Today is the last day of Burger Week and my sentiments can only be described as bittersweet. Unlike the previous Burger Weeks, this is the first time that I don’t feel like I’m dying. Perhaps I’ve become a seasoned pro, or maybe it’s my new Burger Week morning ritual of starting the day with a probiotic gut shot and ginger tea. Whatever it may be, I feel a tinge of sadness that it’s ending. Or maybe that’s just heartburn.
I'm forced to skip my lunch burger due to that inconvenience called "work". Ughhhhhhhhhh. I order something with kale for lunch and feel like an imposter. My body is confused – why are we introducing vegetables into the system? This is a red-meat-and-carbs-only zone. My insides will likely stage a rebellion until meat returns.
I wake up earlier than usual, hesitant and uneasy. I’m officially halfway finished with Burger Week, but it still feels like an uphill battle. I have a hard time getting my mental game in gear because today is the day I get the Delicious Donuts burger. I’ve been putting this off out of pure fear, but it’s time to buck up and burger on.
After a rocky start on Day One, it was difficult to muster up enough energy to get out of bed. It may have been the culmination of eating too many burgers in a short time span, but...
DAY 3-5: BURGERLESS IN THE BIG APPLE
Day 3: I wake in a fit of meat sweats. Only two days of Burger Week passed, and I already felt defeated. Instead of continuing on my journey, I must board a plane for New York. It hurts to leave so many great burgers behind, uneaten and unknown.
Our flight is delayed. I look to see if there are any burgers nearby the Portland airport. Just when I spot a potential option, the burger gods spite me, and we’re told to stay at the gate. Another one bites the dust…
We arrive late, and only have time to grab a quick bite at the hotel bar. To my dismay, it’s an Italian restaurant. A full day without burgers. What a tragedy.
Day 4: Since we’re with a larger group, most of the restaurants are pre-planned, leaving me helpless in my burger quest. We go to a place called The Farm on the Adderley. Following suit with my preparations, I must try a burger if it’s available on the menu. I spy a burger, but I’m not liking what I see… It starts at $15 for just a patty and a bun, and to add anything else (cheese, tomato, etc) it’s an extra $2 per item. This formula is a disgrace to burgers everywhere – I should not be forced to construct my own. It’s like going to a clothing store, but they only give you fabric and a sewing needle and tell you good luck. I’m already unimpressed. What’s even worse is that it comes on an ENGLISH MUFFIN. I have a real beef with this (...see what I did there?).
My burger arrives. As anticipated, it disappoints. There’s no flavor, no sauce, and seriously, ENGLISH MUFFIN?! I’m not even sure if this should be categorized as a burger. They’re lucky that the meat is seasoned well, otherwise this would be a truly scathing review. I’ll say it one more time: ENGLISH MUFFIN. WHY. I rate it a 4.25. To be fair, all of the other food options looked delicious, and it’s probably my fault for selecting a burger at an artisan restaurant.
Day 5: Another day without a burger. Although I was totally disappointed in the NYC burger quest, I did gather a list of restaurants from seasoned burger pros to try next time when the meals are within my control. On the plus side, I also enjoyed some excellent pastrami from Katz’s Deli and a delectable taste of Lombardi’s pizza. But alas, I feel weak without burgers in my bloodstream. GET ME HOME TO MY $5 BURGERS!
DAY 6: BACK 2 BURGERS
6:00 AM: I arrive at my terminal, and go to a weird restaurant that only lets me order on an iPad. I can’t find any burgers. Since the menu is divided into categories, I ask the waitress if I missed it – maybe I just can’t figure out this futuristic robot way of eating food. She looks at me like I’m crazy because I want a burger at 6 AM and kindly explains that it’s only available on the lunch iPad menu and asks if I want a breakfast sandwich instead. That’s cute. NAH GIRL, BURGERS ONLY!
6:04 AM: I begin plans to formally petition for burgers to be on every breakfast menu in the United States.
10:45 AM: We begin our descent into Portland. Maybe I’m hallucinating, but I’m pretty sure I can smell the burgers through the air vents.
11:30 AM: I’m finally on the ground, weaving in and out of people milling about the terminal. They probably think I’m late for a flight. Silly tourists! I’m late for something even more important: BURGER WEEK.
11:38 AM: I’m in my car, trying to decide where I should go. There’s a lot of pressure on me – this is my last chance to experience Burger Week. Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize every burger you ever wanted, in one moment – would you capture it? Or just let it slip?
11:39 AM: My palms are sweaty. Knees weak. Arms are heavy. There's burgers on my mind already, want some meaties. #Remix
11:41 AM: At first, I was going to go to Slowburger because they had the Hawaiian 503, and I felt like that was fitting for me since I am part Hawaiian and from the 503. However, due to some “meh” reviews, I decide to look into other options. I heard raving reviews about the Thunder Roadhouse Burger, but upon further investigation, I’m not sure if I can handle the jalapenos.
11:42 AM: After looking through the list, something about fried avocado speaks to me. I throw my suitcase in my car and head straight to Migration Brewing for the Mole Madre burger.
11:46 AM: I made a critical mistake and used Apple Maps for my directions. It takes me to an office building. I do a couple of circles around the block, blaming it on faulty GPS. It still says that I’ve arrived at the location. I wander around the building, unsure if I should enter because it doesn’t look like it has a kitchen. Just as I’m about to kick down the door and scream “WHERE ARE THE BURGERS?!” I glance at the numbers on the door, and realize I’m at the wrong address. That could have been mortifying.
12:00 PM: I finally arrive at the REAL migration brewing and order my burger.
12:13 PM: In true burger BFF fashion, Nick surprises me for moral support, so I don’t have to eat a burger alone!
12:15 PM: The burger arrives. It’s a beautiful creation made up of a beef patty covered in mole ketchup, cotija, pickled onions, tomatillo dressing, and fried avocado. Yes, FRIED. AVOCADO. "Incredible" is an adjective that doesn’t seem to do it justice. The fried avocado is a great touch, but the mole sauce is the true winner here. It has so much flavor and everything works well together. The bun is fluffy and light, but still provides enough bread to keep the burger intact. It receives a high 9.5 rating, my highest rating yet. The Mole Madre brings me back to life after only 3 hours of sleep. This is an amazing burger, and it absolutely stole my heart.
12:30 PM: I should go home, take a nap, and get ready for a friend’s wedding. But my Burger Week competitiveness strikes again… And I can’t stop now, knowing that I didn’t give it my all. NO RAGRETZ.
12:45 PM: We arrive at White Owl. There’s a slight line, and we make conversation with the group in front of us. Nick casually drops the fact that he’s had 20 burgers so far this week. This blows their mind.
12:52 PM: Our burgers arrive. Nick takes his into the photo booth to go take some pics with it. This is what makes him a legendary burger weeker.
12:53 PM: The White Owl burger is a take on the McDonald’s Big Mac. It’s called the McSqueeze Me, and it’s made up of Walla Walla onions, pickles, lettuce, special sauce, and cheese. It’s a very simple burger, but I have to be honest – I’m a bigger fan of the McDonald’s version. I feel like it's a bold statement to compare yourself to the almighty Big Mac, and it doesn't deliver. Nothing stands out about this burger to me. It’s okay, but it’s not too exciting. I rate it a 7.
It’s time for me to bid farewell to my beloved Burger Week 2016. Although I was only able to experience 3 days of it, I think I made the most of my short time and even made some lifetime memories. I’m not crying, it’s just… I’m… chopping onions?
First Place: Migration Brewing’s Mole Madre Burger
Second Place: BTU Brasserie General Tso Burger
Third Place: Kell’s Shepard’s Pie Burger
While the Kell’s burger started out as an 8.75, it was my first burger, and as such it did not have a fair rating in comparison to the other burgers. After a full week of reflection, it beats out the Next Level burger. Also, I can’t live with myself if I let a vegan burger make the top 3.
Total burgers eaten: 11
Total money spent: $61.70
Number of times venue sold out of burgers: 0 – A BURGER WEEK RECORD!
Total number of burger photos: 27
Total pounds lost/gained: 2 pounds lost. Again, I proved that the burger diet is a real thing!
Total amount of times throwing up: 0 – ANOTHER BURGER WEEK RECORD! (But very close after the Delicious Donuts burger…).
Completing Burger Odyssey, Year 2: PRICELESS.
Until next year...
I love the smell of burgers in the morning
I made plans with Kelsey and Marc to meet up at 7:45AM for Delicious Donuts’ Grand Ave. Breakfast Burger. Grand is an understatement for this monstrosity: a third-pound beef burger, a hash brown patty, bacon, cheese, and a scrambled egg sandwiched between two glazed beauties. Yes, it’s a motherfucking donut burger.
My name is called and I pick it up from the counter. Holy shit this thing is heavy. It’s oozing with what looks like syrup, but it’s just the sugar glaze liquefying. I dive in with two hands and take that first bite. OMG it’s delicious. It’s the rare burger that is put together with enough balance to taste each of the 5 elements on almost every bite. The sweetness is balanced by 3 levels of salty goodness and I love it. Eating this feels very almost sinful in its excessive decadence.
The horror... the horror...
5 minutes afterward and I’m reeling from the experience. Oh it was great, but it was just too much for one person. This would be probably be a perfect treat as a slider on some mini donuts. I slowly sink into one of the worst food comas of my life and by noon I’m in such bad shape that I contemplate dropping out of Burger Week altogether. Last year it took me until Saturday to hit the wall, and part of that was due to a massive hangover. After following up the back to back to back burgers on day 1 with this breakfast from hell, I’m wondering if I pushed too hard too early.
By 2:30pm my stomach has finally settled enough to feel the faintest tinge of hunger. I don’t know if I can do and more beef right now so I decide to hit BTU for the General Tso’s burger, which is chicken inside a big steamed bun. I arrive and seat myself at the bar with a nice view of Olympic water polo on the TV. Inexplicably they’re out of every healthy sounding vegetable side dish, or at least that’s what I think they said but I’m still not a coherent person at this point. I order a side of vegetable wontons, of which I have almost no recollection of eating. I think I’m meat drunk. I don’t know if I’d necessarily call The General Tso a burger, but a giant chicken bao seems like exactly what I need to shake myself out of this funk.
It comes out dripping with sauce, yet looks like a light snack in comparison to my gut wrenching breakfast. I go into full autopilot and house the thing in maybe 5 bites. The bao is a soft and lovely and most importantly, not a donut. The chicken is moist and there is other stuff on it that I don’t remember. When I finish I don’t feel like shit, so it’s a success. In trying to write this review, I honestly remember very little about this burger due to my state of mind but I gave it a high grade on the Snap story so it must have been good.
Disneyland? Fuck, man, this is better than Disneyland!
Kelsey had finagled her way into getting the Portland Mercury's Patty Wagon to meet up with her at Noraneko. I was close by so I ran to meet them. The Patty Wagon is a Mini Cooper wrapped as a burger which is cool enough on it's own, but they also had a trunk full of swag including temporary tattoos, buttons and beer koozies. We took photos with the car and Kelsey danced in a burger suit making it the best day ever.
I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?
A couple hours and one chewy stomach relief tablet later and I’m ready for dinner. I coordinate to meet Burger Week vets Marc, Chelsea and Omari at Slow Burger, also known as Slow Bar’s bastard child. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy their burgers and had high grades for 2015’s Burger’s Pimento Cheese Burger, but it’s just not up to par with the magnificence of Slow Bar. Nonetheless I have high expectations and am intrigued by this year’s Hawaii 503 though, which has a pineapple slaw, jalapenos and teriyaki. If you’ve ever gotten into a drunken conversation with about pizza, you already know pineapple and jalapeno is my favorite combination.
There’s a steady but quick line when Marc and I arrive, he grabs a burger for Chelsea who is en route. As we’re waiting, an old man strikes up conversation with us. He’s recovering from cancer and leukemia which caused him to lose a massive amount of weight, so a burger and fries are on the menu for him tonight. They’re churning em out fast and all of our burgers arrive about the same time. I take a few bites and am definitely underwhelmed. There’s just not enough pineapples and I barely notice the jalapeno. Our new friend, who apparently used to be a chef, notes that it’s severely lacking in teriyaki and I concur. Marc likes it though so we’ll chalk this up to hurried and uneven distribution of toppings, which is forever the scourge of Burger Week. Omari arrives a little late and gets in line. After about 5 minutes they announce they’ve sold out for the day. My bad dude, I should’ve ordered for you. He ventures off into the neighborhood to track down one of the offerings from Migration or Club 21. Overall I’m underwhelmed by Slow Burger this year, but it’s hard to knock a place that consistently delivers quality on a daily basis.
What the hell do you know about burgers, Major?
I’m now almost fully recovered from the donut burger, but I don’t know if I can handle another one. Kelsey had mentioned she is headed to Next Level Burger for The Pomme Fromage, which is an entirely plant based burger. This almost seems sacrilegious, but I am so down with consuming vegetables right now.
It’s fairly busy at Next Level, and Kelsey has already ordered while waiting for her crew to arrive. When I order, the cashier looks at me funny and checks with the kitchen. They only have 3 burgers left! Marc and Chelsea are at the back of the line, so I order all 3 of them. Luckily for everyone else, they’ll have another batch ready to cook in about 15 minutes. One of the perils of Burger Week is sell outs, so far I’ve had great luck.
I’m sipping on a kombucha (because I need more probiotics in my life) when The Pomme Fromage arrives. It looks really nice, and the Swiss vegan cheese is melty and gooey. Wait, what? This tastes good, like really good. The patty is made of quinoa, chia seeds, garbanzo beans, onion, and carrot and I would happily eat it any day of the week. The sweet mustard aioli enhances everything and the arugula gives it a nice kick. My only complaint is that the bun is a little too whole grain-y, but that’s a pretty minor flaw.
One of the biggest critiques of Burger Week has always been the lack of vegan and vegetarian options. This year there are 3 locations, with Hoda’s and Bar Bar offering up a veggie patty. I am a happy consumer of all varieties of ground animal patties, but it would be nice to share the experience with some of my misguided herbivore friends. Major props to Next Level for not only doing this, but doing it so well. This is one of my highest rated burgers so far and I’m not bloated and dehydrated afterwards.
The war will still be here tomorrow
I’ve gone down the river into the heart of darkness and I made it out alive, barely. After 2 days I’m at 8 burgers, halfway to last years total of 16. I’m crushing Burger Week and there are 4 full days left.
We kicked off this blog last year for Portland Burger Week and chronicled the Burger Odyssey. It started off innocently enough, before turning into a full blown obsession for Kelsey and I. We blogged, we tweeted, we snapped and dined with dozens of friends and burger lovers. By midweek, we were a mess, “My body, mind and soul are completely shot. The Burger Odyssey is feeling like a long weekend in Vegas -- 4 days is the limit of safety and sanity.”
After 7 days I had consumed 15 different burgers, plus an additional one which was not sanctioned by Burger Week. By Sunday night, I found myself parked outside of Double Barrel Tavern debating whether to get in one last fix. Yes, I had become a full blown burger addict. It wasn’t a pretty recovery. When I finally stepped foot in a grocery store, I wandered around for 40 minutes in a daze. “Anything but beef” was all I could think about before eventually walking out with all the fixings for a BLT, which seemed like a good way to wean myself from the addiction.
One would think I was sick of burgers, but no, I was merely sick of writing about burgers. For the next 51 weeks I probably ate more burgers than I ever had before. Burger Week is serious business and you have to train all year round. I had big plans for this year: 20 burgers. I was a thrown off a bit when it was announced that Burger Week 2016 was only 6 days long, I was determined to plow forward at a 4 burger a day pace. Here is how Day 1 went down.
I work in the Central Eastside industrial area so Noraneko is a no brainer to knock out first. In addition to great ramen, I’ve always been quite fond of the Biwa double burger they offer.
10:17AM - I announce to the office my intention to get the Miso Butter Burger at 11AM, right when they open. They are skeptical of my timing, but I purposely skipped breakfast and my stomach is rumbling.
11:00AM - No one is ready. Noobs, smh.
11:20AM - We’re ready! Nope, false alarm.
11:35AM - Finally we’re off. I’m with 3 rookies but they’ve got spirit and a craving for beef.
11:43AM - There is a short line, this is a good sign.
11:50AM - I order the burger and a small salad. It’s proper form to order a side or beverage with your burger, plus I think I’m gonna need all the veggies I can get this week.
12:02PM - It’s here and it looks nothing like it did in the Portland Mercury’s review, but looks can be deceiving. Picture time.
12:04PM - Wow, this a really unique taste. The frozen miso butter is mixed in with the beef and it gives it a salty, almost porky flavor. The slaw and the pickles offer a nice balance to the saltiness.
12:12PM - It’s on the smaller side, which you will need sometimes during the Burger Week marathon. The first couple burgers are always hard to rate because you never know how it will stack up, but I tentatively give it an 8.25. A very good start.
12:35PM - I’m back at the office, chugging water but very satisfied.
All afternoon I send out a flurry of texts and Snapchat messages attempting to coordinate burger plans for the night. @kelsey_wilkins and I decide on Church Bar because it was among the favorites from 2015 and we anticipate a large crowd. Of course we can’t eat just 1, so we also pick Club 21 right down the street. I leave these reviews to Kelsey because she describes them much more eloquently than I can. Tonight also happens to be my sister’s birthday, which means family dinner. Of course I suggest a bunch of Burger Week participants and we decide on Davis St. Tavern.
8:13PM - I’m the first one here and I need water, lots of water. Stay hydrated folks.
8:25PM - Davis St. Tavern is offering The New American Burger which is a ”charbroiled Painted Hills bison/beef patty topped with crisp butter lettuce, plump summer tomatoes, pickled zucchini and cucumber, and whole-grain mustard aioli on a Portland French brioche bun”. That’s a lot of words for what’s basically a bison burger. Whatever, I have to order it.
8:50PM - Appetizers were ordered and our server drops a charcuterie board directly in front of me. I absolutely DO NOT need this. But… I can’t say no to chicken liver mousse.
9:10PM - Dinner is here. The New American Burger is served simply in a checkered cardboard tray and looks rather underwhelming compared to my mom’s Angus Beef Burger, which comes piled with Tillamook vintage cheddar, pepper bacon and bacon-tomato jam.
9:11PM - First bite, not bad. The burger is a perfectly cooked medium rare and the bun is toasted just right. The vegetables are crisp and fresh and really compliment the flavors of the bison/beef patty. The mustard aioli is smooth and adds a nice tanginess to each bite.
9:20PM - There’s a familiarity to this burger. Between the toasted bun and the aioli it actually tastes like a restaurant quality version of a Burgerville burger. Davis St. went with a relatively simple concept and nailed it. It’s hard to rate but I want to give it a 9 at this point.
9:50PM - There is dessert. Why am I eating this?
10:29PM - Day 1 is complete. My belly is full, my mouth tastes like salt and I’m exhausted. I brush my teeth and roll into bed before 11 o’clock. I’ve got a big morning coming up: tomorrow we've tackle Delicious Donuts’ monstrosity known as the Grand Avenue Breakfast Burger.