then Elephants Delicatessen has your carb ’n’ protein-laden number in Le Pig Mac. With a beef patty coated in applewood-smoked bacon mixed into macaroni and cheese, plus a creamy sriracha sauce and arugula (for health), Le Pig Mac is many things: an American classic with a fancy French name, a feat of engineering sandwiched between two homemade sesame buns, and a hearty meal whose creamy, meaty properties make one recall fond memories of hearty hot-dishes past. I know it also sounds like the messiest burger ever, but amazingly, it is not: The ratio of mac ’n’ cheese to bacon and beef keeps things nicely contained, so you can enjoy what tastes like a many-napkin meal with only two, and the arugula and sriracha elevate the flavors above the (admittedly delicious) base of dairy and meat. Pig out! MEGAN BURBANK Elephants Delicatessen, elephantsdeli.com.
Fifth Quadrant’s “Turkey Jerk”
For billions of eons, humankind subsisted on burgers that consisted of the basics: beef patty, lettuce, squirt of ketchup, bun. NO MORE. With its glorious contribution to Burger Week, the Fifth Quadrant pub, home to the Lompoc Brewery, has reinvented the wheel—or, at the very least, the burger. The Turkey Jerk pooh-poohs all preconceived notions of your typical burger and offers something truly delicious in the process. The patty is made of ground turkey from Childers Meat in Eugene, and it’s accentuated with Cypress Grove chèvre. But that’s not all: They’ve added pickled peppers and a Jamaican jerk aioli to put this one over the edge. With a sturdy bun to sop up the juices and chiffonade-cut lettuce to balance it out, this is a complex, spicy burger that marries the earthiness of the spices with the sweetness of the chèvre and the tanginess of the peppers. Amazingly, the turkey holds its own, resulting in a fantastic burger unlike anything you’ve ever had before. NED LANNAMANN
Fifth Quadrant, 3901 N Williams, lompocbrewing.com.
Foster Burger’s “I Garontee”
Celebrity/humorist/colorful raconteur the Cajun Chef is sorely missed. Justin Wilson’s homespun stories and Louisiana cooking might’ve left this world in 2001, but Foster Burger is keeping his memory alive with the delicious I Garontee. The Southeast Portland burgermeisters take their slightly-smaller-than-ginormous Mini Foster patty, cook it up medium rare, and tuck it into a sesame brioche bun from Philippe’s Bread. Then come the Louisiana flavors—on top of a nest of shredded lettuce sit housemade pickles and a generous heaping of maque choux, a Cajun succotash of finely diced pork belly, red peppers, onions, corn, and seasonings, then garnished with green onions. The I Garontee is loaded to the gills with savory flavor, and as much as those gills are loaded, the burger is tidy as all get-out. As I devoured it, not a speck of scrumptious succotash fell from its bun home. This is one clean, delicious eat. I think the Cajun Chef would give his garonteed seal of approval. COURTNEY FERGUSON Foster Burger, 5339 SE Foster, fosterburger.com.
Hoda’s Middle Eastern Cuisine’s “Beirut Burger” and “Local Veg Burger”
If you haven’t eaten the delicious Lebanese food at Hoda’s, remedy that immediately. It is so good, and so are Hoda’s concoctions for Burger Week. For carnivores, there’s the Beirut Burger, a hamburger made with a substantial patty of grass-fed beef layered with fire-roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, zaatar, basil, tomatoes, and walnuts, on a perfectly toasted, locally sourced bun. The pickles and tomatoes add freshness to the thick, generously sized patty, and the fire-roasted peppers give the whole thing a spicy kick. The combination of spicy, salty, and pickle-y flavors is delightful, and a pleasant deviation from the usual patty/plastic cheese/ketchup routine. It’ll have you cheering “Ground beef! Ground beef!” in no time. But if that chant just made you roll your eyes into the back of your head, don’t worry: Hoda’s is also offering a veggie burger for Burger Week called the Local Veg Burger. Instead of faking meat (a fool’s errand, yet all too common in vegetarian cuisine), this one is almost entirely tasty vegetables on a bun, with locally sourced organic zucchini and eggplant and mozzarella. (It can also be modified to accommodate vegans.) It’s a filling burger that won’t leave you feeling like a case of angina is coming on. MEGAN BURBANK Hoda’s Middle Eastern Cuisine, 3401 SE Belmont, hodas.com.
Home’s “The Dirty Bangkok”
“It came to me in a dream,” Scott Smith, co-owner of Home, told me, while firing up the grill for his latest creation. And I’ll say this: He seems like a very improvisational chef. In the corner of the bar there’s still a pile of firewood from when he smoked ribs for the 4th of July, and while we’re talking, the regulars reminisce about the brunches he’s conceived of on short notice.
His Burger Week entry, the Dirty Bangkok, is a glorious riot of colorful umami. The base is Home’s signature beef patty, upon which is piled bacon, tomato, pickled carrot, Havarti cheese, a Thai-influenced slaw, and a Thai peanut sauce that’s just short of peanut butter in intensity. It’s not spicy, per se, but there’s a definite tang there. I will not abide sloppy burgers that immediately disintegrate upon handling, or dump a slurry of their contents out onto the plate upon lifting. I’m pleased to report the Dirty Bangkok is neither, although I’d recommend getting a plate of something fried to eat it over so you don’t waste the delicious, peanuty drippings. BEN COLEMAN Home, 719 SE Morrison, homebarpdx.com.
Iconic’s “The Argentine”
Iconic’s burger has already been before a panel of judges where it was deemed delectable. I agree. Four crew members of the NE Broadway’s kitchen competed to see whose burger would be the lounge’s official Burger Week entry, and this juicy hunk of Argentinean-style burger won. Mixed within the ground beef of the patty is a treasure trove of bone marrow! WHA?! But even more delicacies abound: Beneath arugula, there are quick-marinated onions and a slice of tomato atop a hill of creamy chimichurri and melted manchego cheese. If this international cornucopia weren’t enough, Iconic includes a carrot slaw on the side. The Argentine is a hot mess of a thing—in the best possible way—so your plate will be full of cheesy, gooey drips, but so will your stomach. Use a fork if you have to, and thank the kitchen on your way out. COURTNEY FERGUSON Iconic, 2226 NE Broadway, facebook.com/IconicPDX.
Kells Brew Pub’s “Shepherd’s Pie Burger”
It’s no surprise that this Irish pub is known for its shepherd’s pie. But now NW Portland’s Kells Brew Pub has turned its number-one-selling meal into an amazing Burger Week burger. Inside a ciabatta roll bun, it’s got a mashed potato patty on top of a beef patty mixed with carrots, onions, and shallots. Kells throws on some melted cheese, fried onions, lettuce, and tomato on top of that, and it comes with a fantastically rich brown sauce that ties it all together—it’s a mixture of demi-glace, brown HP Sauce (a delicious, malt vinegar-based British staple), and mayo. The Shepherd’s Pie Burger is really good on its own, but the unique and powerful sauce takes it to another level. DOUG BROWN Kells Brew Pub, 210 NW 21st, kellsbrewpub.com.
Lompoc Tavern’s “Oaxaca Burger”
Have you ever had mole on your burger? Sounds good, doesn’t it? The Lompoc Tavern in Northwest Portland has you covered for Burger Week with their Oaxaca Burger, which takes the regional cuisine of Mexico and delivers it up, burger-style. Their house-blend patty provides the baseline with a third-pound of beef. Then it’s given the full Oaxacan treatment, with the pub’s housemade mole poblano providing that dark, smoky flavor. It’s further complicated (in a good way) by the smoked chili slaw and the roasted poblano salsa, topped off with queso fresco, and sandwiched in a Portland French Bakery bun. The mole flavors are rich but surprisingly gentle, with bright tomato creeping through in the salsa, and the crispness of the slaw contrasting the juiciness. You won’t be able to resist holding this one tight in your burger-loving paw, but some of those delicious ingredients are bound to fall off and onto your plate as this one makes repeated trips to your mouth. Actually, that’s a bonus: You’ll have a tasty slaw/salsa/queso fresco/mole salad on your plate after the burger is gone. Grab a fork and dig in. NED LANNAMANN Lompoc Tavern, 1620 NW 23rd, lompocbrewing.com.
Migration Brewing’s “Mole Madre”
Migration Brewing has decided to migrate (ha!) down to the Southwest for its burger, a beef patty covered in mole ketchup, cotija, tomatillo dressing, and (most importantly) fried avocado. Yes, fried avocados. Avocados, as you know, are delicious green fat bombs that are basically vegan butter, and Migration has gone ahead and made them even more decadent by frying them. It works great. You didn’t know that you wanted fried guacamole on your burger, but now you do.
Being a brewery, Migration has plenty of beer on offer, and their Terry’s Porter pairs well with the Mole Madre. The smoky notes in that brew compliment the Southwest flavors of the burger, giving the impression of a sweet chipotle. JOE STRECKERT Migration Brewing, 2828 NE Glisan, migrationbrewing.com.
Next Level Burger’s “Pomme Fromage”
Vegetarians, vegans, and lactose intolerants rejoice! Next Level Burger has solved Portland’s perpetual riddle of the dietary restrictions. Now even non-carnivores can enjoy the glory of Burger Week. The Pomme Fromage uses one hundred percent plant-based everything to create a flavorful delight that will be a beacon of lightness during a slog of cholesterol. The star of the Pomme Fromage is the savory and satisfying patty—a mix of quinoa, chia seeds, garbanzo beans, onion, and carrot. It doesn’t try to imitate meat (one of my biggest pet peeves with veggie burgers); it’s just delicious all on its own. In a brave and unexpected move, the burger is also topped with caramelized apples (YEAH APPLES), creamy Swiss vegan cheese, and a drizzle of sweet mustard aioli. The balance of this burger is completed with a handful of crunchy, spicy arugula. Horary for burgers with fruits and vegetables! BRI BREY Next Level Burger, 4121 SE Hawthorne, nextlevelburger.com.
Nick’s Famous Coney Island’s “The Thunder Roadhouse”
Nick’s Famous Coney Island’s Burger Week burger is the brainchild of Silas Mason, a cook who moved from Tennessee to pursue a career in Portland’s pro wrestling scene. I feel confident in saying that if Mason is half as good with a suplex as he is with a grill, his opponents stand on the precipice of total oblivion. The Thunder Roadhouse (named “thunder” for wrestling and “roadhouse” for the movie Roadhouse, co-owner Carrie Hogrefe tells me) is built on a foundation of locally sourced ground chuck that’s stuffed with the dynamic duo of bacon and onions, then piled imperiously high with grilled jalapeños, cream cheese, house-made barbecue sauce, and some of the crispiest beer-battered onion rings I’ve had the privilege of encountering mid-bite. There’s a lot going on in this burger, but Mason’s culinary instincts are on point: The main event here are the jalapeños, which are cut audaciously chunky, but nestled in a bed of cream cheese, their heat is potent without being overwhelming. Meanwhile, the barbecue sauce pairs well with the onion rings, making this a burger that nails the fundamentals while also having some fun along the way. BEN COLEMAN Nick’s Famous Coney Island, 3746 SE Hawthorne, nicksfamousconeys.com.
Noraneko’s “Miso Butter Burger”
Noraneko’s burger is sure to please Midwestern transplants, those with a hankering for umami, and, frankly, anyone with taste buds. Noraneko may be known for its killer ramen and best-in-town fried chicken, but don’t forget that its owners are also the masterminds behind the legendary late-night Biwa burger. They’re back, this time crafting up a burger that puts a patty on a plane ride from Milwaukee to Tokyo: a butter burger that grinds frozen miso butter into the beef, imparting an extra layer of salty depth to the meat. It’s put on a potato bun and topped with a yogurt, umeboshi (sour pickled plum), and black pepper cabbage slaw, with a few pickles on hand for good measure. Konnichiwa, Green Bay! ANDREA DAMEWOOD Noraneko, 1430 SE Water, noranekoramen.com.
Portland Penny Diner’s “Bacon Bleu BBQ Burger”
The Portland Penny Diner got its name from the coin that Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy flipped to decide Portland’s name in 1845. Francis won that toss, squashing Asa’s hopes of naming the city Boston, and narrowly avoiding the need for a Mercury Baked Bean Week. The Penny takes its cues from old-school diners, and mixes in some distinct modern flair. All this carries over into their towering Burger Week creation, the Bacon Bleu BBQ Burger. Built on a base of shredded iceberg lettuce, and sandwiched between two soft buns delicately coated with just the right portion of tangy BBQ sauce, the Bacon Bleu consists of a hulking beef patty covered in melted bleu cheese, with a few slabs of crispy bacon layered on top for good measure. That much could have been deduced from the burger’s straight-to-the-point name, but it’s the fried-to-perfection onion rings that serve as the Bacon Bleu’s crunchy pièce de résistance, and the ultimate callback to the Penny’s greasy spoon influences. With the Bacon Bleu being served from 4 pm on as part of the Penny’s afternoon and dinner service, you shouldn’t need a coin toss to help pick the perfect downtown happy hour spot. CHIPP TERWILLIGER Portland Penny Diner, 410 SW Broadway, portlandpennydiner.com.
Rialto Pool Room Bar and Cafe’s “The Big Piggy”
If you’re trying to knock out a few Burger Week burgers a day, on your way to the glory of collecting all 35 (sometimes I worry about you), give Rialto’s Big Piggy a wide berth in your schedule afterward—you’ll need a nap. The Big Piggy is an enormous, delicious mess of coleslaw, barbeque sauce, pulled pork, bacon, and pepper jack atop a hand-formed, half-pound ground beef patty. It’s all barely contained inside a hefty potato hamburger bun, so a secondary fastening comes in the form of a steak knife plunged through its Big Piggy center. Past Burger Weeks at the Rialto have featured experimental ingredients, but this year’s burger is all about giving tasters a true feel for the Rialto’s style. Nearly everything on the burger is made in house, from the crunchy cabbage coleslaw to the savory sauce to the sweet, slow-roasted pulled pork with just a hint of orange peel. The Rialto is one of the only Burger Week participants downtown, so hide away from the hot August sun in their cavernous hall with a pile of napkins and this mountainous burger. SUZETTE SMITH Rialto Poolroom Bar and Cafe, 529 SW 4th, rialtopoolroom.com.
Slowburger’s “Hawaii 503”
If anyone is prepared for the hungry crowds of Burger Week, it’s Slowburger, the NE neighborhood family-friendly burger bar. Unbeknownst to many, they’ve been quietly running their own $5 burger special all year round, where they offer a rotating assortment of experimental burgers. Their Hawaii 503 starts with the same great basic burger patty from Slowburger’s classic menu—a Columbia River Reserve beef patty—then adds a dollop of a healthy salsa slaw of pineapple, napa cabbage, green and red onion, fresh ginger, mint, and just the right amount of jalapeño. (Fear not, spice-averse friends: There’s a gentle kick and just that.) The Hawaii 503 is then lightly drizzled in a housemade sweet teriyaki sauce. Plumped down between the halves of a Grand Central brioche, you’ve got a real sweet burger on your hands—sweet like it wants to treat you real nice. I also noticed a little smoky treat to the slaw from the light char of the pineapple. All these pieces fit together just right. SUZETTE SMITH Slowburger, 2329 NE Glisan, slowburger.net
Smak Dab’s“Trailblazer Burger”
There’s nothing better for a small or burgeoning business than finding another small company it can cross-promote with: By working together, the two can each do their own legwork, but double their exposure. So it makes sense that Smak Dab’s Trailblazer Burger features the locally made Rose City Trailblazer Buffalo Sauce from Old 8 Sauce Company. The burger is made of Smak Dab’s signature patty mix, hand-pressed and stacked high with arugula, thick-cut tomato, onions, and pickle. Along with the classic burger toppings, you also get Muenster and gorgonzola cheese and a healthy dollop of that Old 8 buffalo sauce. The burger is like a delicious handshake of two local business’ sharing their pride for their hometown. Yes, Smak Dab’s is a food cart, but to quell patrons’ fears of Burger Week wait times, owner and operator Christopher Richardson is renting another grill and getting some more hired guns so he can pump out this entry as fast as we can eat them. ARIS HUNTER WALES Smak Dab’s, 5221 NE Sandy, facebook.com/smakdabsPDX.
Smallwares’ “The Slimer”
Johanna Ware, owner and chef of the eclectic “inauthentic Asian” small-plate restaurant Smallwares, has been obsessively tweaking her Burger Week burger to get it just right. It’s hard to believe it could be tweaked any better. The beef is cooked and seasoned perfectly, and it’s served with a touch of mayo, caramelized onions and mushrooms, lettuce, shallots, and cilantro. The highlight, though, is what Ware describes as “an aggressive, bright spicy green sauce” made of lemongrass, scallions, chopped pickles, and other good stuff that’s so damn delicious that I’d eat it by the spoonful if I could. (That green sauce—along with the ectoplasmic star of a certain ghost-themed movie—inspired the name of Ware’s Burger Week creation.) Burgers with so much on them oftentimes become a sloppy, soggy handful of mush, but not this one: All the extras hold their consistency with no unnecessary slop, and there’s even a little crunch to it. Highly recommended. DOUG BROWN Smallwares, 4605 NE Fremont, smallwarespdx.com.
Spirit of 77’s “Fried Fish Fillet”
Spirit of 77’s Fried Fish Fillet is one of the few non-burger burgers in this year’s Burger Week lineup. For real, why do you people eat cows when there are so many delicious cod out there, just waiting to be caught, breaded, deep-fried, and tucked in a huge, fluffy sesame seed bun? And then get hit with a slice of American cheese? And then slathered with so much tartar sauce that when it arrives, you’re like, “Dang, that’s too much tartar sauce!” but then you start eating and realize, “No, it’s a deliciously appropriate fuckton of tartar sauce”?! If you want a red meat break this Burger Week, but still want to gorge yourself on something with a bun, Spirit of 77 has got you covered. You might even find that this crispy fish burger knocks the beef out of the water. ELINOR JONES Spirit of 77, 500 NE MLK, spiritof77bar.com.
Triple Nickel’s “Pot Roast Burger”
The Triple Nickel’s Pot Roast Burger swims in a sea of gravy and nostalgia. This huge, decadent smorgasbord of both solid and liquid beef is a tribute to the pot roast that your grandma (hypothetically) used to make: This is meat and potatoes in the best possible way. The beef patty is topped with a layer of fried potatoes that fills the burger out and gives it a bit of a crunch, and there’s even more beef juice on top of that. The Guinness-reduction beef gravy swims with mushrooms and carrots. And the veggie chunks have soaked up that beefy, meaty Guinness flavor, so every single bite is filled with the taste of meat in multiple forms. It’s like eating the 1950s. The Triple Nickel is also selling a beer flight to go with the burger for six bucks. Grab one of those, too. You’ll be thirsty. JOE STRECKERT Triple Nickel, 3646 SE Belmont, facebook.com/Triple-Nickel-Pub.
White Owl Social Club’s “McSqueeze Me”
White Owl Social Club is giving you true American greatness for Burger Week. Inspired by dreams of burgers past, the McSqueeze Me is the Big Mac that Portland deserves. There’s just one all-beef patty on the White Owl version of the McDonald’s classic, but it’s a thick, juicy one made with a lot of love. Creamy special sauce? Check. Lettuce? Check. Two slices of velvety American cheese? Check. Silver-dollar-sized dill pickle chips with just the right tang? Check. Crunchy diced onions? Check. And it all comes on a sesame bun—one that, for an extra two bucks, can be upgraded to a gluten-free option. This may not be the fanciest burger of the week, but it is certainly one of the most delicious. McSqueeze Me for saying, but this is a true masterpiece. BRI BREY White Owl Social Club, 1305 SE 8th, whiteowlsocialclub.com.
Widmer Brothers Pub’s “Ginn’s Merica Made”
What if a burger... went up to 11? Widmer’s Burger Week concoction certainly does, taking your everyday, familiar burger ingredients and amplifying them to unforeseen proportions. It all starts with the tender, almost creamy third-pound patty, which is made with round brisket, short rib, and chuck beef. There’s crumbled gorgonzola, adding a biting, funky flavor. And there’s bacon, of course, because bacon. It’s all kicked into the stratosphere by candied balsamic onions and a smoked honey barbecue sauce that make this a sweet twist on an American classic. With shredded iceberg to space out the richness of the different flavors, this burger sits tall on a small seeded bun. The combo of the candied onions and the bacon make this a home run, and the gorgonzola lends a complexity to the decadence of the other flavors, all of which play nice with each other and make this a real team effort. Widmer is pairing the Ginn’s Merica Made with their Russell Street IPA, which has a huge, citrus hoppiness that’s a perfect accompaniment. Get an extra napkin—you’ll need it. NED LANNAMANN Widmer Brothers Pub, 955 N Russell, widmerbrothers.com/brewery.
Ya Hala’s “Soujouk Burger”
If you want a burger that boasts a flavor profile dating back hundreds of years, look no further than Ya Hala’s Soujouk Burger. Regulars to this Montavilla destination for excellent Mediterranean cuisine will recognize the flavor from the Soujouk sausages found on the regular menu. Originally from Armenia, these delicious, flavorful, slightly spicy sausages are found all over the Middle East as street food. Here, mozzarella is added to the meat—beef, flavored with a healthy dose of garlic, Aleppo pepper, cumin, and tomato purée—and formed into a patty instead of a tube. Then it’s piled onto a brioche bun from Portland bakery Philippe’s Bread and topped off with tzaziki sauce, grilled tomatoes, and lettuce for a totally messy, and totally worth the mess, burg of your sausage dreams. MARJORIE SKINNER Ya Hala, 8005 SE Stark, yahalarestaurant.com.
The Portland Mercury and the Oregon Food Bank’s Burger Week Challenge!
Since 1982, the Oregon Food Bank has worked toward one goal: Ensuring that all Oregonians have access to nutritious, affordable food. For Burger Week 2016, the Portland Mercury is teaming up with the Oregon Food Bank to challenge all Burger Week participants to donate $5 to the food bank for every burger you eat.
The Mercury will match the first $500 in donations. Together, we can make it so Burger Week is more than the best week of your life—it’ll also be something that helps our neighbors in need. Learn more—and donate—at oregonfoodbank.org/burgerweek.