written by Kevin Max | featured photo by Rob Kerr
Nothing could be so controversial as naming the best burger in Portland, a city known for creative cuisine and intelligent diners. It’s true that new creations hit the market and chefs of long-time classics tweak their recipes, adding a seasonal this or a local that. As daunting as the task is, here are our top eight burgers.
Yakuza Lounge | Japanese Burger
The menu at Yakuza Lounge promises tuna poke, spicy nigiri, prawn tempura and other pescatarian sushi-den favorites. One item, though, stands out in this environment: the Yakuza burger. The burger begins and ends with local produce and meats. The half-pound of beef rotates among locally sourced Painted Hills Beef, a local wagyu or other local ranchers. The perfectly pinked burger is topped with chèvre from Portland Creamery, arugula from a nearby farm and handmade shoestring potatoes drizzled with white truffle oil. Add to that a house-made catsup and Sriracha spicy mayo tinged with honey and peppery togarashi. All of this is neatly housed on a local brioche bun from Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Lovejoy or Pearl Bakery. The burger is $15 on the dinner menu and (the slightly smaller iteration) $9 from 5.p.m. to 6 p.m. during happy hour.
Happy Hour: $9
5411 NE 30th Avenue, Portland | yakuzalounge.com
Little Bird Bistro | Double Brie Burger
Little Bird Bistro (Petit Oiseau), downtown on Sixth Avenue, offers an upscale French-inspired, half-pound burger served on Ken’s Artisan Bakery sesame seed brioche and dripping with melted brie, bread and butter pickles from Yakima Valley and a house-made dijonnaise. Served with fries, this coup de’ boeuf is $14 or just $5 during happy hour (2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the bar and 10 p.m. to midnight).
Happy Hour: $5
215 SW 6th Ave, Portland | littlebirdbistro.com
Le Pigeon | Bleu Cheeseburger
Little Bird Bistro’s eastside cousin, Le Pigeon, has an equally compelling burger. Served with a steak knife through its center, the Le Pigeon burger comes stacked with butter lettuce and blue cheese dressing for $18. Keep in mind that Le Pigeon on E. Burnside is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner only.
Open every day 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $18, prices include tip
738 E Burnside St., Portland | lepigeon.com
Screen Door | Griddlestack Burger
“Unhinged burgers” are those that, because of their immensity, require its predator to virtually unhinge their jaws to envelope its meat-to-bun enormity. At times, patrons have to first cut these burgers in half and then eat them in two coronal layers, like shoveling the top layer of deep snow before getting to the wetter base.
One of the best of the unhinged burgers is the Screen Door’s Southern comfort griddlestack burger. Leave your manners at the door, as there is no polite way to eat this towering burger. Our best advice is to go at night under the cover of dim candlelight in this cool, bustling Southeast Portland scene. Many people line up for Screen Door’s famed fried chicken, but the burger is on a plane of its own. Two five-ounce grass-fed patties are strewn with homemade pimiento cheese, lettuce, pickles and smoked scallion mayo. A driven wooden stake keeps it upright. For a buck each, you can order crispy fried onions, an egg or bacon. Unless you travel with your cardiologist, we recommend adding the crispy onions—they should do the trick. This, with a side of fries, is a reasonable $13.
Open every day 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
2337 E Burnside St., Portland | screendoorrestaurant.com
Slow Bar | Angus Burger
A nice surprise in the quest for Portland’s best burgers comes from the dive Slow Bar on SE Grand. You’re not here for the atmosphere, you’re there for the burger. So sit at the bar and do your level best to keep yourself free of dripping goodness. Stacked with two thick onion rings, the half-pound slow burger of Angus beef is topped with tomato, Gruyère, pickle relish, garlic aioli and butter lettuce. For $12, the slow burger is a steal.
Open every day 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m.
533 SE Grand Ave., Portland | slowbar.net
Tasty N Sons | Bacon Burger
On N. Williams, Tasty n Sons has perfected the bacon burger. Thick slices of house-smoked bacon pairs well with smoked bleu cheese (or Beecher’s cheddar), with red onion and black pepper. The burger is served on a sesame seed grilled bun. Go for the midday happy hour bar area (2:30 p.m to 5 p.m.) when your burger is $8 and your can of Rainier is $1.
Happy Hour: $8
3808 N. Williams, Suite C, Portland | tastynsons.com
Alternative Game Burgers
Deschutes Brewery | Elk Burger
It’s hard to get an elk burger right. Elk is a lean meat and easy to overcook, often making it tough and gamey. Deschutes Brewery on NW 11th Avenue in the Pearl District, however, takes special care to impress its patrons with great beer and exceptional pub food. Deschutes’ elk comes from a ranch in Gillette, Wyoming. It’s cooked to tender juiciness that is rarely achieved in fine dining restaurants, let alone pubs. The elk burger is served with roasted shallot-thyme aioli, with sweet field greens and Face Rock Creamery aged cheddar on a house-made brioche bun. This comes in at $14.50.
Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; every day and until midnight Friday, Saturday.
210 NW 11th Ave, Portland | deschutesbrewery.com
River Pig Saloon | Bison Burger
This new Pearl District saloon is one of the best spots to catch a Timbers game for a hopping crowd and a stacked bison burger. The Saloon’s bison burger features organic local bison from Crater Lake Buffalo Company in Chiloquin, bacon, tomato, onions, lettuce, pickles and mustard mayo on a brioche bun. You have your choice of cheddar, Swiss or bleu cheese. This burger is $12.
Open 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Tues-Friday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Sunday; 3 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Monday
529 NW 13th Ave., Portland | riverpigsaloon.com