If you doubt that I’ve always been passionate about food, please ask my mother to tell you about the times (yes, more than once) that I threw a temper tantrum over being denied Chicken McNuggets.
To this day, I love me some nugs, and have molded my fit-pitching ability into the more reasoned written format of food criticism. As such, I’ve got some things to say about Super Deluxe, the new drive-thru burger shack from Little Big Burger co-founder Micah Camden and business partner Matt Lynch.
The former Taco Time on Southeast Powell has been revamped in bright primary colors with stylized logos courtesy of Portland-based graphic design guru Aaron James Draplin, with touches like the sign out front playing that “Dayum Fries” meme.
The idea, the owners say, is to do fast food with lower prices and better ingredients than the national chains. The menu is very In-N-Out, with burgers available as a single ($4.75) or double ($5.75); Yukon fries with a hint of truffle oil ($2.75); a chicken burger ($5.75); and nuggets (five pieces for $3.75 or eight for $4.50). There’s also a meatless Impossible burger ($5.75) and a chance to add bacon for 50 cents.
In the month it’s been open, Super Deluxe has been inundated with customers, and the parking lot has been a bit Mad Max, with the water shortage replaced by a scramble for burger sauce. It’s been a struggle for the fledgling staff to keep up, and unfortunately it shows.
In fast food, consistency is king, and Super Deluxe isn’t quite there. In three visits, when Super Deluxe was good, it was VERY good. But when it was bad, I was temper-tantrum-level mad.
The burger was uniformly good on each visit, the thin patties cooked to just the right greasy crispiness for the soft bun, topped with burger sauce, crunchy pickles, tasty tomato slices, onions, and lettuce. If I’m ordering, the Double Deluxe is the perfect meat-to-other stuff ratio, and the bacon is just gilding the lily.
The Chicken Deluxe and nuggets on our first visit were also next-level, both perfectly juicy and seasoned. The fries, when fresh and properly prepared, are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and given enough truffle oil and salt to make them tasty to all palettes. Like, Burgerville who?
Or, on an off day, you won’t get the fries you ordered at all (and won’t notice till you’re home), and the Impossible burger you’d been so curious to try will be dry and weird. This time the nuggets, instead of being plump pieces of joy, are small chunks of over-fried sadness.
A breakfast sandwich of bacon and egg will be cold, with the slice of American cheese remaining steadfastly unmelted (but the hashbrowns will be small tater tot delights that you will eat completely before you get to work, and the Stumptown cold brew so much better than a McCafé).
It’s early days for Super Deluxe, but veterans like Camden and Lynch should have been a little better prepared for the calamity from the start. But with the price level and flashes of fast-food greatness, there’s probably a super smash hit in Super Deluxe once the kinks are worked out.