Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Eat up!
Nestled in the rolling farm country of western Oregon, a short distance from Portland but a world away, sits a restaurant and bar that amazingly turns out over one thousand burgers on a busy Saturday. The restaurant is the comfortable Helvetia Tavern (pronounced Hel-VAY-sha) and is way out in the country. Regardless of how far it is from anything, burger lovers gladly make the trek to Helvetia for their signature Jumbo Burger and great selection of microbrews on tap.
The Jumbo is just that—two quarter-pound thin patties of fresh ground beef are cooked on a large flattop griddle and served on a toasted six-inch bun with bacon, cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and the ubiquitous and tasty Pacific Northwest condiment Goop. The bun is larger than the patties, but are arranged slightly overlapping so the burger is presented wider not taller. "That's the way we've always done it," Mike explained. "The single patty is served on a smaller bun." As a finishing touch, the Jumbo is stabbed in the center and delivered with a plastic knife, as Mike explained, "to keep the contents from sliding around."
The tavern side of Helvetia is a comfortably dark, broken-in bar with a 1950 Brunswick pool table that still only costs a quarter to play. A strange collection of caps hangs from the ceiling, some signed by pro-athletes. Mike explained that the 1000s of caps were up there to hide the ugly ceiling. "We take them down twice a year to clean them."
10275 NW Helvetia Road, Hillsboro OR 97124 (map) 503-647-5286 Sun. to Thurs., 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Fri. to Sat., 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.