$ Cheap (entrees less than $10)
$$ Average (entrees $10-$18)
$$$ Expensive (entrees $19-$25)
$$$$ Half a paycheck (entrees $26 and up)
Ratings are based on a four-star scale
**** Excellent food, creative items and top notch service.
*** Good food, good value and nothing below reasonable expectations.
** Two stars are given to restaurants that are adequate but need improvement. You wouldn’t go out of your way to eat there again unless changes in quality and menu were made.
* One star is reserved for places that you would not recommend under almost any circumstances.
Mutiny Brewing Company
600 N. Main Street, Joseph
In a land where a burger means a factory-made quarter-pound patty, the hand-formed, loaded 6 Ranch Burger at Mutiny Brewing Company is worth coveting. Four years old in June, this airy, blonde-wood eatery sets a higher bar by sourcing its meat from just eight miles away and making most menu items in house. That includes the veggie burger ($10), falafel ($10) and hummus ($7.50)— representing the half-dozen vegetarian and vegan options to satiate your non-carnivorous dining companions. Four flavors of handcrafted beers on tap make the expansive views from its deck and patio sweeter. Back to the burger, which stops conversations with its proportions and the steak knife plunged straight through its tender focaccia bun. The eight-ounce grass-fed beef burger changes seasonally, but always features bacon, caramelized onions and melting cheese. It is a four-napkin affair. Order it medium-rare to maintain maximum juiciness in the extra-lean ground beef—with the side of roasted potato wedges—for a taste as local as it gets.
Little Bird Bistro
219 SW 6th, Portland
To enjoy Gabriel Rucker’s famous burger, you must firrst get past the reception. Little Bird Bistro’s acclaim is also its curse. With fare enticing enough to fill the restaurant night after night, reservations are needed weeks in advance. Dropping in is ill-advised. If first impressions still matter, it wasn’t a good start. At last, a table, but only if I promised to finish my meal within eighty minutes. I took the challenge. The burger was worth the New York greeting. Natural ground beef topped with locally made Tillamook white cheddar, grilled pickled onions, iceberg lettuce slaw and a symphony of house-made aioli, ketchup and Dijon mustard was elegantly presented on a grilled ciabatta roll. A steal of a dinner deal at $12, with choice of fries or butter lettuces. Enjoy with sides: roasted Brussels sprouts with orange chili butter, macaroni gratin or goat cheese creamed kale ($6-$8.) My eighty minutes expired. I wasn’t offered a dessert menu, though my server delivered delectable mini hamburger-shaped confections with my bill and a timer. Bottom line: Plan ahead and reserve time to experience Little Bird’s succulent burger challenge.
3 Locations, Eugene
When a restaurant wins “Best Burgers in Eugene” three years running, you know it’s doing something right. Cornucopia definitely ranks as a top hangout for students, families, and young professionals looking for great food and local beers at decent prices. Among the restaurant’s delicious offerings are Wild Bill’s bacon BBQ burger ($11.95) and the Big Boom Swiss and Shroom burger ($11.50). All burgers are free of hormones and antibiotics, and made with beef from Eugene’s Knee Deep Cattle Company. Vegetarians will love Cornucopia’s homemade garden “vurgers,” handmade with tempeh and black beans. JB’s Garden Vurger ($11.50) comes smothered in guacamole, salsa and pepper jack cheese. All burgers come with a side of some of the tastiest battered french fries in town. (Insider tip: order a side of chipotle ranch dressing as a dipping sauce). In the mood for something different? Try the chicken taco salad ($11.50) or the tempeh reuben ($9.50). Pair any of these with the Frog’s Wort Pale Ale, the house brew or one of the other local beers.
101 E. Main Street, Medford
A great burger isn’t something you would expect from a tapas restaurant, but Elements Tapas Bar & Lounge in Medford delivers just that. Although complex in nature, this burger melds the flavors of Spain into a singularly savory and satisfying experience. The burger itself is a decadent mixture of lamb, Spanish chorizo, fresh thyme and smoked paprika. After it’s grilled, the burger is topped with Manchego cheese, caramelized onions and piquillo pepper aioli, and then served atop perfectly toasted slider buns, made by SunStone Artisan Bakery in Ashland. Elements lovingly serves its sliders with an assortment of house-made condiments: smoked ketchup, whole-grain mustard, seasonal pickles and fried root vegetable chips. Try it with one of the many local brews on tap.