Best for: Late-night burgers and a lengthy cocktail menu.
While chowing down after a night of drinking, we've all asked ourselves the same question: "Is what I'm eating really this good, or am I only shoveling this into my mouth because I'm drunk?" At Bar Bar, the answer is obvious—the burger really is that good. Cooked with just enough pink in the center to be sloppy, while still maintaining its structural integrity, the Painted Hills grass-fed beef patties are juicy and meld perfectly with the soft potato bun they're served on ($7). The result is a burger that holds together like a champ in one hand, while you force shoestring fries ($2.50) in your mouth with the other. Wash it down with the Sneak Attack boilermaker ($10), a shot of Espolon Blanco tequila served with a Tecate tallboy. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Bless Your Heart Burgers
Best for: Carolina diner-style burgers in a bustling food hall that offers prime people watching.
Any number of aromas wafting through the gastronomically diverse Pine Street Market can easily turn your head, perhaps rendering a burger one of the less exciting options. But Bless Your Heart's stacked creations are anything but dull. For years, John Gorham's ever-growing restaurant empire has been serving knockout bistro burgers, but this food hall joint veers diner style, and it's damn near perfect thanks to a mastery of three critical components. First, there's the patty, with a well-seared crust, its crags concealing a juicy center. That's hugged by a pillowy, slightly sweet Martin's potato roll. And finally, the toppings, which aren't an afterthought—from the thick, rich Duke's mayo to tangy housemade pickles. Though the Carolina burger slathered in chili and slaw is the signature menu item, the LL Cool J ($8.95) comes bedecked with all the classics, plus hefty slabs of bacon and a mound of guac so generous it puts most nacho platters to shame. ANDI PREWITT.
Best for: The quintessential all-American meal: burger, fries and soft serve.
Though the original Burger Stevens cart is no longer parked on Capitol Highway, owner Don Salamone has expanded to Pioneer Courthouse Square and inside eastside club Dig A Pony. The key to his near-perfect Shake Shack-style burgers is simplicity: nicely charred patties, melty cheese, crisp veggies and a gloriously buttered Franz bun. Order a regular cheeseburger ($7) with a slightly runny fried egg ($1) and grilled onions instead of the standard double cheeseburger ($9) so you'll still have room for a cone of creamy vanilla soft serve ($3). MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Best for: White Castle-style sliders that taste better than White Castle's.
Sometimes a microwaved Oscar Mayer wiener hugged by store-brand white bread slathered in ketchup made for a fine lunch as a kid when rations dwindled in the kitchen. Canard's sliders ($6) couldn't help but remind me of those impromptu meals—the mini-burgers, with their slices of bright orange American cheese and Franz Hawaiian rolls, sound like something an exhausted parent would throw together for dinner instead of dragging their weary bones to the store to restock. Gabriel Rucker's most popular menu item since opening this restaurant shoehorned next to Le Pigeon last year—second only, perhaps, to the Duck Stack pancakes—is a nod to White Castle. Since I grew up in Oregon and never felt compelled to eat at one when visiting the Midwest, I have no nostalgia for the country's first fast food chain. But any heartland transplants who've tried to re-create the sliders of their youth by nuking homemade versions under a plastic bowl now have an easier way to get their hands on a steamed burger. The craggy patty enrobed in melted cheese has no regard for the boundary of the bun. Simply dressed with pickles, Lipton French onion soup mix and mustard, the small square sandwiches are heavier—and more filling—than they look. Go all in on the junk food theme and order a tangle of McDonald's-crisp fries dusted with shaved Gouda ($6). But also treat yourself to an adult beverage, because how often do you find yourself in a place that serves both deliciously trashy burgers and high-end bubbles? ANDI PREWITT.
Hit the Spot
Best for: Bargain-priced "farm-to-table" burgers and fries…and nothing more.
4615 NE Sandy Blvd., hitthespot.net. 11 am-7 pm Monday-Saturday. $.
If you ever stopped for a burger at a drive-in as a kid, whether after a Little League win or a day trip to the Gorge, you'll think back to those moments at Hit the Spot, only these stacked sandwiches are much better. Owner Jeremy Sivers loves burgers so much he hands out gummy burgers as a complimentary amuse bouche. After that, the only decisions to make are hamburger-related: Do you get one plain or with cheese (both are $4.95)? Add bacon (95 cents)? Make it a two-patty ($1.95)? Double down on that meat, as Hit the Spot's 3.5-ounce patties of 100 percent chuck from Cascade Farms are smashed especially thin. Even a triple would fit into most mouths (the cart record, set in September, is a dozen patties). JASON COHEN.
Best for: Deconstructing a burger with a knife and fork.
2329 NE Glisan St., 503-477-5779. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 11 am-7 pm Sunday. $-$$.
This food cart-turned-stationary brick-and-mortar designs burgers more than it cooks them. Layers of beef, cheese and almost any other ingredient you can think to add are presented as multistory towers, and require an unhinged jaw to take a full bite. The Glisan shop, painted in bright primary colors, injects burgers with off-the-beaten-path flavors, like the Luni Burger ($15.50), served with a pineapple mango habanero chutney, or the Silly Burger ($15.50), which comes with Cool Ranch Doritos. And the signature Stoopid Burger ($15.75) bombards you with an entire breakfast plate: Cheddar, bacon, ham, a hot link and a delicious runny egg are piled high on the patty. Don't count on the toothpick to help hold these monsters together as you dig in. Grab some utensils. JORDAN MONTERO.
Best for: Classic cheeseburgers, shakes and fries, just like at the drive-ins of days past.
5009 SE Powell Blvd., 870 NW 13th Ave., eatsuperdeluxe.com. Powell: 7 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 7 am-midnight Friday-Saturday. Northwest: 8 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 8 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $.
When it comes to fast food in Portland, there are two choices: You can have it good, or you can have it fast, but never both at once. Super Deluxe, however, has achieved quality and efficiency by focusing on just a handful of menu items, specifically a cheeseburger ($4.75 single, $5.75 double), a chicken sandwich ($5.75), chicken nuggets ($4.25 five-piece, $5.50 eight-piece), and breakfast ($2.75-$3.75). The burgers it churns out are a fistful: thick, juicy, blanketed in cheese, and available with one patty or two. Throw in a side of crispy, crinkle-cut fries ($2.75) and a thick milkshake ($4) to achieve the trifecta of the American fast-food experience. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Best for: Massive burgers meant to be shamelessly and messily
1355 NW Everett St., 503-894-9528, 22 NE 2nd Ave., Suite 100, 971-420-2165, 3449 N Anchor St., Suite 200, 503-285-8458, tiltitup.com. Northwest: 8 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 8 am-midnight Friday-Saturday. Northeast: 11 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-12 midnight Friday-Saturday. North: 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday. $.
The challenge at Tilt is figuring out how to eat the burgers. The innovative combinations of toppings on many of the patties come stacked inches high and skewered like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Carne Jefe ($11-$12), for example, is a staggering pile of avocado, jalapeños, tomato and Monterey jack cheese melted between two beef patties. You have to deconstruct it before eating, but it's well worth it. Another standout is the Groundhog ($12), a ridiculously decadent combination of sautéed mushrooms, extra-thick bacon, an onion ring and a "cheese bomb," which is a cube of fried cheese that oozes out slowly with each bite (at the 2nd Avenue location just off East Burnside). In contrast to the over-the-top burger choices, the atmosphere at Tilt is casual and reminiscent of a cafeteria. Everything, including deliciously crispy and thin-cut fries ($4, $6), comes on paper-lined metal trays. Don't be shy. Roll up your sleeves and make a mess like everyone around you. ELISE HERRON.
Best for: Dirt-cheap tallboys and a juicy burger in a refurbished dive.
2622 SE Belmont St., 503-233-7851. Noon-2:30 am Tuesday-Friday, 11 am-2:30 am Saturday-Monday. $.
The enduring charm of the Vern, as it was commonly known due to its faulty red neon "TAVERN" sign, was that it weathered multiple waves of change with one foot planted firmly in the grave. When rumors of its impending demise circulated last year, longtime regulars pre-emptively mourned another casualty of the city's endless war between condos and character. But then, Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault swooped in. The duo behind the Elvis Room and Double Barrel have amassed a small empire of nouveau dives. The rebooted Vern—now its official name—bears closest resemblance to their rehab of the Sandy Hut in 2015. Behind the bar, it's business as usual. Tallboys of PBR and Tecate are $3, while craftier brews are $6. The food menu features Boothby and Archambeault's customary spread of fried snacks served with salty dipping sauces, but here the burger is what really stands out, and it's served with fries, tots or a salad for a mere 10 bucks. The juicy, puck-sized patty comes dripping with sweet and salty flavor from "Vern sauce," a clever riff on Thousand Island, and loaded with thick, smoky slabs of tender bacon. The bun is just big enough to sop up all the grease, acting like a soft, airy sponge. PETE COTTELL.