All of the burgers listed below get a shiny gold star by my basic criteria:
1) Cooked to order. When I say "rare" I beg you, I implore you, please cook it rare.
2) Meat to bun ratio: I'd like the patty to hover in the 6-8 oz range. Burger should be visible on the outer edges of the bun.
3) Meat quality: Don't cut the fat. In fact, add fat. Bonus points for pork fat. It must be juicy and well seasoned.
4) Bun quality: The bun must be hefty enough to hold up to a big juicy patty without being too big, too dry. Brioche is a plus.
5) Accessories, please: Artisan cheese, aioli perhaps? House made pickles? All I ask is that you class it up a little.
AND MY LIST GOES LIKE THIS:
Most decadent: Grüner
This one's gonna get messy, but it's so worth it. It goes beyond juicy. The patty surely has a high fat percentage and is tasty on its own. Add in smoky bacon, pickled veggies, cheese, greens, and house ketchup and the combination is near explosive. The burger is only available at the bar, and reservations are not an option, so grab an expensive beer and watch everyone else chow down while you wait.
Best Hangover Burger: Foster Burger
The Foster Pile Up to be precise. Every available burger topping is piled high. This includes a fried egg, pickled beets, applewood smoked bacon, roasted jalapenos... need I go on? The beef is house ground, the beer list is short but sweet. Order a tall boy of PBR to make the experience complete. *Bonus: Foster Burger nabbed a spot on a national top 10 list of burgers by Bon Appetit mag.
Pro's Pick, Best with Booz: Little Bird Bistro
The infamous Le Pigeon burger! Before the advent of Little Bird, it was in short supply - and high demand - at Le Pigeon. Chef Gabriel Rucker set a limit of 5 to the nightly manufacturing efforts of this burger, enabling his team to focus on Le Pigeon's NW-French cuisine. Order away at Little Bird! Open 'til 12am, they'll crank these babies out all night, with marrow fries on the side. http://eater.com/tags/little-bird
Best Breakfast Burger: Produce Row
From their brunch menu- although I'm sure the Row burger brings it, too. A whopping 8 oz local beef patty with white cheddar, bacon, fried egg, and hash browns! Topped with hollandaise and served on a toasted brioche bun. As if that's not enough, cottage cheese and fruit is served on the side, for nutritional value, I'm sure. Have your server bring extra napkins.
Best Late Night: Biwa
Drunk munchies after a night out on the town? Perfect! The Biwa burger, only served late, offers the goods to re-fuel you. They throw a slab of pork belly on it and smear on a generous layer of kimchi mayo (Biwa being a Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant, this serves as the burger's tie-in to the menu). Pickled goodies and potato salad on the side. Not my favorite potato salad, but you can't complain with that burger - and the sake cocktails are to die for.
Most Unique: Grilled Cheese Grill
As any good Portlander knows, food carts rock! And when it comes to burgers, the Grilled Cheese Grill concocted a doozie. A WTF burger, if you will. Admittedly, this one really doesn't fit the 5 criteria I outlined, but it is too fun to not include. Step 1.Take two grilled cheese sammies (suspiciously made with American cheese) Step 2. Use them as buns for your burger - which, I may add, boasts a slice of melted cheese of its own. Traditional in topping, this is not for the connoisseur so much as someone who just wants to have a little fun - and a lot of cheese.
Best International: Broder
Mmmmmm, lamb. A Swedish joint in the Clinton neighborhood, Broder has a variety of traditional Scandinavian delights. I, of course, also visit for their burger. Lamb burger. Some of the goodies: pickled veggies, roasted tomato relish, chevre, and a fantastic house made curry ketchup. Brioche bun, nicely done. Stop in for lunch (Middag) daily, but they are only open for dinner Thurs-Sat.
Best Traditional: Little Big Burger
Micah Camden strikes again, this time in the Pearl District. I'd get 2-3 of these little gems, not only due to their size, but because the cheese selection is too good to get just one. House-made ketchup seems to be a theme in Portland; they have theirs for sale by the bottle, and it's one of the best. Truffle oil fries? Whoo hoo! Perfect to drop in for a bite while out shopping in the Pearl, although you may have to wade through a line. Coming real soon ... Mississippi location!
Long Lost Love: Slow Bar
They still claim to have the best burger in Portland, but a lot has happened since Portland monthly crowned the Slow Burger with the title in 2008. That cover story had me running over to SE Grand to scoop it up. I heard angels sing with my first bite. Between the meat's seasoning, the sauces and relishes, the cheese, the big fatty onion rings inside ... there was no picking my favorite ingredient. It all just came together so perfectly. So what happened? New chef? New suppliers? While still satisfying, I found my last trip for a Slow Burger lacking in sizzle. But as I am a forgiving person, I have a feeling I'll be back again, searching for that first love buzz.
Everybody has their favorite burger joint. This list represents the best Portland has brought me so far. As I continue on my burger journey through Stumptown, I'm sure I'll have more to blab about.
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