PORTLAND NEEDS WILLAMETTE WEEK.
NOW WILLAMETTE WEEK NEEDS YOU.

The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

The Le Pigeon Burger: 12 Wonders of Portland Food

"To be a good chef, you need a lot of luck."

The Le Pigeon Burger, at Le Pigeon

738 E Burnside St., 546-8796, lepigeon.com.

The cheeseburger at East Burnside's cramped, clubby Le Pigeon became a cult favorite in part because of chef Gabe Rucker's original practice of limiting the number served in a night to five. "It was never a hard limit," he says. "But after we stopped limiting the number, we actually sold fewer burgers." At a restaurant known for beef bourguignon, duck blanquette and dry sherry, it's odd to see a $14 burger and a $3 bottle of Coors Banquet.

But that burger's success proved wildly influential. Since Le Pigeon's legendary burger debuted in 2006, it's rare to find high-end Portland restaurants that don't offer a bistro burger and a tallboy—a quirk to this town.

As told by Rucker…

"My first day at the restaurant, I was trying to get my head screwed on straight. I was just spitting out ingredients, and somebody wrote them down.

I said, 'We need a burger, and we're going to play off fast food.' I said, 'We're going to make the patty square like Wendy's.' I think Jack in the Box was pushing ciabatta at the time. We used extra-sharp white cheddar from Tillamook, and I love onions on a burger, which stems from eating at In-N-Out a lot—we grill and pickle them so you get the best of both worlds.

And I like iceberg lettuce, which I use as a delivery vehicle for the housemade aioli. It distributes it. The thing I hate is when there are globs of mayonnaise. The Dijon is a spicy Dijon, and for the housemade ketchup I spit out a list of ingredients, we made it, and it's been our ketchup ever since.

Nine years later, newspapers are still calling me about that burger. To be a good chef, you need a lot of luck. Some things you have to abandon, but this came out as a perfect storm."

12WondersArt

The Le Pigeon Burger

Bone Marrow Clam Chowder at Ox

Kachka's Herring Under a Fur Coat

Ike's Wings at Pok Pok

Aviary's Crispy Pig Ear

Holdfast Dining's Cornbread Madeleine

Screen Door's Fried Chicken and Waffle

Nong's Khao Man Gai

The Bunk Pork Belly Cubano

Coppa Steak at Toro Bravo

Fried Kale at Smallwares

Apizza Scholls' Sausage and Mama Lil's