Portland, OR – AJs on the Rails

I had been here once before, albeit only for appetizers, which were more than satisfactory. Today it was a convenient location to meet up with Mr Portland Deal-Maker Attorney Extraordinaire, and try out the burgers, which are intermittently touted highly on various online sites.

The joint is on Morrison, w/i spitting distance of the Max stop, and not far from where the “Dump Sam Adams” campaign was recently evicted from their City of Portland landlord owned digs.

I like places that offer a wide variety of burger toppings of all ilks, and AJs is no exception. In addition to the usual condiments and add-ons, at AJs you can get your burger patty topped with such diverse items as a sausage or fish filet. Well, the latter might appeal to someone, I suspect, perhaps those tipping their hats to a Friday Lenten Lunch, but not willing to commit 100%?

You can find the mostly complete menu online at Urban Spoon, tho they have cut off the burger toppings portion.

In any case, we both ordered cheeseburgers, and there is a fairly broad selection of cheeses to choose from, one of which was AJs “Three Cheese Sauce” which I thought I would give a try, and confused the waiter by asking for same. I clearly meant (in my own demented mind, at least) that the sauce was my burger-topping cheese choice, but he didn’t ask me that, and instead brought a small ramekin of it on the side, w/ my burger topped w/ cheddar.

We both ordered tots as our side choice, and both agreed they are over the top tots, which is what I thought the time I had them on a previous visit.

The patties are clearly hand-formed, lean, cooked to medium (server didn’t ask our preference), and delivered on a fresh, soft bakery roll.

A number of people in other reviews have talked about the burger’s seasoning, which is clearly evident, but makes for some difficulty in ascertaining the pure taste of the grind. My unsophisticated palate found the taste of the seasoning familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

Mr. PDMAE cleared this up for me brilliantly but stating “the hamburger tastes like a hot dog,” and that’s exactly what it was, hints of onion, coriander, maybe mace, ground mustard, paprika, at least that’s what I use when I stuff weenies at home, and this flavor was, indeed, very reminiscent of that. We debated whether the flavoring was on the patty itself or the bun, but did not come to any conclusions.

If I was in the mood to implement my favorite selection out of the seven deadly sins, and opted for gluttony today, I would have constructed my own burger topped with a couple of cheeses, ham, bacon, a fried egg, olives, and maybe the sausage. Not brave enough to add the fish filet, however.

The prices of the extras seemed reasonable, however I take exception to places that charge for condiments that fall into the vegetable variety, and AJs does that, nicking you for extra pickles, onions, peppers, olives and the like. I did not test the limits of their tolerance for not doing this.

Two cheeseburgers with tots, two glasses of water, $18 including tip. Not so bad, not so grand. I would go back on a more weather-hospitable day like my first visit, they have some outside tables and its a good place to have a beer and snack on the sidewalk and people watch, whether your choice for that activity leans towards lurking, or feeling sorry for the aspiring chefs coming out of the nearby cooking school – wondering what small percentage of them will achieve some modicum of success in their careers, and how many will end up flipping burgers at places like AJs?

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