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Ten Worst Burgers of 2010


Everyone has done a “best of” series, so, bitter curmudgeon that I am, here’s my ten worst burgers of 2010:

10.  Stanich’s, Portland, OR.  The legend lives on.  Except for me.

9.  Wendy’s “Baconator

8.  Stepping Stone Cafe, Portland, OR – featured on “Man vs. Food” for their giant “mancakes’, this place seems to soar with their breakfasts, but falls flat in the burger arena.

7.  The Mad Greek, Baker, CA.  Nobody’s mad for this burger.

6.  Little Big Burger, Portland, OR – kind of the NW’s version of the rage about LA’s Umami Burger.  Everybody is talking about Little Big Burger, but not me.

5.  Stars Hamburgers, Arcata, CA.   Really had to choke this one down.

4.  Rogue Brew Pub, North Plains, OR.  Garlic burger is stinkola.

3.  Violetta, Portland, OR.  Started with a bang, continuing with a whimper.

2.  Garden of Eden, Eden, ID.  A truck stop makes a truly awful burger.

1.  Umami, Los Angeles, my worst burger of all.  While they say “you can’t argue with success”, I can, and although Umami falls onto many ‘best lists’ (including being named GQ’s “Burger of the Year”), for me, this was the ’emperor’s new clothes’ burger of 2010.  A joke.

Worst Hamburgers of 2010

Worst Hamburgers of 2010


Portland, OR – Foster Burger, Part 2


My less than fun experience revisiting Violetta this week got me to wondering about how other “new” “hot” places fare over time, so decided to head back to Foster Burger, the current burger of all burgers here in Portland.

My dining companion for the night, Mr. Portland Attorney Deal Maker Extraordinaire, (PADME) was along for the ride (and to pick up the check)…Foster had been in his sites for some time but he hadn’t managed to make the trek all the way across the river.

We arrived about 5:40, and the joint was “busy”, but not “crowded”.   As it was a near hundred degree temp day, we opted for the outside covered patio, which seemed “cooler” for some reason.  Large pitchers of ice water adorned the tops of each of the dozen or so picnic tables on the rear patio.

I knew Mr PADME would want to check out the shakes (he is a hound for shakes) and especially because Foster is one of the few places that offers the precious “malt powder” as an additive.  (By the way, at Foster you can also add a shot of liquor to your shake, if that’s your pleasure).

I went with a diet soda, of course, but leapt at the offer to drink a spoonful of the malted, and it was superb.  I was envious of Mr. PADME, but then, I am most days.

We both ordered bacon/cheddar Foster Burgers, medium rare (they come medium if you don’t specify), and I skipped the special sauce and PADME skipped the tomato.   OK, I skipped the veggies too (except the pickle), but since they come on the side, didn’t bother to ask the waitress to leave them in the kitchen. (Wasteful!).  Oh well.

Mr. PADME opted for the regular fries, uttered an “OMG” the moment he bit into one, and I reprised my previous visit’s choice of the Black and White fries, dusted with parmesan, garlic,white truffle oil, and accompanied by a ramikin of garlic aioli mixed in with squid ink. (Yes, a black dipping sauce).

The burgers more than lived up to their reputation and my previous visit. Cooked as specified, house ground meat and house made pickles, there is no reason this guy can’t have multiple locations, if that’s his dream.  It sure beats the heck out of any of the current crop of rapidly expanding burger joints.   Some days I wonder if those places are being too aggressive.  Some days I think the current burger fad is born out of economic madness, rather than a change in America’s tastes.  Time will tell.

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Portland, OR – Violetta, We Hardly Knew Ye


I hate it when a hot new place cools, changes things up, methods, suppliers….content to rest on their early street cred and sail into mediocrity?

I’m sorry folks, but I’ve given you several thumbs up in the past few months, here, and here, and oh yeah, over here, too, which you really deserved.

But today I had my first burger since you moved from the truck into your permanent digs in Director Park, and I have to tell you, I wasn’t impressed on any level.

You weren’t all that busy, but one would think so from all the worker bees you had scurrying about….maybe it’s the “too many cooks” thing?

I ordered the 1/3 pound burger with white cheddar, PLAIN, to which the counter lady said “you mean no vegetables, no toppings, no relishes?” I replied “exactly, burger, cheese, bun.” She replied “OK”. Somewhere between her, your POS, the cook, there was a disconnect, and my burger came with all your toppings: house burger sauce, tomato relish, onions, lettuce, pickle chips (two!). OK, I can remove the vegetables, scrap off the sauce. You could say, “why not come back inside and tell us?” I’d say “why should I have to?”

Your menu used to tell the origin of the burgers, the 1/3 and 1/2 pounders coming from different ranches. Now the menu says simply “Pasture-Raised Black Angus Beef.” Hmmm. Red flag for me folks. Change suppliers? I believe so, and here’s why. My first few burgers from you, it was all about the meat. That’s why I order my burgers mostly “plain.” I want to taste the core ingredient(s).

The past burgers were flavorful, juicy, cooked to medium rare, a rather coarse grind on the beef. Today’s very fine grind, in a machine-shaped patty, cooked just past medium, tasted like nothing. I’m so sorry, really I am. It’s like being a Milli Vanilli fan for years, and then finding out about he man behind the curtain. Or something.

My past burger orders, when i didn’t order your to die for fries (I hope they haven’t changed, too!), came w/ a handful of house-made potato chips. Today, nada. In fact, looking at your online menu today, I don’t see them, are they gone? What’s next, my choice of a bag of Tims?

Your wrapping paper – what happened to the cute printed graphics? And take a look at those spots on the paper in front of the burger in the pic, grease? That much fat in a pasture raised cow?

Ai yi yi.

But I enjoyed the sunny day, sitting at a table outside, well, mostly, until some ladies who were sitting next to me were rousted by one of your employees “These tables are for Violetta customers only,” says he.

Oh yikes.

So, Violetta, chill. Get back to your basics. Take a breath. Send some of those employees who are tripping all over each other, home. Let people order food from the take out window in the back.

Get it together! Please! Before the next time I stop by. Many thanks.

Violetta (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Violetta, 3rd Time’s a Charm


Oh, you clever, clever people. How is it you keep roping me in, month after month, for yet another burger and fries? What secret hold do you have over my taste buds, oh you sirens of sandwiches, you barons of burgers, sultans of sauces?

Stopped by the Violetta mobile today for my third visit. They are about a month away, they say, from moving into their permanent structure in Director’s Park. Do they realize this means I am ALSO a month away from moving into their permanent structure? That I will sit there morning, noon, and night, and keep the grill cook and fry guy hopping to my every burger and fry whim?

I will not even require them to proffer their wares in their fancy pants artsy fartsy cool recyclable packaging, nay, they can just toss burgers to me like I am a trained seal, yet I will forgo balancing the patties on my nose, in favor of having them drop down my gullet.

Maybe I shall be come the Shamu of Violetta, performing tricks on the hour, in return for food?

Ahhh, life!

Today I went with the 1/3 lb Oregon Blue, the ultra-delicious Gorgonzola topped, bacon slathered, caramelized onion capped burger on a hazelnut bun. AND…..incidentally, a side of white truffle oil, fries, sinfully dusted with sea salt and pepper, drizzled with the truffle oil, and a pinch of herbs, and wait, what’s that in the bag? WHAT? A ramekin of Gorgonzola sauce? YOU BASTARDS! You really know how to rope me in.

Well, you’ll be sorry. I’ll be back again. And again. And again. And other customers will complain when you run out of food, because I have eaten it all.

Or is that you wicked plan? Hmmmmm. Or should I say…. MMMMMMMMMMMM!?!?!


The Meat Show Checks Out PDX Burgers


Great fun today on the Meat Show (, where we tested some local Portland favorite burgers!

I was nervous about my appearance, being on the radio for the first time, but many people in my life have said I have a face for radio. I calmed down quickly, was put at ease by the skillful host Emily and her co-hort Sabrina from

All contenders were all “mystery meat” to begin with, 3 burgers arranged on a plate, in a particular order and we could guess or wait and be told where they were from, after the taste!

My pappy taught me early in life, “buy well” and the results will show. I think he was talking about cars, but maybe not. But if we use cars as an example, you’ll get a lot more life out of Mercedes than you will out of Yugo, or a Rabbit. (Do they still make Yugo’s?) Watches – a Rolex will outlast a Casio…. you get the idea.

Such is the case with burgers, too, and today we sampled a Yugo, a Rabbit, and a Mercedes, tipping the cash register at $3, $5, and $10, respectively.

Host Emily wanted to throw in one of her favorites, one of mine, and there was a third, random burger. In this pic, random is at 6 o’clock on the plate, my choice at 1 o’clock, and Emily’s choice at 11 o’clock.  My new spiffy camera wasn’t doing too well today!
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We started with the random, which was pretty much like any fast food burger, and later found out it came from the food cart “Fernando’s” which is ensconced in the PSU cart pod around 4th and Hall.

It was a pretty much thumbs down on that one, OK for the price, but nothing to go out of your way for.

On to the second one, the $10 burger.  I took a bite and Emily asked if I could guess where it was from.  I said “I’d know that pickle anywhere,”  this was the top-of-the-line half pounder from Violetta’s.  Look at those innerds:  nice grind, medium rare, a perfect burger, and all of us agreed on that.

Finally, a burger from Chopollo’s Mexican cart also in the PSU cart pod.   What made this one stand out, were two things.  Extra fresh lettuce and tomato, very crispy, nice, and mayo slathered on both the top and bottom buns, making a the creamy goodness plough past your tongue and coat your next meat bite in a delicious way.

We had a ball!  We’ll do it again and take listener suggestions as to where to try.  A kobe burger is defintely on the next list!

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Portland, OR – ‘Etta – Violetta


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There’s a hot new restaurant called Violetta opening in the spring – high anticipation for that day. Through a series of mishaps, opening has been delayed, but not the enthusiasm of the chef/owners, who want their food in our mouths as soon as possible! So they rolled out a van, to get their gourmet burgers, dogs, and fries out to us today!

Opening a new business at anytime is tough sledding, during a recession, even tougher….and opening a restaurant during a recession? That takes guts, spunk, creativity, and flexibility. Your Violetta proprietoress Lindsay, seems to have it all. She launched into her “local, sustainable” rap while I was waiting for my sandwich, and that’s all fine, to be applauded, but I am sure my eyes closed and a Homer Simpson drool trickled down my chin, as my brain said “mmmmm, burger coming soon…………”.

Their slogan is “slow food fast,” and that’s a cool thing to try and live up to. To be sure, this isn’t typical Portland cart food, this is upscale Portland restaurant food, temporarily being served from a food cart (truck).

Some would say I’m a fickle bitch when it comes to naming my favorite Portland cart burgers, it must seem like I have a new one each week. Shirking the responsibility for that personality quirk, I say it’s not me, but the fact that each week, somewhere in Portland, a new, bigger, grander, tastier burger emerges. But I think it will be a while before Violetta gets toppled from the throne – there a few, if any, finer burgers in town, than these.

Rolling ‘Etta offers 1/3 and 1/2 pound versions of the burger. plain, cheese, bacon/cheese, or blue w/ carmelized onions. They offer the patty in beef, turkey, or lentil. All come with lettuce, tomato, and the secret Violetta burger sauce, perched on a sesame brioche; the blue cheese/bacon comes with a hazelnut bun.

In addition to burgers and franks, they offer a variety of hot sandwiches, soups and salads, mac n cheese, rotisserie chicken, breakfast, sweets, espresso drinks. A long list of fancy pants stuff for a truck! (note, breakfast starts Feb 1)

I went with the 1/3 beef cheeseburger and Gorgonzola fries.

I have the full menu below to save you the pain of leaving this site.  Open early til late.

There are two pix of the burger, one with the toppings intact, one with the toppings moved to one side of the bun so you can see the burger and its white cheddar gooey goodness. The toppings are fresh and crisp. The double x secret Violetta sauce has got a nice little zing to it. I love the pickles where ever they are from, nice and crunchy, full dill flavor. While the crew was generous with them, I still wanted a few more.

The Gorgonzola fries are just short of heaven. The menu says the sauce is from Rogue Creamery, I checked their website, I don’t see a listing for it, so the Violetta folks must buy their cheese and sauce it themselves. If Rogue did sell it, I’d be tempted to order a 55 gallon drum, and it’s not of your damned business what I’d do with it. I can think of a few dozen twisted ideas.

The shoestring fries were hot and crisp. I was the first customer of the day, so cooking took a little longer than usual, I suspect, but Lindsay gave me a free cookie as compensation for the wait. (BTW, rest assured the kitty-wampus placement of the fries in the container was do to my dropping them, not the chef’s doing).

Both the burger and fries were amply sized. I couldn’t finish the fries. OK, so I set them aside and will attack them again later.

It may be “slow food fast.” But they should add to the beginning of that slogan “DAMNED FINE slow food fast!”

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Violetta on Urbanspoon

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