They had us at kimchi relish. What could have easily veered into burger gimmickry instead vaults this specimen into an exotic category apart. A study in sweet and sour complexity, the Hawaiian-inspired Aina mingles its beef patty with crispy pork belly, shaved sweet onion, and a generous tangle of shredded iceberg, all hugged by sesame-laced brioche to make for one indulgent, addictive surprise.
Little Bird has unveiled its own beastly spin-off from the Le Pigeon burger, infusing the icon with Francophilic edge. Luscious ground chuck now sits on a seeded brioche bun, topped with tangy goat cheese crumbles, griddled onions, and butter lettuce. Pickle relish and chèvre dressing cleave the elements into a crescendo of meaty decadence. (For just $20 extra, get it with seared foie gras ... and then assume the supine position.)
Grüner (Now Closed)
This is the creation of a perfectionist. Assembly begins with a house-made kaiser-style potato bun unlike any other, coated with a glossy varnish and dusted lightly with poppy seeds. Inside, impossibly juicy house-ground chuck cozies up to peppery arugula, smoky bacon, house pickles, and ketchup with a subtle kick. Top it with fontina and voilà—it disappears.
Depending on your disposition, a full menu of 13 burger options is either thrilling or terrifying. Trust us: go with the Kiwi, Portland’s best argument for ground lamb between two buns. The patty’s delicate, gamey flavor offers an anchor to the surprise of pickled beet, while a sunny-side-up egg binds the whole thing in yolky deliciousness.
The H&V Burger
The Hop & Vine (Now Closed)
With a mesquite-grilled, spice-packed patty, the H&V manages to out-flavor the others. Then there’s the no-frills, biscuit-like bun, the slice of cumin-studded leyden cheese, the crispy pepper bacon, and the fried egg. Nothing is more satisfying than simplicity.