For Portland's westsiders, a high-end fast food burger has been hard to come by recently. Both SuperDeluxe in the Pearl and the original Bless Your Heart at Pine Street Market remain closed. Burger Stevens is about to move its out-of-action truck from Pioneer Square to the Prost Marketplace pod on North Mississippi. And nary a shovel has yet been seen at that rumored Shake Shack on West Burnside.
Enter Rough Draft Burger Shop. Spun off from a Seattle burger pop-up of the same name—itself a spinoff from a fancy ticketed dinner and event series—it's owned by Nick Jarvis and Aaron Wilcenski, both of whom have lengthy résumés at bars and restaurants up Interstate 5. In both the Emerald and Rose cities, burgers carts have obviously lent themselves to the era of COVID.
"They ended up feeling like our best way to get takeout food safely in people's hands," says Jarvis. "Low-key fast casual comfort food seems like the wave of the future."
Rough Draft's idea of the perfect burger is fatty, simple and crispy-smashed—just meat, cheese and condiments. There are no tomatoes or lettuce, only raw onion, pickle slices and "RD Sauce," which is mayo-based like many typical housemade sauces but has radish kimchi as the semi-secret ingredient.
At 2.5 ounces—bigger than In-N-Out, smaller than Five Guys—the 75-25 burger patties are just the right size for a hefty but not cumbersome double cheeseburger ($8). You can also get a single ($6), a "junior" with no pickles or onions ($5), or a "bag-o-burgers" ($25 for five). Fries are of the waffle variety ($5), doctored with barbecue seasonings, brown sugar and fresh herbs—think curly fries, but not as soggy—and come with a side of Cheese Whiz.
"We like how well they hold up for takeout," Jarvis says. "Lots of good crispy surface area. We're hopefully in the midst of a waffle fry renaissance."
The dark horse menu item, though? Vegetables. There's one plate that's sort of good for you—a daily selection of crudites with ranch ($4)—and another that does not feel virtuous at all but at least delivers cruciferous vitamins and fiber: fried broccoli with hot cheese, pickled peppers, scallion and crispy jalapeños ($8).
"Solid burgers and nice vegetables are our long-term goal for the shop," says Jarvis. "We love fries, but everyone needs a break."
EAT: Rough Draft Burger Shop at Uptown Beer Co., 6620 SW Scholls Ferry Road, rdburgershop.com. 4-9 pm Wednesday-Thursday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday.