Hillsboro, OR – Helvetia Tavern

Many speak of Helvetia as if it is the “mecca” of Portland area burgers.  It must be, because one must almost go on a hadj to get there, it’s a hike out into the country.   Nevertheless, Wednesday is my “out for a burger day”, so I trekked out past strip malls, housing tracts, petite wineries and sheep farms to tackle the holy grail of Oregon burgers.

One immediately notes the sign above the door:   “This is not Burger King.   You don’t get it YOUR way, you get it MY way, or you don’t get it, Son of a Bitch!”

I took it to heart, as apparently do most diners.   I didn’t hear a whole lot of special orders.  In fact, none.  The standard burger comes with precisely, one toasted bun, special sauce (mustard and mayo?), shredded lettuce, raw onions, pickles on the side, a little tomato, and a bag of regular Lay’s chips.

I ordered mine with bacon/cheese (which is permitted) and a side of fries.  (See other options on the pic of the menu, below).

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the place is jammed. Tables inside and out are full, but I have a clear shot at the bar, next to the 3 cook grill station, which is operating like clockwork.   In all, I count nine employees.   May have been one or two hidden somewhere.  You read some reviews of this place, and I’ve noticed a few complaints, but based on my experience, I think those complaints come from people that complain about everything.    For the size of the place, staff, and crowd, I don’t think things could have gone any better, and tho I wasn’t expecting it (tho my wife claims I get “this look” when I am unhappy with service),  two waiters apologized to me for the delay, and when I was served my burger, the server said “we put some extra bacon on it because of the delay”.   SWEET.

Tho I wasn’t impatient, I was happy to steal their paper, do the crossword, and suck down an RC (“the only cola we serve!” another sign says).

I didn’t try the rings, tho they looked great, but both the fries and rings went from a plastic bag to the fryer, so they weren’t made on site.   The burgers came in boxes from Ponderosa Provisions, in Aloha, Oregon.    No complaints from me tho.

A good portion of the crowd seemed to order double (and triple) jumbos, but my “regular” cheeseburger and fries were more than I could handle.    The lunch crowd started to thin, so when I was served, I left the bar (and the guy next to me that had a double jumbo, then ordered two more to go), and sat outside on the back deck, in the sun, under the blue Oregon sky, gazing out over pastoral Hillsborough.

If I lived nearby, I’d be there often.    Lots of smiles from the help, a great burger, and a serene setting.

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