You know I am loathe to go into any place that is “the best in the city,” or as Stanich’s would claim, the “Greatest Hamburger in the World.” While I am all about places 50 years old, most times, my personal experience is that the rep they made their bones on, a couple decades ago, is long since a memory of days gone by, as owners, ingredients, methodologies have changed.
Certainly a place like Stanich’s, when they opened in the 40s, was using fresh ground beef, and the meat would have had a distinctly different taste to it than today’s institutionally prepared, hormone injected, meat patties. Back in the day, the cook probably had a Lucky hanging from his lip, perched above his stubbled chin, as he took a fistful of ground beef, and squished out a patty in his armpit. Or something like that. Or so I would surmise, since I wasn’t in there 50 years ago.
Nor was I in there last year, the first time I tried to visit this Portland “institution.” They were closed for vacation. Wish they would have told me before I drove over there. Easy enough to put up on their website.
So I went back today, for a biz lunch, it was as convenient a location as any for the both of us, the crowd was thin at high noon, and the old bar stools worn from the posteriors of neighborhood regulars.
We both ordered “The World’s Greatest Hamburger,” which the menu describes as fresh ground chuck patty, cheese, ham, bacon, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, onions, etc.” Turns out the “etc” was pickle chips perched in the basket.
These thin patties are griddle-fried, flipped once, not smashed, as the sesame buns toast along side of them, and a heapin’ helping of onions is sauteed next to them. The ‘fixins’, the meat, cheese, and such, are on the dress table to the left of the griddle.
Service can be described as ranging from “pokey” on the good side, to “can I get fed before I qualify for Medicare, please?” And this on a slow day.
Fortunately, there are picnic tables out front for one to enjoy a rare sunny day in Portland, so the wait is made more pleasant with that.
Is it the “Greatest Hamburger in the World,” as the menu claims? No. Is it the “Greatest Hamburger in Portland,” as the menu does not claim? No. It doesn’t even make the top 5, for me. That’s not to say it’s not a perfectly adequate burger, and a good value for the price.
Fries come on the side for a little more dinero, they are fresh cut, unseasoned, and pleasant enough. I did see people that had ordered the “large” fries, and that would keep a family busy for awhile.
Will I return? Doubtful. Not because anything was really “wrong,” but because each week, it seems, Portland has a new sexy burger to discover.
My top five? Foster Burger has dethroned Violetta for the number one spot, Bamboo Sushi at number three, and I’ll have to muse over the other two for a day or two.
The weather is beautiful. Lots of Portland restaurants have outdoor patios, for these few rare days the sun DOES shine. Get out there and support the local food economy, folks. Menu below.