3449 N Anchor St., 285-8458; 1355 NW Everett St., 894-9528; tiltitup.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Tilt is at the edge of Cheap Eats' purview. The basic burgers are $7, but prices ascend to $13 sans fries for a Brobdingnagian Woody Royale. That burger contains both prime rib and bacon, with beer-battered onion rings and jalapeño slaw to boot, atop an already thick burger patty. I think there was cheese, too, but who could notice? It is a meat casserole in a house-made bun—which struggles nobly to contain it—three textures of beef and pork from crisped to deli-soft. It's the food version of a Hummer driver's middle finger extended at a Prius.
The pastrami-kraut Koolakofsky ($10) stuffs a Reuben into a hamburger; it is a leaning tower of New Jersey, the overflowing spirit of a Walt Whitman who forgot he was vegetarian. One expects a slaughterhouse out back, an inspection of headless pig before it's sliced onto your plate. The panko-cornmeal fried veggie burger, even, is called Fat Farmer ($9), and not for no reason.
On a Friday night in the new Pearl location, the line for a burger may extend to a 45-minute wait, and that's just to order. The beer list is a nice selection of mostly local crafts, but don't expect more than one unless you eat your food while back in the line. And whatever its marketing, Tilt has nothing at all to do with the working class except in the way that Coney Island is working class: The bewildering excess of the place is a carnival and carnal attraction. Even as it fills me with frightened thoughts about the future and what it holds, the sheer muchness of it all injects dopamine into my reptile brain to the point I almost feel drugged. Wall-E world, here I come. Pass the remote. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
4926 SE Division St., 401-287-4373, theburgerguild.com. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
The beef is the gilding on the Burger Guild burger. This cart stuffs the good stuff—the six-item menu includes blue cheese, Kalamata olives, Muenster, feta and more—inside a crust of flame-kissed beef. The process is not especially quick—particularly if you're getting the Jalapeno Cheddar burger, which also requires a fresh-fried onion ring—but it is extraordinarily good. The Guild may be Portland's last, best burger cart (RIP, Burgatroyd), pairing those burgers with sweet potato or crinkle-cut fries (spring for the sweet potato). Iowa's native sandwich, a pizza-sized plank of deep-fried pork tenderloin with little burger buns placed ridiculously atop and below it, is also on offer. MARTIN CIZMAR.
5339 SE Foster Rd., 775-2077, fosterburger.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Its hard to remember the fuss kicked up in Portland's punk-rock bistro burger boom (2008-2011). Foster Burger had an unimpeachable lineage: Trent Pierce, the chef behind our 2013 restaurant of the year, Roe, was involved in the early days, as was Pok Pok's Andy Ricker and journeyman chef Daniel Mondok. At one point owner Kurt Huffman even brought in St. Jack's Aaron Barnett to "revamp" the menu by briefly replacing the buns with ones baked at the Vietnamese bakery next door and adding poutine. (That's gravy and cheese curds—on top of French fries—whoa!) Today, these meaty, char-kissed burgers on sesame buns with gravy-sopped fries are almost as quaint as the old-school metal blaring over the speakers. For $7 you can get a milkshake with a shot of booze in it. Crazy, but that's how it goes. MARTIN CIZMAR.
4644 NE Sandy Blvd., 971-544-7521; 8728 SE 17th Ave., 841-5906; 510 SW 3rd Ave., 946-8946, killerburger.biz. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Killer Burger makes burgers with mandatory bacon. And like a nice Bubbe who knows you're too thin, they also insist you eat your fries with that. Much is made locally of their pregnant woman's combo of peanut butter, bacon and pickles ($8.45), but the real treasure at Killer Burger is those imported New Mexico green chiles and the smoky house sauce that makes its way into about half of their burgers, the perfect double-down on the third-pound-burgers' fatty char. Spring for the Jose Mendoza ($8.45) to marry both these ingredients together and make a food baby. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Little Big Burger
122 NW 10th Ave. and other locations, 274-9008, littlebigburger.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Don't let their seemingly diminutive size deceive you; these burgers pack a punch. Since debuting in 2010, Little Big Burger now has a total of seven restaurants with the same simple six-item menu at each location. Not much has changed since then, giving them time to perfect their elements. The burgers are made with a quarter-pound of juicy beef served with veggies smothered in Camden's catsup, arguably the best ketchup in town ($4), add cheese for $.25. The truffle fries ($2.75) are cooked just right—golden-brown, perfectly seasoned with truffley goodness—and are big enough to share, though you may not want to. SAVANNAH WASSERMAN.
Otto's Sausage Kitchen
4138 SE Woodstock Blvd., 771-6714, ottossausage.com. Lunch daily.
The Eichentopf family has been running this German-style sausage shop for three generations (since 1922), and the sausage-link knowledge seems to have been passed unfettered to the sons and daughters; this is as close as America gets to its own version of old-world cooking. Those links are smoked on wood that comes from the family's property, and they grill them up for you right outside the shop. Or you can get stacked sandwiches inside that make copious use of their housemade ham and bacon, with mustards and kraut straight from the Vaterland. Still: you always end up with more meat in your shopping bag than in your stomach. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
2329 NE Glisan St., 477-5779, slowburger.net. Lunch and dinner daily.
The Slowburger strains the bounds of eatability. A half-pound of perfectly medium-rare beef with a crust of char and a dripping center on a fluffy brioche bun from Grand Central with two thick onions rings, it's tough to stuff this monster into your mouthhole. Born at Slow Bar on Southeast Grand, where it's too dark to see what you're attempting, this epic sandwich spun off into a brightly-lit micro-restaurant in the Ocean. There's no real need to diversify, but the stand-alone Slowburger offers several slight variants—caramelized onion plus bacon from neighboring Tails and Trotters, blue cheese plus pancetta—and a vegetarian version. Really, though, the place could make do with the one item. MARTIN CIZMAR.
4611 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 233-4616, zachsshack.com. Lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Zach's is now a 10-year institution at the edge of Barmuda Triangle (now more of a fading pentagram), a 3-am sausage haunt still redolent of old Portland. The walls host framed band posters from bygone days, plus a sunny painting of an infinitely regressing Zach's Shack tugboat, its hull a bun and dog. Anyway, get the cream-cheese-chili James Brown dog that's permanently on the specials board ($4), or pay a buck extra to use a red-hot sausage instead of hot dog on a Zach's Favorite ($3.75-$4.75) with sport peppers, onions, mustard, celery salt, red relish and a row of crenelated pickle slices. It's like a Polish salad with pain attached, and it'll cauterize the wound of tomorrow's hangover. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | 20 Amazing Bites for $7 and Under
Cheap Eats by Cuisine: African | Breakfast and Brunch | American Comfort
Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Diet: Veg/Gluten-Free/Paleo | Indian | Islands | Japanese
Korean | Latin American | Mexican | Middle Eastern/Med. | Old World | Pizza
Sandwiches | Sweets & Treats | Thai/Cambodian | Vietnamese