On Wednesday, we begin a big, beefy battle to pick the best burger in Portland.
Burger Madness is a seeded tournament pitting 64 Portland patties against each other. Our critics ate through the list and will reveal their picks round by round until the best burger in Portland is crowned.
You can complete your own bracket this week. Whoever gets the closest to our winners will get $150 to spend on drinks and burgers at Bar Bar on Mississippi.
Welcome to Burger Madness! This is the play-in round, where we will determine the 16 seed that will face the top seed in the four regional brackets: bar, brewpub, bistro and classic burger.
5325 E Burnside St., 503-208-3544, tabortavern.com. 11 am to 11 pm Monday-Wednesday, 11 am- midnight Thursday-Saturday, 10 am-11 pm Sunday.
Scouting report: Arugula! Bacon jam! Blue cheese! Brioche! The '90s!
The Tabor Burger ($13 with fries, soup or salad) is precisely what would happen if a hamburger got attacked by an episode of Frasier: arugula, brioche bun, blue cheese and bacon jam. But it comes together better than expected—a balance of fat against salt and bitterness, rather than acidity. But is it weird I sometimes feel I'm eating a Cobb salad?
Brooklyn Park Pub
3400 SE Milwaukie Ave, 503-234-7772. 2 pm-2:30 am Monday-Friday, Noon-2:30 am Saturday-Sunday.
Scouting report: A dirt-cheap American-cheese smashburger at a local-loved whiskey dive
Brooklyn Park Pub is one of the least likely whiskey bars in town, a neighborhood dive whose wall is plastered with beaver shots everyone swears are actually woodchucks, not beavers. Their burgers are a neighborhood standby (and a special favorite of our circulation director.) We went for the most basic of the basic, the $8 cheeseburger with McDonald's-style fries topped with American cheese—although for 50 cents more, the BPP offers a wide selection of different cheeses.
The BPP cheeseburger is hearty, classic and dirt-cheap—a big messy monster of white-bread bun, many pickles, lettuce, secret sauce, thick tomato and seasoned beef, smothered in that all-American cheese. The patty was generous enough it just about drooped over the tomato it sat on—but it also tipped a bit salty.
Winner: The $13 Tabor Burger just barely edged out that BPP smashburger in scoring. if we'd been assessing on flavor-per-value, Brooklyn might have won the day. But in Burger Madness, flavor is absolute: Fancy tavern burger beat classic pub burger.