Thursday, January 28, 2016

The New 2016 Top 5!

  1. The Good Reverend Burger, Reverend's BBQ, Portland, Oregon
  2. Tavern Burger, Pilot Butte Drive-In, Bend, Oregon (in photo, on left!)
  3. The Special, Stanich's, Portland, OR
  4. Clogger, Jody's Drive-In, Redmond, Oregon
  5. Madame, Uneeda Burger, Seattle, Washington
Pilot Butte with Hans!
Honorable Mention List

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"The Special", Stanich's, Portland, OR

This is the place that helped me understand the meaning of the burger joint!  I first visited in 1988 and have been coming back ever since.  One of my favorite burgers and favorite places to eat a burger of all time!  If you are a sports fan this place has a pennant of ALL your favorite teams on the walls.  The Special is $8 and is everything you want and need in a burger!  Truly a Portland institution since 1949.

Tri-Tip Burger, Tin Roof BBQ, Lodi, CA

Another BBQ place with a good burger, Tin Roof BBQ.  This one is self-titled the "Best Burger in Town".  Fresh ground tri-tip sirloin, hand formed 1/2 pound burger, grilled to perfection.  Topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, caramelized onions, and 1000 island dressing.  $8.95

This is a really good burger.  Home made burger and home made bun.  If you are ever in Lodi, CA and want a good burger this is THE place to go!

the DOUBLE Foster w/ egg, Foster Burger, Portland, OR

Foster Burger is another classic Portland burger joint!  I was a little overwhelmed by the menu as they have a bunch of unusual burgers such as the Kiwi Burger (lamb & beets) and Johnny Apple Brie (turkey burger with brie and grilled apple), among others.

I went with the DOUBLE Foster Burger with a fried egg.  $9.   My burger was good but the bun dominated my experience.  It was a big bun and it was very dry.  I don't know if it was an bad bun day or if the buns are always like this.  I really liked the establishment and even ordered a milk shake which was really good.  They also serve poutine and you rarely see this in Oregon so I had to get an order for the table.  I would say the highlight of my meal was the poutine as well as seeing the other specialty burgers my friends ordered.  I will go back to Foster Burger to try it again and see if the bun experience was either a one-off or it is a what they buns are always like.

The "original" Jucy Lucy! Matt's Bar, Minneapolis, MN

Let's start with a little history.  What exactly is a Juicy Lucy?

Preparation - A Juicy Lucy is a burger that places the cheese between two hamburger patties prior to cooking.  This creates one patty with a cheese core.  As the burger cooks, the cheese melts inside but does not escape.  This also separates the cheese from the bun, creating a very different texture and experience than your typical cheeseburger.

Origins - Two bars on the same street in S. Minneapolis claim to have invented the burger, Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club.  Matt's credits former owner Matt Bristol with its creation but other accounts say the burger predates his purchase of the bar.  Matt's Bar omits the "i" in Juicy while the 5-8 uses the standard spelling.

JR, Owens and Weaver at Matt's Bar.
My first Jucy Lucy! While in Minneapolis in September, I convinced some friends to head over to Matt's to sample a Jucy Lucy. Matt's really is a bar that only serves burgers. The place a is classic, no frills bar, with the Vikings game on all the TVs and an older waitress who called us all "hon." When my burger arrived I must admit I was a bit disappointed. It looked like a plain burger, was not very big at all, and had a similarity to a regular hamburger you would get at McDonald's.The waitress could tell we were not regulars and announced, "Be careful as the hot cheese will burn your mouth, hon!" I don't really know what I was expecting? It was a good burger but not great. If I had known, I would have ordered 2 as it was quite small.The Jucy Lucy is an OK burger, but writing this review leads me to wonder, "What is it that I enjoy about a burger or a burger joint or a burger experience?" In this case it was about exploration, history, culture, and most importantly sharing a meal with some friends. In some cases the actual burger is what it is about (see Uneeda Burger, Jody's, and Pilot Butte) and others are shared experiences and learning about the origins of the hamburger! Next time I am in Minneapolis I likely won't go to Matt's but will search out a new burger in a new place. However I am glad that I went and enjoyed the original Jucy Lucy!

Skillet Street Food, Seattle, WA

The Seattle Center has an impressive food court.  I was staying with a friend from Seattle that recommended the burgers from Skillet Counter of Skillet Street Food.  I ordered the Basic burger. Locally sourced beef, their special sauce, lettuce, pickle, american cheese on a brioche bun.  It was a nice burger that was a good size and very tasty.  My only criticisms are using American cheese (why not cheddar?) and the price.  For some reason American cheese feels cheep to me and reminds me too much of fast food.  I would rather have a slab of cheese hand cut off of a block of good cheese. $12 is a little too much for this burger, although I do understand it is in a food court at the Seattle Center.

Overall a good burger but nothing that I would seek out.  If I was in Seattle again I would try something new or go back to Uneeda Burger (see previous post).

The Thrill Grill, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The digital world has made it so easy to find good places to dine.  While in Amsterdam with my family this past May, I searched for "best burgers in Amsterdam" and immediately had a bunch of highly acclaimed places to choose from.  I chose the The Thrill Grill and was a fun 15 minute train ride away from a small neighborhood burger pub!
I had to order a Classic Thriller.  100% natural beef from Dutch dairy cows, tomato, lettuce, Gouda cheese, red onion, bacon from Brandt and Levie, and the Classic Thriller Sauce on a toasted organic bun.  7.95 euros.  This place was good and I love how it really is about the meat in Europe.  Not very big by US standards, but well constructed and erg smakelijk (very tasty).  Great local organic beef and cooked pretty rare.
If you are in Amsterdam and want to get a good, local burger, cooked with Dutch ingrediants, this is a great place to go.  Being an American in Amsterdam I didn't go around eating burgers and wanted to eat dutch food, but this place is worth a visit and not a tourist trap.  I think my son and I were the only non-locals in the place.