Portland's Best Burgers

30 Finger-lickin', fixin-drippin' masterpieces, from high-end to drive-in that will cure your burger lust

With Martha Calhoon, Randy Gragg, Brian Barker, John Chandler, and Rachel Ritchie Edited by Kasey Cordell July 20, 2009 Published in the August 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

Check out the slideshow above for a bonus... Portland's best fries!



Legend has it that the famously tender Kobe beef comes from Wagyu cows who are fed a steady diet of beer and massaged daily with warm sake by beautiful maidens—all while grazing in the mountains of Hyogo, Japan. Far-fetched, yes, but after a bite of the Yakuza burger ($12), it seems plausible. Nearly half a pound of medium-rare Durham Ranch Kobe beef is set between two Pearl Bakery brioche buns and accented by creamy, piquant goat cheese. Paper-thin ribbons of crispy shoelace fried potatoes are piled on top, then doused in truffle oil and spiced with togarashi (a mixture of orange zest and chili powder). It’s an exquisite beef epode that may well inspire its own tall tale. —Martha Calhoon


Bamboo Sushi Kobe Beef Burger, $14 Aged Tillamook white cheddar, caramelized onions, house-made brioche bun.
310 SE 28th Ave; 503-232-5255; bamboosushipdx.com

Urban Farmer Farm Burger, $16 extra-sharp Tillamook cheddar, aioli, pommes frites, English muffin, house-made tomato jam.
525 SW Morrison St; 503-222-4900; urbanfarmerrestaurant.com 


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Make it an even happier hour with Clyde Common’s hamburger sandwich.

Image: Bruce Wolf

Clyde Common

Since Clyde Common opened in 2007, its mixologists have earned a reputation for meticulously crafting potent liquid antidotes to a day spent hunched over a keyboard. And their kitchen counterparts are equally masterful when it comes to building happy-hour burgers. Clyde Common’s hamburger sandwich ($6) is anchored by a tender hunk of Pacific Northwest beef blended with a touch of Carlton Farms pork fat to amp up the flavor. Grilled to perfection, the glistening patty of goodness is set upon a buttery, sweet, and lightly charred brioche bun from Pearl Bakery, then crowned with a cuff of seasonal lettuce, a tangle of pink pickled onions, and, arguably the most seductive ingredient of all, a saucer brimming with a house-made tomato jam of sun-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, and vinegars. This surprising stroke of acidity elevates the hamburger to close-your-eyes-and-take-a-moment heights. —Rachel Ritchie


Saucebox Miyako Burger, $4 Cascade Natural beef on a toasted brioche bun with sliced avocado, fire-roasted red jalapeños, house-made teriyaki sauce, and wasabi mayonnaise.
214 SW Broadway; 503-241-3393; saucebox.com

Serratto Burger, $6 Strawberry Mountain beef served on a lightly grilled brioche bun with Zenner’s bacon, extra-sharp Tillamook white cheddar, crispy fried white onions, garlic aioli, and house-made barbecue sauce.
2112 NW Kearney St; 503-221-1195; serratto.com


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Be still my heart: the YouCanHasCheeseBurger from the Brunch Box.

Image: Bruce Wolf

The Brunch Box

The first time we laid eyes on the Brunch Box’s YouCanHasCheeseburger ($5), we felt a flutter of love in our chest. Or maybe our heart was having anticipatory palpitations. After all, this food cart’s mammoth sandwich combines two ultimate comfort foods into one artery-clogging meal: a quarter-pound Black Angus beef patty with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo, mustard) snuggled between two grilled-cheese sandwiches made with Texas toast (and American cheese, of course). You’ll never go back to buns again. We’re pretty sure the YouCanHasCheeseburger is on the menu in heaven. Just limit your intake, or you might find out sooner than you’d like. —KC


Davis Street Tavern Strip Loin Burger, $10 A half pound of ground sirloin topped with sharp Tillamook cheddar, braised pork belly, jamlike homemade ketchup, and romaine lettuce on a fresh-baked sesame-seed bun.
500 NW Davis St; 503-505-5050; davisstreettavern.com

The Original Voodoo Doughnut Burger, $7.95 Cascade Natural beef and Tillamook cheddar wedged between two halves of a glazed Voodoo doughnut.
300 SW Sixth Ave; 503-546-2666; originaldinerant.com


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Pastrami meets beef at Kenny & Zuke’s.

Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen

As if Kenny & Zuke’s couldn’t sell enough pastrami on its classic sandwiches, downtown’s busiest deli has now taken the hamburger and topped it with the stuff. Pastrami that’s been brined, smoked, and steamed in-house over the course of a week sits atop a half-pound Cascade Natural beef patty like a crown on an Olympian. Draped with swiss or cheddar, this regal meat parade takes a trip through an overhead broiler, where it’s licked with flames until the cheese gets gooey, before being delivered to its final throne: a fresh-baked, seedless white bun smeared with Russian dressing full of tangy green onions, capers, and horseradish. Six inches tall and weighing nearly a pound, the pastrami burger ($12.75) is a meal fit for a king—with plenty to share with his queen, and prince, and princess. —Brian Barker


Screen Door Backyard Burger, $10 Ten ounces of free-range sirloin beef topped with bacon, a fried egg, crispy shoestring onions, and pimento cheese.
2337 E Burnside St; 503-542-0880; screendoorrestaurant.com

Helvetia Tavern Jumbo Cheeseburger, $8.25 Two quarter-pound patties of Aloha’s Ponderosa Provisioners beef, chopped iceberg lettuce, American cheese, and homemade mayo-mustard “goop” on a sesame-seed bun.
10275 NW Helvetia Rd, Hillsboro;503-647-5286


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50 Plates’ signature sliders

Image: Bruce Wolf

50 Plates

Sliders are a highly contentious subject among hamburger purists. Why forgo the succulent big-patty package for the novelty of a few measly, most-likely overcooked doppelgängers? Well, 50 Plates offers two very defensible reasons: the Old Faithful ($4), an all-American offering of lightly seasoned Kobe beef from Idaho’s Snake River Farms, dressed up with a tried-and-true mélange of Tillamook white cheddar, pickles, lettuce, and a sweet-and-sour cabbage relish; and the Lil’ Kahuna ($4), a toothsome burger-ette made with said Kobe beef and topped with grilled Canadian bacon and pineapple, then drizzled with a tangy house-made teriyaki sauce. Each equals five bites of juicy, meaty pleasure—without the beef hangover. —RR


Pause Kitchen and Bar Slider Special, $7 Two sliders of hand-ground Strawberry Mountain Natural beef—one topped with Tillamook cheddar, the other with blue cheese and house-smoked bacon—on buns slicked with chipotle aioli.
5101 N Interstate Ave; 971-230-0705

Blueplate Lunch Counter & Soda Fountain NorthWest Sliders, $7 Two beef-and-pork patties with herbs, spices, garlic, and onion on wheat potato rolls with Tillamook cheddar and basil mayonnaise.
308 SW Washington St; 503-295-2583; eatatblueplate.com 


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Perfection at Paley’s Place.

Paley’s Place

Tasting the best of the burgers tossed by Portland’s elite chefs isn’t so much about touring ostentatious artistry as savoring the deepest nuances of a craft. They’re all pretty damned good. The question is, do you prefer the earthier, longer-lingering aftertaste of Cascade Natural beef (Higgins and Lovely Hula Hands) to the lighter Strawberry Mountain Natural (Le Pigeon)? Or do the new Laurelhurst Market’s delicate, slightly sweet yeast rolls outshine Noble Rot’s sesame brioche buns sourced from Grand Central Bakery? And which, among the many variations of house-made pickled vegetables, make your taste buds perk up more? These are all critical questions when handing over $15 for a burger. Our pick, by the thinnest of margins—owing to its firm, house-baked brioche bun, home-cured bacon, and tangy aioli—is the Paley’s Place burger ($15). A medium-rare cross-rib cut of Highland Oak Farm beef and a layer of Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese or gruyère merge beautifully into a viscous, rich pink worthy of a Dutch still life. At $17 with the full fixins of bacon and cheese, the burger calls for a deep dig into the wallet. But it’s well worth it. While you’re at it, you might as well throw in a $6 order of Kennebec potato fries. —Randy Gragg 


Noble Rot Hamburger, $11 A patty made from Cascade Natural rib-eye and Highland Oak Farm chuck, topped with Dijonaise and garnished with pickles, red onion, and, when in season, fresh tomatoes from the rooftop garden, all pressed between a Grand Central Bakery brioche bun.
1111 E Burnside St; 503-233-1999; noblerotpdx.com

Toro Bravo House Bacon and Manchego Burger, $9 Strawberry Mountain Natural patty served on a Grand Central Bakery brioche bun with house-cured bacon, aged manchego cheese, and house-made pickles, all covered with a thick layer of classic romesco sauce.
120 NE Russell St; 503-281-4464; torobravopdx.com 


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Timeless creations at Stanich’s

Image: Bruce Wolf


Festooned with decades’ worth of sports pennants and anchored by cushy brown leather booths, Stanich’s restaurant doesn’t exactly look like your typical ’50s diner, but to Portlanders, it’s every bit as emblematic of the era as oh, say, the Fonz. In fact, the restaurant’s décor hasn’t changed since 1949. And neither has the way it makes its burgers. Handmade signs warn diners that a Stanich’s cheeseburger ($5.75) “is not fast food”—meaning you’ll wait nearly 20 minutes for this classic ode to beef: a quarter pound of flat-pattied, fresh-ground chuck topped with shredded lettuce, American cheese, and tomato, all covered in “special sauce” (mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish) and nestled between a sesame-seed bun. And if you’re really hungry, tack on bacon, egg, and ham, too (aka “The Special,” $6.50). Happy days, indeed. —MC


The Red Coach Restaurant Cheeseburger, $4.85 Montana Ranch beef, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and American cheese on a Franz Family Bakeries kaiser bun.
615 SW Broadway; 503-227-4840

Nob Hill Bar and Grill Good Sam Cheeseburger, $6.25 Quarter-pound Fulton Farm beef patty, house-made Thousand Island sauce, onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato on a Franz Family Bakeries toasted bun.
937 NW 23rd Ave; 503-274-9616; nobhillbg.ypguides.net


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Laurelthirst’s spicy veggie burger bites back.

Image: Bruce Wolf

Laurelthirst Public House

The proliferation of dreadlocks and tie-dye, not to mention the giantmarijuana leaf on the wall, might be pre-hipster (as in hippie) Portland clichés. But there’s nothing tired about the Laurelthirst’s spicy veggie burger ($7). One of four homemade meat-free burgers on the menu, this gustatory wake-up call had even our carnivorous companions drooling. Unlike most veggie patties, the sunflower seed–and–walnut patty didn’t fall to pieces after the first two bites, and it’s spiked with so much chipotle that ordering one of the 16 microbrews on tap is practically required. Drink two, and you might just find yourself inspired to join the circle of patchoulied revelers swaying along
to the nightly bands. —KC


Alameda Brewhouse Harvest Burger, $8.25 A patty made from the “spent grains” used to brew beer as well as peppers, onions, jalapeños, and spices, served on a Portland French Bakery bun.
4765 NE Fremont St; 503-460-9025; alamedabrewhouse.com

Veritable Quandary Heather’s Veggi “Burger,” $14 A patty made from crushed lentils, hazelnuts, and mushrooms topped with buttermilk blue cheese and grilled onions, and lightly dressed with truffle aioli.
1220 SW First Ave; 503-227-7342; veritablequandary.com 


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Skyline Restaurant’s burger’s cheeseburger oozes classic drive-in charm.

Image: Bruce Wolf

Skyline Restaurant

Everyone loves a big, sloppy burger stuffed full of veggies and extras—unless it’s being eaten in the car. For any drive-in burger worthy of a turn off the road, structural integrity is essential, especially if you want to keep that “new car” smell intact. Enter the Skyline cheeseburger ($4.40). Slice one in half and the cross-section looks like burger-fied geological strata, every layer precisely packed. The mayo, dill pickles, and tomato slices serve as a sturdy foundation, bolstered by whole-leaf lettuce and white onions. A quarter-pound freshly ground patty and melted American or cheddar cheese on a butter-brushed sesame bun complete the architecturally sound repast, with not a crumb wasted on your car seat or wardrobe. —John Chandler


Humdinger Quarter-Pound Deluxe Hamburger, $5.95 Fresh-ground beef, mayo, pickles, lettuce, onions, and tomato, slathered in cheddar, swiss, pepper jack or provolone on a sesame-seed bun.
8250 SW Barbur Blvd; 503-246-8132

Giant Drive-In Tex-Mex Burger, $4.50 Locally sourced fresh-ground beef, lettuce, tomato, onions, swiss cheese, salsa, mayo, and ranch dressing on an Alessio onion bun.
15840 Boones Ferry Rd, Lake Oswego; 503-636-0255


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Lamb. It’s what’s for dinner at Broder.

Image: Bruce Wolf


Swedish culture has given us a lot: Ikea’s mod furniture, Saab’s jet engine–inspired rides, and, don’t forget, Abba. But if you think the Swedes’ culinary zenith was reached with the meatball, you clearly haven’t indulged in the lamb burger ($9.50) at Broder, a tiny Swedish café on SE Clinton Street. Lamb burgers have less marbling than beef (read: they’re lower in fat), and their mild flavor lets your palate pick up on the meat’s subtle interplay with its accoutrements—in this case, the half-pound patty, as juicy as meat loaf, gets a punch from roasted red peppers floating on a cloud of chèvre that’s been whipped almost into a mousse. Smear the toasted sesame-seed bun with chunky homemade curried ketchup made with fresh ginger and chopped tomatoes, and skål! You’ve got yourself a burger! —BB


Victory Bar Venison Burger, $10 A half-pound venison patty topped with fried leeks, local organic greens, pickled onion, bread-and-butter pickles, Worcestershire aioli, and smoked cheddar.
3652 SE Division St; 503-236-8755; thevictorybar.com

Ten 01 Chorizo Burger, $11 A super-sized slider patty of rich, house-made chorizo topped with pickled shallots, provolone, and fried egg, served on a Pearl Bakery brioche bun layered with bacon-tomato jam.
1001 NW Couch St; 503-226-3463; ten-01.com