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SEA/PDX Burger Throwndown: The Final Round

Wild Card Round: Katsu Burger (SEA) vs Slow Bar (PDX)


I’m not even sure if this is a fair fight. I’m such a Japanophile that the minute I heard there was a place called Katsu Burger, I knew I had to run and eat there immediately. While quite off the beaten path of downtown Seattle, located in an industrial park in the Georgetown neighborhood, I promise that when you make the trek you won’t be disappointed. The walls are adorned with kawaii illustrations, whacky Japanese burger signage and other Anime lover/Otaku favorites. The burgers are named awesome things like the Tokyo Tower, Gozilla Attack and the Ohayu Gozaimasu. Their fries can be topped with Japanese curry or Nori flakes. They even have a black sesame milkshake (my fav!). The burgers are all served “tonkatsu” style (tonkatsu is traditionally a breaded & fried pork culet) but you can also order your burger with beef, chicken or tofu.

I opted for the traditional beef Ohayo Gozaimasu burger, while Brian chose pork. Since “Ohayo Gozaimasu” means “Good Morning” in Japanese, the burger was topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar, Japanese mayo (the Kewpie kind) and Tonkatsu sauce (yum!).  It was love and first bite. Despite all the toppings, the presentation under the bun was perfect – definitely up to other Japanese food standards I have experienced. I wish there was an East Coast equivalent to this burger; I want it again soooooooo bad! It was all the things I love in a burger but on a burger that was deep fried! If that doesn’t scream AMERICAN, then I don’t know what does. Katsu Burger was hands down the winner before I even ate the next.



Our runner-up here is Slow Bar in Portland, one of the staples on their “best burger in the city” list. In an innocuous bar on the other side of the Willamette from Downtown Portland you’ll find Slow Bar, which is I’m sure a comfy hipster bar at night but we were there at 2 in the afternoon. I ordered up their Summer Slowburger (since it was nearly 100 degrees out) which is 1/2lb. Painted Hills natural beef, Grafton white cheddar, heirloom tomato, iceberg lettuce, dill pickle.

I ordered it medium and it came out more on the well side, which was a disappointment (a disappointment I seem to be having far too frequently, sadly). It was on one of those cute seeded buns again, made of nicely toasted, soft challah bread. I loved the heirloom tomato and the pickles; presentation was great. And it wasn’t heavy tasting thanks to the natural beef! (They need to get on that trend out here.) If it had been cooked the way I asked, this could have made the race much closer. Still, it was a decent burger that I’d love to try again.
That makes the final burger score: SEA, 2 – PDX, 1.

Sorry Portland, you’ll just have to try harder next time! (Or at least seem like you’re trying less hard since that’s the ironic, hipster thing to do, right?)

SEA/PDX Burger Throwdown, Part 2

2nd Category: Fast Casual

Contenders: Red Mill Burgers (SEA) vs Little Big Burger (PDX)


Red Mill was another one of those “Can’t leave town without eating there” burger places. Slightly outside downtown Seattle limits in North Queen Anne, we took a 15 minute bus ride to this little roadside delight which is a reincarnation of the 1937 original that was located in Capitol Hill. They serve up flame broiled 1/4 lb patties and are cash-only, so bring your friends Abraham Lincoln and George Washington along for the trip.

I went with the Red Mill deluxe with cheese, which is topped with American Cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, and their signature Mill sauce. Guys, this thing tasted like a Whopper. And not like a gross, 3 AM Whopper that you pick up on your way home from the bar, or something just slapped together and oozing out from under the bun on some wrapped BK printed paper; it was like a gourmet Whopper. That classic, flame broiled taste you remember as a kid (before you realized fast food was the devil), the pickles, the soft seeded bun – it was all in here. Originally I promised that I would share with Brian since he got the Red Onion Jam burger, but then I remembered I hate a ton of onions and that this was too fucking good for me to not eat it all. (Sorry! #fatkidproblems)


Down the coast, we headed to Little Big Burger in Downtown Portland, where they’re serving up 1/4 lb. of cascade natural beef, local cheeses, organic veggies and Camden’s catsup on tiny brioche buns.

I got mine with Tillamook cheddar, mostly just because it’s fun to say ‘Tillamook”. It was cooked to order and had a nice, pink center – and looked totally cute! (I love when my food looks cute.) They also had truffle fries, which reminded me of 500 degrees here in Philly – but they were definitely not hand cut and probably frozen, which gave them a strange taste when mixed with the truffle oil.

Winner of Round 2: Red Mill Burgers for sure. The classic, Whopper-esque taste definitely gave it the edge over Little Big Burger.

Point count: Currently tied with SEA, 1 – PDX, 1

Oh, you fancy huh?

Now that I have awakened from my Seattle/PDX food coma, the time has come to share all the delicious bites with you in various installments. I figure I’ll get the biggest and best part of the trip out of the way: a seven-course tasting menu that we enjoyed at Le Pigeon in Portland. (We originally went in foolishly thinking we would only do the five-course tasting, but the motto of this trip was go big or go home, so we went for the full seven.) Manned by James Beard award winning chef, Gabriel Rucker, this bistro requires reservations made well in advance for table seating, but also boasts a chef’s counter for walk-ins – if you’re lucky enough to snag one. The menu changes weekly, but also features a lot of dishes that are in regular rotation like Beef Cheek Bourguignon and their signature Pigeon with liver toast, grapes and white anchovies.

I apologize in advance for the low quality of some of the pictures; we didn’t want to distract from the other patrons around us with flashes and crazy camera angles.

Course 1: course one: rabbit & eel terrine (peaches, avocado, foie-miso vinaigrette)

Course 2: course two: pork tongue (refried lentils, poblano cream, radish)

Course 3: course three: pigeon (liver toast, grapes, white anchovies)

Course 4: course four: sturgeon au poive (bacon, roasted cipollini, dates, port mustard)

Course 5: course five: beef cheek bourguignon
(atop some kind of mashed potato thing with a side of cold roasted potatoes dusted in rosemary & thyme)
Course 6: course six: lou bergier pichin toma (raw cow’s milk) (blackberry scone, cardamom, creme fraiche)

 Final course: Dessert! – foie gras profiteroles (caramel sauce, sea salt) & honey, bacon, apricot cornbread (maple ice cream)
[Thank you, Oregon for not banning Foie! This was out of this world!]

I paired my dinner with a Riesling flight from one of the Willamette Valley’s oldest vineyards, Brooks, featuring an ’07, ’08 and an ’09, as well as a Pinot & Auxerrois Blanc from the Walter Scott vineyard. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but they were all beautiful and crisp. Plus, they were local! (I was afraid the Portlandia Gods would shame me for not doing the whole local/organic thing)

Le Pigeon was well worth the trip, and the tasting menu price tag was nearly half of anything you would get here on the East Coast and just as beautiful and well-conceived. I would go back in a heartbeat! Definitely make it a priority if you’re planning a trip to the PDX.
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