In case you didn’t know, it’s Portland Burger Week, and on that special occasion a hearty band of foodie beer experts and I visited over 30 locations across the city to pick the Top 10 Burger & Beer Destinations in Portland. These are regular burgers on the menu 24/7, not limited specials, and in the interest of clarity we tried to choose the house flagship burger with cheese and cooked medium. As The New School is a beer-focused website, we chose between only spots that had good beer selections and the list is in alphabetical order.
Most Expensive: Deschutes Yellow Belly Burger $16
Best Deals: Altabira Burger only $7 at Happy Hour, Trifecta Burger at $10 during Happy Hour and the Lardo Double-Burger at $9 all the time.
Altabira City Tavern
ALTABIRA CHEESEBURGER $14 or $7 at Happy Hour.
From Altabira, Portland’s new best beer bar with a view, and chef/owner David Machado comes one of the most savory surprises. Not only is Altabira a brand new joint, it already made our top 10 beer bar patios and now our top 10 burger and beer joints. The burger does everything right, beginning with the thick and juicy hand-formed patty that’s cooked properly. Topped with a creamy and rich cheese, the toasted brioche bun fits the size of the patty well and holds up but does not overwhelm the ingredients. Classic gastropub style burger, but better than the rest. www.altabira.com
Bit House Saloon
THE BURGER $15
Another surprise addition to this list, and a last minute suggestion at that. Bit House Saloon had only been soft opened 2 weeks before we visited them on a whim. Their burger blew us away and was the highlight of our first day of reviews. Served in a cast iron skillet, this burger is made of both beef and elk with grilled onions and American cheese and smothered in their house secret sauce for a classic, upscale Coney Island sort of feel. Our only complaint is it could have used a bit less of the mayo heavy secret sauce it was drowning in. https://www.facebook.com/bithousesaloon/
Burnside Brewing Co.
BURNSIDE BURGER $12
Proving itself once again as the best brewpub restaurant in Portland, Burnside Brewing has been crafting excellent burgers from day one. The original duck fat-seared burger was notable; the pub won the first ever Brewers Burger Brawl; and the Ridiculous Burger was recently featured on Adam Richman’s Man Vs. Food. We tried just the standard pub burger, without any gimmicks; it was not over the top, but it was just plain delicious. One reviewer called it “like a gourmet upscale version of a Big Mac” and that was meant in the best possible sense. From the perfectly cooked patty to the shredded lettuce and especially the sesame bun, the Burnside burger had us reminiscing on the classic burgers of our childhood. http://www.burnsidebrewco.com
CHEF’S BURGER $12 (only served until midnight)
The most surprising burger of our entire adventures was the C-Bar’s Chef Burger. A last minute suggestion from one of the Hopworks crew lead us to this bicyclist heavy beer bar on Gladstone known for its tap selection. None of us had ever had a bite to eat there, but the waitress urged us to try the Chef’s Burger, which once was an off the menu item the chef made for his own employee meals. Stacked high to the sky and over the top, it still retained an impressive balance of flavors. All the classic ingredients, i.e. beef patty, lettuce, tomato, and onion are sandwiched between thick slices of bacon and apple jam, aioli, and chevre cheese. The jam and chevre add a creamier blue cheese richness and apple butter a sweet tang, while arugula gives a slight peppery bitterness balancing the whole thing out. On the side are Vietnamese-style pickled veggies to cut the fat. As one of the cooks at C-Bar said “I don’t know if it’s the combination of chevre and apple jam, but it’s like the Power Rangers combining super powers to create the ultimate spaceship burger.” I guess I can’t argue with that? http://cbarportland.com
Deschutes Brewery PDX Pub
YELLOW BELLY BURGER $16
The award-winning Yellow Belly Burger has returned to the pub menu and is one of the brightest highlights of the pub menu. One of the more refreshingly unusual takes on burgers came from Deschutes and the root beer braised pork belly that sits atop the beef patty. Cooked to succulence and with a finely chopped jalapeno pesto below, the candied goat cheese makes the whole thing rich, creamy and decadent with the candied yellow tomatoes adding a much needed hit of acidity and sweetness to keep it from becoming too overly fatty and give it a much needed zing to the finish. Pictured here served with regular and sweet potato fries. http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/locations/portland
ECLIPTIC BURGER $14
Reputably one of the best new burgers in town and staking a claim for the best brewery burger is new kid on the block is Ecliptic Brewing’s 1/2 pound burger. A crunchy but soft on the inside potato bun holds up well to the russian dressing and the aged gruyere, red onion, and pancetta offer a full range of flavors keeping any one from dominating. A hugely savory, salty burger that leaves you needing another sip of beer; warning to the salt-sensitive. http://eclipticbrewing.com/
HOPHOUSE BURGER $10
In the interest of trying each locations “flagship” or primary burger we ended up with the plain sounding “Hophouse Burger” out of a list that included Bacon Gorgonzola Burger, Blackened Jalapeno Burger, and an Espresso Burger, along with a rotating chef’s special burger. We were prepared to be underwhelmed, but instead the Hawthorne Hophouse delivered with one of the best gastropub style burgers we had. It was top notch all the way without any surprises, a hand formed thick Painted Hills ground beef patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, basil aioli and cheddar. Surprisingly this was one of the only places with pickles carefully sliced and inserted in the burger. We also began to appreciate a thin cut of red onion while some places left it out or cut it in tiny or huge slices. Everything about this burger was simply by-the-book perfect. http://oregonhophouse.com
HIGGINS BURGER $14.75
Proving that a burger does not need to be loaded with toppings, gimmicks, sauces, etc. the Higgins burger is delicious simplicity at its finest. Quite possibly the best tasting meat patty of anywhere we visited, perfectly complemented by white cheddar and just the right amount of burger sauce and house pickles (on the side). While the thick and juicy Carman Ranch grass-fed beef patty was definitely the all-star of this burger, the juicy sweet yellow heirloom tomato was like the Scottie Pippen to the beef’s Jordan. http://higginsportland.com/
DOUBLE BURGER $9
It’s no surprise that Lardo–one of Portland’s pre-eminent sandwich makers, known for its rich and fatty meat-centric menu–would make this list. This is another classic American-style diner burger with shredded crunchy lettuce that’s texture and crispiness helps offset the super fatty double porkstrami patties in it. With just enough special Lardo sauce (properly added to the top layer) dripping through the lettuce, it’s both decadent and light and fluffy. Gotta love the awesome thick wheel of sour kosher dill pickle on top to cut the grease too. http://lardosandwiches.com
PIMENTO DOUBLE-CHEESEBURGER & FRIES $15 or $10 Happy Hour
Already garnering some high praise as one of Portland’s best new burgers, Trifecta has been an underrated favorite spot of mine since they opened in November of 2013. Trifecta is so named because it is both a bar, restaurant, and bakery, but they also have a very nice beer selection that ranges from The Commons, Upright, Logsdon, and Crux. The Trifecta Pimento Burger is one of the more unique and stand-out burgers of the bunch because it manages to both slightly over the top and extremely simple. Smothered in house-made Pimento cheese with two patties between the house-made brioche bun, and now Pimento Cheese is my favorite cheese. trifectapdx.com/
The Hop & Vine
Thanks to Bryan Keilty, Sean McMahon, Brian Yaeger, and Hilda Stevens for trying a hell of a lot of burgers with us.