230 NW Lost Springs Terrace, No. 22, 746-6322, clutchsausagery.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Hot dogs, they tell us, are the new big thing in upscale old-school. Traveling New York chefs serve them in pop-up form at Castagna, while Alberta Street's Donnie Vegas makes a togarachi-topped version to go with tap cocktails, and Micah Camden promises beer-soaked fast-casual wieners. And at Clutch, former fine-dining octopus guy Ken Norris is bringing high-end hot dogs to the suburbs and Portland airport.
His Clutch "prime sausagery" opened in February in Beaverton's new Timberland Town Center, an upper-middle-class strip mall that will also feature an American outpost of Japan's Kukai Ramen. Clutch is an elegant take on the hot-dog shop, as white and bright as a BBC series' notion of the future. Norris has said in interviews he means the term "clutch" in the fourth quarter/Entourage sort of way, but the food itself seems to clutch entire dishes into the casing of a sausage and bun, each for $9.
A pad thai dog is a saucy pile of peanut, cilantro and Thai sauces smothering chicken-stuffed sausage, a popping panoply of flavors. The duck looks like a frito pie—although it's wontons atop it—with plum-chili sauce and a parsley garnish just like at fancy restaurants in the '80s. The most successful perhaps is the hot smoked rib. It wasn't really hot—that habanero barbecue sauce is pretty subdued—but the rib sausage and slaw with pork rinds on top was a hilariously over-the-top, white-trash indulgence that doesn't even feel like condescension. And it's all theoretically guilt-free, or "thoughtfully sourced." It's the new world of farm-to-intestine sausage, paired with $9 Brussels sprouts.
But while the flavors snap, as do the casings, Norris decided not to include any cheap stomach filler—no fries, no chips—with an already expensive $9 dog. Which is odd, especially in a suburban strip mall. The only option if you're still hungry is to order another $9 item—a mountain of kale, perhaps—or get something on the way home. It's a conundrum. Because at the same time, where else could you get Willie Wonka's meal pill in sausage form: hot wings condensed into hot dogs, with buffalo and blue cheese and ranch and celery all contained in a bite? It's so clutch. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
615 SW Broadway, 299-6666, facebook.com/allwaypdx. Lunch and dinner daily.
[TWO-WAY DOUBLE-DOUBLE] Peter Bro's burger spot in the old Red Coach Restaurant space is still a work in process—early batches of onion rings and chicken wings were big disappointments—but All-Way easily wins a spot in this guide on the strength of its burgers. Until In-N-Out opens in Medford, Bro's "pre-McDonald's" take on fast food is the closest thing you can get to a Double-Double in Oregon. Those burgers are available on Broadway downtown and at Savoy Tavern on Southeast Clinton. The original is $4.50, but you want the 2-way for $5.25. The meat is thin but stratified, with a crispy shell of char and a juicy center. The butter buns baked by Alessio are golden, crushable and, yes, dripping with butteriness, providing a firm handhold for the patty, butter lettuce and American cheese that melts right into the house's spread. The fries are good, too. Now, we need a solid Neapolitan shake. MARTIN CIZMAR.
The Burger Guild
4926 SE Division St., 401-287-4373, theburgerguild.com. Lunch and early dinner Thursday-Saturday, lunch Sunday.
[GRILLED, STUFFED] If you like anything meaty, fried and hard to eat, head to the Burger Guild, which stuffs its burgers with Muenster, cheddar or even Kalamata, and then stacks the sloppy patties high with sloppier toppings. For $8, you can get a pork tenderloin sandwich that has the pork extending up to 6 inches beyond the bun and doesn't have the Midwest's traditional tomatoes, but does have a healthy serving of everything else. It's tangy and crispy and tastes delicious with well-seasoned sweet potato fries ($1.25 extra). Sit in the pavilion's courtyard, peruse one of the Woman's Day magazines you'll find onsite, and feast on the big slab of meat. And dear Lord, don't even get me started on the beer cheese pork burger ($9), a burger made out of ground pork and bacon, then smothered in IPA cheese sauce. KATHERINE MARRONE.
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.
[THINK THIN] 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 are the imported New Mexico green chilies and the smoky house sauce that makes its way into about half the burgers, the perfect double-down on the 1-third-pound burgers' fatty char. Spring for the Jose Mendoza ($8.95) to marry both of these ingredients 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.
[TRY TO KETCHUP] Little Big Burger is in many ways the Starbucks of Portland, the mark of a neighborhood just at the edge of gentrifying. Soon, their little red-and-white sign will pop up—possibly accompanied next door by ramen or doughnuts or their weird cousin-in-scouting, Salt & Straw. But, you know, of all the Portland chains in overdrive, Little Big Burger has the most utility, in part because of Micah Camden's truly transcendent, lightly spiced, umami-dense ketchup, which I would eat with a spoon but prefer with their golden-brown truffle fries. And God damn it, I want that chevre on my burger, which is always meatier and more filling than it looks, and here I can get it. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Otto's Sausage Kitchen
4138 SE Woodstock Blvd., 771-6714, ottossausage.com. Lunch daily.
[OLD DOG, OLD TRICKS] The Eichentopf family has been running this German-style sausage shop for three generations (since 1929), 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 you can always stop by and try one of the many sausages straight from the cooker outside, cooked up on a grill the same way your dad did it. It's the way their dad, did it, too, with some kraut, some mustard, a bun. But when it comes to sausage and dogs, their dad can beat up your dad. Sorry. Within, you can also get sandwiches with fresh-butchered beef whether corned, pastrami or roast, or maybe some house-cured ham or salami. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
4915 NE Fremont St., 281-2322, stanichs.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
[OLD WORLD BURGER] At Stanich's, everyone appears to be winning. There are pennants for every sport that's American, basketball on the TV, and a menu proclaiming the 70-year-old Beaumont institution to have the "World's Greatest Burger" as damn near its only menu item. It is an $8 monster with ham, bacon, egg, veggies, freshly made chuck and secret sauce, prepared meticulously by Stanich's second-generation owner, who is one year older than the bar and spends any spare moments chewing old-fashioned, good-natured bullshit among the regulars. Well, it is indeed the world's greatest burger—juicy, flavorful, redolent with meat and Thousand Island—but only in a different world, one before the age of Slow Bar and Le Pigeon and bistro burgers in general, a world in which the Giants win the pennant, and keep on winning the pennant, forever and ever and ever. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1355 NW Everett St., 894-9528; 3449 N Anchor St., 285-8458; www.tiltitup.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily at Pearl location; lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, breakfast and lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner Saturday at Anchor location.
[POPPED BLUE COLLAR] Tilt sells shirts that say "Working Class" on them. The industrial décor, like the giant machinery in front of the counter, may suggest a world of punch cards, assembly lines and Bruce Springsteen, but the bespectacled laptop users streaming into its Pearl location serve as a reminder that the American Workforce to which Tilt caters looks a lot different than it did when they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late last month. Tilt's menu is essentially a fancier version of of the Turnpike-side diner, full of souped-up burgers like the Mad Andy ($10), which comes loaded with onion rings, jalapeños, bacon, an egg and a giant wedge of iceberg lettuce. They also do biscuits ($4 for the simple honey 'n' butter variety), which are less the flaky, round, buttery affair from Thanksgiving dinner and are instead big, chewy squares that taste like they're fried in grease. But best are the fries ($4). They're nice and crispy, with an optimal level of saltiness and greasiness, a perfect roadside companion for springing from a cage on Highway 9. JAMES HELMSWORTH.