This week, we're revealing the winners in the round of 32. Here are the classics.
MATCHUP #1: Killer Burger (1) vs. Little Big Burger (9)
Nine locations. killerburger.com. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday.
Their most famous burger is still so fucking good—a peanut butter-pickle-bacon burger, with peanut-butter sauce, bacon, smokey house sauce, mayo, grilled onion and pickle ($9.75 with fries). It's the kind of burger you feel like you're making out with—getting so lost in it you don't realize you haven't talked to anyone in 10 minutes and you're left wiping peanut-butter sauce off your face with a sweetness still on your tongue.
Little Big Burger
Multiple locations, 503-265-8021; littlebigburger.com. Northwest locations: 11 am-10 pm daily. All others: 11 am-9 pm daily.
Micah Camden and Katie Poppe (Blue Star Donuts, Boxer Ramen) first opened Little Big Burger in 2010, and quickly expanded to eight locations, including one in Eugene, before selling it to the owners of Hooters in 2015. The patty on the cheeseburger ($4.25, I chose chevre over blue, Swiss and pepperjack) was pretty pink, and though you do get a couple great bites, the most enjoyable parts are when you get huge, salty spreads of chevre—and also when you dip the burger in the fry sauce, which has something amazing going on.
WINNER: Killer Burger. They're both beloved burger chains, but Killer Burger killed those tiny burgers. Though I'm a longtime fan of Little Big Burger—which, at least in 2013, had a Eugene location much better than the Eugene Killer Burger—but Killer Burger is just more balanced, juicier, and takes you a lot further.
MATCHUP #2: Stanich's (5) vs. Stoopid Burger (4)
4915 NE Fremont St., 503-281-2322, stanichs.com. 11 am-10 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday.
When Michael Jordan came to Portland, he went to Stanich's, a 67-year-old tavern on Northeast Fremont covered in sports paraphernalia. With luck, he ordered the Special ($8), which Stanich's advertises as "The World's Greatest Hamburger," with fresh ground chuck, cheese, ham, bacon, egg, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, ketchup, mayo and a creamy house sauce. The bun is buttered and warm, the lettuce shredded and fresh, and the tomato and onion thinly sliced and crisp. The egg is plopped on the bacon, which is plopped on a slice of ham, which is plopped on a patty. And besides having too much mustard, it's all fucking great.
3441 N Vancouver Ave., 971-801-4180, stoopidburgerpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday.
There's nothing as stupidly good as the Stoopid Burger ($11.75), which comes with salty, hot fries served in a paper bag. It's got beef, bacon, ham, a hot link, and egg, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, for God's sake. If you want more, you always will. Although you'll be unable to get everything in your mouth for the first few bites—it's served basically like a taco, it's so full—every bite stands on its own as a thing of wonder.
WINNER: Stoopid Burger. These burgers were only three points apart in scoring, and both had ham, beef, bacon and an egg. But there was still something about Stoopid Burger that was perfectly balanced, which is more difficult to achieve with such a mess of toppings. The Stanich's burger, on the other hand, had a lot of mustard.
MATCHUP #3: PDX Sliders (6) vs. Gastro Mania (14)
1605 SE Bybee Blvd., 971-717-5271, pdxsliders.com. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Wednesday, 11 am-11 pm Thursday-Saturday.
The Sellwood burger ($9) has beef, bacon, Beecher's aged cheddar, caramelized onions, butter lettuce and aioli on a brioche bun. It's dripping with grease, and though the aioli is tasty and salty, it wilts the butter lettuce, which becomes more of a paste by the end.
1986 NW Pettygrove St., 503-689-3794, gastromaniapdx.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday.
When its old food-cart pod was snatched up by developers, Bulgarian chef Alex Nenchev moved his food to a brick-and-mortar in Slabtown. WW called it the very best spot in the neighborhood to get lunch and called the foie gras burger "a thing of ridiculous luxury." The price back then was under $10, but $13 with salad still feels cheap. It's got the perfect amount of moisture and savor, with a generous portion of foie gras from Canada geese. And for now, it may be the only foie gras burger in town: St. Jack's formerly foie'd burger now comes with bacon.
WINNER: Gastro Mania in an upset! Coming up from its 14 seed to beat the 6 seed, virtual-unknown Gastromania continues to rally with its unbeatable juicy burger!
MATCHUP #4: Dea's In And Out (10) vs. Mike's Drive-In (15)
Dea's In & Out
755 NE Burnside Road, Gresham, 503-655-3439. 5:30 am-11 pm daily.
The original Dea's first opened on Southeast Powell Boulevard in 1953. It moved to Gresham in 1976, added a drive-thru window and copyrighted the Longburger, the rectangular patty for which it's best known. On our visit, the patty was a little chewy and had too many diced onions covered in excess mayo, and the bun seemed like a sweet, bready hot-dog bun.
3045 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie, 503-654-0131, mikesdrivein.com. 10 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm Sunday.
The patty on the Mike's Special ($6.85) is nicely charred, though a little overcooked. The bun melts away as it soaks in the oils and flavors of everything inside, particularly the fatty, chewy bacon that's left. It's also got shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, fry sauce soaking into the bun, and a glorious strip of bacon peeking out, with a dollop of hot cheese sticking to the side, and a drop of oil falling on your lap.
WINNER: Mike's Drive-In. They're both classic burger chains that you have to drive far to get to, but the difference is that one is worth the drive, and one isn't. Mike's Drive-In—with its flavor-soaked bun and melty cheese—left Dea's on the roadside.