DAY ONE: DRAMA & DISAPPOINTMENT
ONE WEEK BEFORE
For prime patty preparation, I spend the week before burger week meticulously researching and scheduling my route in a spreadsheet based on neighborhoods and personal burger interest level. A high level of strategy goes into this process. Based on very complicated algorithms, I figure I can eat an average of 3.2918 burgers per day. This translates to approximately 20 burgers throughout the week. Per my usual game plan, I fill in my lunch burgers based on what is closest to my work office, and for my dinner burgers (plural) I try to offset a burger that may or may not kill me with a second option that will leave me feeling accomplished, yet not too overwhelmed.
BURGER WEEK EVE
I equate Burger Week Eve to the way many children feel about the night before Christmas. Anticipation and excitement looming, but with a hint of dread and anxiety. With 40+ burgers to choose from, am I making the right decisions? What if the burgers disappoint me? Will my doctor be upset with me for my skyrocketing cholesterol levels? Will I survive the week, or will this be the year I finally meat my demise? I toss and turn all night, debating my destinations.
Although Portland's current weather is a massive, sweaty heat wave, I decided it was in my best interest to bike to work so I could get some form of exercise (and it would help me reach my burger destinations faster). I arrived at work and reviewed my spreadsheet. I decided to make some last minute changes to my action plan. As I rearranged rows and columns, I received an IM from fellow Burger lover Amy:
Excuse me…? A BETTER SPREADSHEET?! This fuels my competitive juices. I’m ready to dominate Burger Week. I'm ready to prove my passion and devotion to burgers.
“You here for Burger Week?” my waiter asks. He must recognize me from the time I rode in the Patty Wagon during last year’s Burger Week. I order the Proletariat burger. As I wait, I watch a track competition on TV. Like these athletes, I, too, have prepared for this moment. The marathon is finally here.
My burger arrives quickly. The server says “our strategy is to get people in and out as quickly as possible this week.” This is a man who understands the game. My strategy is also to get burgers in my stomach as quickly as possible.
I hear him ask another customer, “You here for Burger Week?” and I feel a little disappointed that he didn’t recognize me as a professional burger aficionado, but instead our exchange was just an average opening line. Looks like the fame got to my head. I imagine this is the same type of desperation once A-list but now D-list celebrities feel when they make a low-budget commercial for foot cream to get back in the limelight.
But enough about me and my decline into ego crushing normalcy, let’s discuss what we’re here for: THE BURGER REVIEW. The Lompoc Proletariat BBQ burger features a touch of BBQ sauce (obviously), bourbon grilled onions, cheese, a beef patty, and jalapeño jam. My server only brought one napkin, which made me very nervous. BBQ burgers have a tendency to be messy AF. However, Lompoc nailed the ratios. It had a wonderful smoky flavor, yet the BBQ sauce and jalapeño jam were not too overwhelming. My only complaint was that each bite felt very soft, and I wish they would have cooked the patty a little longer so there was a bit more of a crunch.
The first burger of Burger Week is always difficult to rate because there’s nothing to judge against. Initially, I gave it a 6.5, but after further burger reviews, I decided it ultimately deserves a 7.5.
My coworker and first time burger Week-er Pat joins me. He’s British and unfamiliar with American traditions, and asked me to show him the ropes. He has so much to learn...
We start driving, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” plays on the radio. Little did I know this was an obvious foreshadow for the difficult JOURNEY ahead (...see what I did there?).
Burger Week is always full of twists and turns, but this was a drama-infused curveball I wasn’t anticipating. When we arrived at our first planned location, we spotted someone that we could not share an intimate burger vicinity with. Immediately, we had to switch our plans and decided to try White Owl instead.
This is the adrenaline rush of Burger Week, and a lesson in flexibility when it comes to set plans. When the situation gets greasy, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
We got to White Owl, ordered, and headed outside. This year’s burger is “My Bleu Heaven”: beef patty, bleu cheese spread, fried red onion, and mixed greens. Although White Owl typically has a decent Burger Week burger, I walked away from this one a little disappointed. The patty was seasoned well, but overall it was too dry and needed at least twice the sauce. Every bite seemed inconsistent, and the lettuce added a texture that made each bite feel confusing. Overall, I rate it a 6.
Since our plans changed so drastically, we had to select a new burger location nearby. Biwa was not on my original list because I was put off by the name “Instagram burger” (cue eyeroll), but we decided to give it a shot since it was close and I heard a lot of hype for their burger outside of Burger Week.
The Biwa “Instagram Burger” features goat cheese, tomato, and pickle and cabbage slaw. The burger arrived, and let’s just say I felt like I got catfished – the pictures looked VERY different online. For an Instagram burger, it is not very Instagrammable. More like instaSHAM burger, ammirite? Not only that, but the flavor was forgettable. I didn’t detect goat cheese, but rather more of a dill tzatziki sauce. The bun was begging to be toasted. The cabbage added a nice crunch, but overall it was a mess of flavors that didn’t seem to work well together. I have to give this one a relatively low ranking of 5. See ya, wouldn’t want to BIWA!
Pat and I were desperate to find a burger that would fulfill our desires. Would Loyal Legion be the lucky one? The “Kahuna” burger was omitted from my original list due to the name. I have a slight grudge against anyone who claims that adding pineapple makes something Hawaiian. The same goes for teriyaki. If you want to make something Hawaiian, add something LEGIT like Spam or poke. Look, I'm no botanist, but the world needs to recognize that pineapples are actually native to Brazil! I digress…
The “Kahuna” had a teriyaki-seasoned beef patty, onion, arugula, Sriracha aioli sauce, and of course, a grilled pineapple. It seemed promising when it first came out, but after the first bite it turned out to be a lackluster middle of the road burger. It was good, but nothing too exciting. I had to get over the initial shock of teriyaki because it was a touch too salty, but as I kept eating it, the flavor grew on me. I give it a rating of 7. Good if you want to change things up, but also missable if you’re pressed for time.
While it was a day of drama and disappointment, it was good to feel that tinge of determination that only sparks during Burger Week. I had only planned on eating 3 burgers on the first day, but instead I pushed for 4. Like those track athletes training for the olympics, I’m hungry for gold and ready to go the extra mile. When they say jump, I say how high. When they say “how many burgers will you eat this week?” I say “as many as I can until I spontaneously combust.”