DAY TWO: Meat & Greet
7:10 AM: My alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button.
7:20 AM: My alarm goes off again. I consider what life choices lead me to this moment, where I am waking up early to eat a cheeseburger for breakfast.
7:23 AM: I put on skinny jeans. They’re on for about 30 seconds until I realize it’s a mistake.
7:24 AM: I search my drawer for a larger, more breathable pair of pants.
7:42 AM: Odesza’s “How Did I Get Here” plays in my car. Indeed… How did I get here??
7:50 AM: Arrive at Delicious Donuts. Nick and I are matching – we both wear our Club 21 Burger Week shirts. This was not planned.
7:51 AM: Marc joins us. He is not wearing a matching shirt. I'm not sure who should be the most embarrassed in this situation. Probably Marc.
8:01 AM: Techno plays on the loudspeakers. It’s a lot for me to cope with this early in the morning, while I nurse a very painful burger hangover.
8:15 AM: Our burger arrives. The Delicious Donuts “Grand Ave” burger is a monstrosity of a heart attack waiting to happen. It’s ⅓ pound of beef patty, scrambled egg, bacon, cheese, and hashbrowns between two glazed donuts. It feels like it weighs the same as a small baby.
8:16 AM: I take the first bite, and immediately feel like I’m going to barf – not because it tastes bad, but because I overloaded myself with burgers and the thought of chewing through one more is too much to bear.
8:17 AM: Still, I must buckle down and continue because this is Burger Week and I’m not a quitter. My mental game has been compromised, and as such I’m not sure if I can give this burger a fair rating. Conceptually, it’s a hero. This was one of the burgers I was the most excited about because I’ve always wanted to eat a burger that uses donuts as a bun. There was so much grease seeping everywhere that it was hard for me to eat because I had trouble powering through my mental blocks. I wish I was hungrier because I think it would have been a different story. I sheepishly hide the remnants with a napkin because I feel weak for not finishing the entire thing. Overall, it was a good burger, and I appreciate the effort that went into constructing such a beautiful composition. I rate it a 7.5.
8:18 AM: There’s a group of guys nearby who ordered not one, but TWO of these. It’s essentially like slaying not one, but two Goliaths. I am extremely impressed by their level of dedication.
BACK AT THE OFFICE...
9:01 AM: I’m at work. I’m barely functioning. I feel frail and struggle to form sentences. The familiar feeling of Burger Week nausea rises in my stomach. I spend the next few hours in a daze.
11:00 AM: I’m approaching the time where I should head out for a lunch burger if I want to fit in another one before my next meeting, and stay on track to consume 8-9 burgers in 2 days. I’m not even remotely hungry, and I still feel sick.
11:15 AM: I have 15 minutes until my next meeting. I'm having a difficult time keeping my eyes open. I'm slouched in my chair, afraid that if I move, I may collapse.
11:17 AM: I check Web MD. I may be suffering from Burgeritis – a common illness brought on by an excessive amount of burger consumption in a relatively short period of time. Common symptoms include lethargy, dizziness, nausea, intestinal dysfunction, and inability to stop eating.
11:25 AM: Only 5 minutes until my meeting. My Burgeritis skyrockets. I decide to skip eating lunch entirely and hope for the best. Plus, if I skip lunch, it means more stomach room for burgers later on.
11:30 AM - 3:45 PM: I suffer from a Burgeritis-induced blackout and have no memory of the next hours. The only evidence I have that I'm still alive is the following text:
3:38 PM: In an effort to get my life back on track, I check Twitter to see if I can find any news on #PortlandBurgerWeek. I notice a notification for one new message... This is a rarity, because the only people who send me messages are spammers.
3:39 PM: Portland Mercury slid into my DMs!!! They offer me a ride in the Patty Wagon!!!
3:41 PM: When I was a kid, I was very intrigued by the idea of riding in the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile. However, hot dogs don't even come close to the miraculous wonder of a cheeseburger. To ride in a cheeseburger car is a dream come true, to say the least. I feel like every second of my life, everything I've ever worked for, every burger I've ever consumed, has lead up to this moment.
3:51 PM: Could it be? AM I CURED??
3:52 PM: I feel a familiar feeling... It's... HUNGER! Something I haven't felt in the past 16 hours! IT'S A MIRACLE!
4:00 PM: I begin coordinating a ride/burger swag exchange with the #PattyWagon driver, Bri.
4:01 PM: She refers to me as "The Burger Queen" I FEEL LIKE ROYALTY!!!
4:02 PM: OMG she asked if I wanted to wear the official Portland Burger Week Burger Suit!!! IT WOULD BE AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE!
4:03 PM: This was just the rejuvenation I needed. I'm ready to attack 3 more burgers tonight to get back on schedule.
NORANEKO + SURPRISE MEAT & GREET
5:00 PM: I leave for Noraneko. Maki took one for the team and left early to guarantee us a table.
5:01 PM: Maki texts me, clearly in a panic: they won't seat us until our entire party is physically present!
5:04 PM: NOOOOO. I'M STUCK BEHIND A TRAIN. I think about parking my car and walking. Nothing gets between me and my burgers.
5:06 PM: As I prepare to unbuckle my seatbelt, the train passes and I'm on my way again. PHEW.
5:31 PM: I finally arrive at Noraneko. We sit down and order our burgers.
5:41 PM: I look out the window and shed a small tear of joy. The #PattyWagon has arrived!! I assume this is what it's like to see a unicorn in real life. Truth be told, I had envisioned a cheeseburger on wheels, but I suppose that may not be the most aerodynamic design.
5:42 PM: Bri steps out of the vehicle, and I'm introduced to a whole crew of Portland Mercury Burger-weekers. I wonder if they can see the sparkle in my eyes. You know how people always say they "just know" when they experience love at first sight? Well, I JUST KNOW.
5:43 PM: Bri tells me about how they read the @ihadtheburger blog and had to double check to make sure it wasn't affiliated with Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives because my author picture is a photo of me dressed as my idol, Guy Fieri. She also says she was surprised I wasn't in my Guy Fieri costume. In hindsight, I wish I would have worn my blue flames button up.
5:44 PM: They begin unloading various "burger swag" – pins, koozies, tattoos. I kind of feel like I'm doing a drug deal because she's handing me a bunch of stuff out of the trunk of the car, and I'm trying to keep my cool. Burgers are my drug.
5:45 PM: "You ready?" she asks, as she hands me the cheeseburger suit. My stomach flips with excitement.
5:46 PM: Nick and I pose with the Patty Wagon, as if we are on the cover of a hip hop album. I do a couple of dances on the side of the road in the burger costume. I wish I had more time to choreograph, but LUCKILY I've been taking those hip hop dance classes at 24 hour fitness, so I had a few moves up my sleeve. I should also mention that we were near Vega Dance Lab, where legit pro hip hop dancers go. A few of them pass me. I wonder if I should challenge them to a dance battle?? Unfortunately, I'm on the clock and burgers await.
5:47 PM: Cars are honking and laughing at me.
5:48 PM: Does this make me a sellout? Do I care more about the publicity than the burgers? Has the fame changed me? I don't know. And frankly, I don't care because I just experienced one of the best moments of my life.
5:49 PM: I part ways with the Patty Wagon and return to the Noraneko Burger.
5:50 PM: Noraneko cooked up a miso butter burger. They grind frozen miso butter into the beef, and top it with yogurt, umeboshi (sour pickled plum), and black pepper cabbage slaw with pickles, and a potato bun. I struggle to find the words to describe it because it's unlike any burger I've ever tasted. For some, it may come off as a tad too salty, but for me, I love the complexity the miso butter adds. This burger is simple but so rich in flavor. Maki points out (and I agree) that "the bun needs to be part of the experience." It feels like a bit of an afterthought. Overall, this is a strong contender, and I rate it an 8.5.
6:15 PM: I'm on to my next spot, HOME!
HOME - A Bar
6:21 PM: As I drive to HOME, I go back and forth on whether I actually like the name of this place or not. On one hand, it's a fun novelty to say "I'm at home!" even though you're really at a bar. On the flip side, it gets really annoying when you're texting someone to say "I'm headed to Home" and they misinterpret it.
6:30 PM: I arrive at HOME to meet up with a larger group of burger goers. I'm becoming a burger week snob, in that I try to keep my numbers low to ensure that I always get the burger in a timely manner, so this is a bit out of character for me. However, their excitement fuels me at a crucial time when I'm starting to feel full and want to give up.
6:40 PM: Our burgers arrive. HOME's burger week burger is called the "Dirty Bangkok" and has bacon, tomato, pickled carrots, havarti cheese, thai slaw, and thai peanut sauce. The patty is seasoned well and has a slight crunch, which means it was the product of a skilled griller. Not many people are capable of perfecting that texture, and I'm impressed. The burger is amazing. The thai peanut sauce works wonders – it's not too overwhelming, but still flavorful. I wish I had a little bit more bun because the thai slaw is pretty messy and it needs something to hold it together, but overall I'm very pleased with this burger. I rate it an 8.75.
7:00 PM: We made plans to meet more people, so we head to our next location.
NEXT LEVEL BURGER
7:13 PM: I'm hesitant about this next location. Unlike most Portlanders, vegan things are an immediate turn off for me. I just love meat too much. Next Level burger is a 100% vegan and vegetarian restaurant, so suffice to say, without burger week I would probably never step foot into this place.
7:15 PM: We arrive, but the people we're meeting are not here yet. I try my best not to be a huge burger diva, but I need people to recognize that it's hard for me to mix business with pleasure... And this is serious business. Luckily, most of my close friends and coworkers know this about me and seem very forgiving of my level of intensity.
7:18 PM: Impatience gets the best of me and I go stand in line for a burger alone, while the rest of the group retains normal human etiquette.
7:21 PM: It's a good thing that I stood in line because they run out of burgers for a short time, and the rest of the group has to wait 15 more minutes before they can even order a burger. NICE GUYS FINISH LAST, YA KNOW?
7:22 PM: I realize I am not a human anymore. I am a burger monster.
7:31 PM: My "burger" arrives. I put this in quotations because I'm not even sure if this is a burger. It goes against all of my principles. It's basically made up of fruits and vegetables. Pfffshhh.
7:32 PM: Next Level's Burger Week burger is the Pomme Fromage. It's made of a quinoa, chia seed, and garbanzo bean patty, and has onion, carrot, caramelized apples, swiss vegan cheese, arugula, and a drizzle of sweet mustard aioli.
7:33 PM: I absolutely hate myself for saying this, but it's one of the best burgers I've had yet. Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. What would the meat patties say if they knew?! This burger has excellent saucing, and it works really well together. The bun is a little too wheaty for my liking. It tastes like "health" – my least favorite flavor. I'm even surprised to find that I enjoy the vegan cheese. What is happening to me?! I convince myself that my body is tricking me because it wants vegetables. WHATEVER. I rate it a 9. They deserve it.
8:00 PM: I arrive back home and reflect on the 8 burgers I've crammed into two days. I realize that my top rated burgers aren't even burgers at all. One was chicken, and the other was (dare I say it...) vegan.
8:13 PM: My world has been turned upside down. Perhaps I was blinded by my own prejudices to see what burgers are truly capable of. Maybe I don't even know what a burger IS anymore! I'm not even sure who I am anymore.
8:14 PM: As a result, my burger week must take a pause. And by "pause" I mean I have to fly to New York and see what burgers I can scout there, if any. Hopefully time and more burgers will lead me to the closure I need and crave.
11:30 PM: I spend the entire night tossing and turning, wondering about the meaning of life, and how it was possible to actually like a vegan burger. I can't sleep knowing that I'm going to miss so many delicious Portland Burger Week burgers. It doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem RIGHT. All I can do is hope for the best... And then speed to another restaurant as soon as I land back in Portland.