Portland Burger Week 2015

Subtitle: How I gained 5 pounds in one week.

As I write this post, my jeans are unbuttoned and I’m still bursting at the seams. With great beef comes great responsibility. After 6 burgers, I had to gracefully bow my head to the beef gods and quietly make my Irish exit. Beef: you win (this time).

BURGER #1 – ELEPHANT’S DELI, THE PIG LEBOWSKI

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS*: This is Elephants’ first time in the Burger Week game, but they’ve been watching. One of the things they’ve noticed is that while lots of Burger Week burgers draw from ethnic cuisines around the world, few focus on the Bavarian and Eastern European regions. The Pig Lebowski definitely rights that oversight. The ground pork patty also contains kielbasa sausage, a bit of bacon, caraway, and thyme. Add to that a stoneground mustard and mayo sauce and a generous portion of a delicious red cabbage slaw studded with pickle pieces. It all fits very nicely between two sliced of the house-baked-daily sesame bun. And to those who wonder if the Burger Week stampede will threaten their ability to deliver all hand-done patties, Elephants says, “Bring it.”

MY THOUGHTS: Seeing how this was the first burger I had (and had eaten in a while) I was pleasantly surprised by this little guy. Simple on the outside, the burger packed a flavorful punch with the pork combo. It was seasoned really well, cooked nicely, and overall was quite filling and enjoyable. I left feeling just tickled at my start to burger week.

BURGER #2 – PAUSE’S STEAKHOUSE BURGER

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS*: I walked out of Pause in glorious, satisfied, legitimate pain after devouring every single bit of their pork-and-beef burger. It’s got house-made tomato jam, red peppers, caramelized onions, whole milk mozzarella on a Portland French onion Kaiser roll and I would actually consider trading my soul, if I had one, for another. I set the thing down after every sloppy bite and licked my fingers, swearing I had no more room, then immediately found myself picking it back up for another smoky, spicy, wonderful bite.

MY THOUGHTS: I came here ravenous after a long workout and I still could only make it halfway through this burger. The pork beef combo is where it’s at. The carmelized onion and mozzarella combination was just amazing. The beef was a little overcooked for my preference but I know when you’re working with pork, what can you do? I walked away feeling satisfied (oh – and the side of fries were bomb.com).

BURGER #3 – BAR BAR’s GRINDEWALD BURGER

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS*: The Grindelwald: Because one should always have a favorite region of Switzerland, and then own an amazing bar so you can name a burger after it. Bar Bar, which churns out thousands of never-fail cheeseburgers on the regular, is offering an homage to owner Jim Brunberg’s favorite Swiss mountain region: a quarter pound grass fed beef patty with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and bacon, melted Swiss cheese, and house made garlic aioli on a toasted potato bun. This is no pinkie-up eating—the rich toppings will ooze out onto your digits but never make that potato bun’s delightfully crisp edges go soggy. Order some freedom fries if you’re feeling too Continental.

MY THOUGHTS: I almost didn’t come here because Bar Bar always has cheap, get-the-job-done burgers. But seeing as I was already THERE I figured oh what the hell, YOLO? Once again beef was overcooked to my liking, but what do you do when they’re churning out hundreds of these? The Swiss cheesy goodness kind of made up for everything, though. I loved the juicy goodness – what can I say?

BURGER #4 – North Light’s Smokey Joe

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS*: Burgers are naturally mouthwatering, but before you sink your teeth in, appreciate that Smokey Joe looks like a work of art or possibly the flag of a country I’d want to emigrate to. The lightly toasted Grand Central bun frames the creation with a thick, visible layer of smoked onion cream cheese, then the char-brown Painted Hills patty, with a vibrant mixture—and crunchy texture—of house pickled slaw featuring brilliant orange carrots and yellowed cabbage, with some more of that creamy mix that replicates French onion dip. To clarify, the cream cheese is blended with smoked onions rather than onions in smoked cream cheese, but it deserves to be the new standard for cheeseburgers.

MY THOUGHTS: This is my friend Ophelia who managed to consume TEN BURGS! TEN! Where does she put all that cheesy beefy bready goodness? My guess is she probably expels it all through endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm while I sit on my couch watching Modern Family reruns. Anyway. The best part of this burger was the fact that it was the only one that didn’t over cook the beef. Yay medium rare goodness! The bad part was I had this right after I downed the Bar Bar burger, and I was uh….full. Of beef. And just couldn’t enjoy this in the way it should have been enjoyed. However, I think on a non burger binge, this would top the list. Well done, North Light.

BURGER #5 – Slowburger’s Pimento Cheese Burger

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS*: Pimento cheese: the caviar of the South. Anything with pimento cheese (or “pimenna cheese,” as one dear Southern friend affectionately calls it) is an automatic win in my book, and that definitely includes Slowburger’s Pimento Cheese Burger. The beef? Rich and savory. Shredded iceberg, sesame seed bun? Check. Fried onions? Oh my, are you flirting with me? Pimento cheese: ON FLEEK. Shredded sharp Tillamook cheddar mashed together with cream cheese, mayo, diced pimentos, and just a whisper of smoked paprika will soothe any die-hard pimenna cheese fan’s soul.

MY THOUGHTS: I came here for lunch and saw they had 10 Barrell Apricot Crush on tap. OH MY GOD A SOUR BEER ON TAP! I couldn’t resist. And I mean – sometimes you just have to get fries for the ultimate trifecta. This was officially my favorite burger of burger week. The pimento cheese complimented the cream cheese…..oh my god. Cheese on cheese. You had me at pimento.

BURGER #6 – Knuckle Sandwich’s Piñata Burger

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THE MOUTHWATERING DETAILS: Just for shits and gigs, I enlisted the help of Burger Week Emeritus Extraordinaire, Chris Onstad, for this one! Chris and I tried this immense burger, all laden with gooey chipotle cream cheese and housemade guac, roasted poblanos, melted pepper jack, and thick-cut bacon, and we were like, “Mang, you know what this needs? Fried onions.” AND THEY ADDED THEM. Knuckle Sandwich’s crispy-gossamer French-fried onions are now part of their extravaganza of a Burger Week burger. You’re welcome.

MY THOUGHTS: This was my fourth day of burger eating in a row. Everyone said this was the best burger you could get. Overall, I was like “eh, this is aight” – the toppings were good but again – overcooked meat! I can’t EVEN you guys! Medium rare or bust!

That’s it. After 6 burgers, I had to tap out. Portland Burger Week, you come but once a year. Here’s my official plea/campaign for Portland Pizza Week: Bring it, guys.

*Taken from the Portland Mercury’s website.

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