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[Photographs: Adam Lindsley]

Dickie Jo's Burgers

19221 SW Martinazzi Ave., Tualatin OR 97062 (map); 503-783-6135; djburgers.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A good fast food-style burger that needs a bit of tweaking before it reaches greatness
Want Fries with That? Inconsistent, but get the ones tossed in olive oil and parmesan
Prices: 1/3-pound Regular, $4.99; 2/3-pound Double, $6.99

From the moment you step through the front doors of Dickie Jo's Burgers, you have a pretty clear idea of what you're in for. Telltale red-and-white booths, a large griddle on the back wall, the sounds and smells of sizzling beef in the air, it all says one thing: This is a burger joint, by God! And with a few adjustments here and there, Dickie's Jo's could be a burger joint worthy of a lot more attention than it's getting now.

The second of two locations (the first is farther south in Eugene, Oregon), the Tualatin branch of Dickie Jo's comes custom-rigged with gobs of '50s nostalgia, right down to the chrome-rimmed tabletops and the carefully selected font on the neon sign out front. Like Five Guys, probably their closest competitor, Dickie Jo's specializes in fatter patties than most fast food purveyors, but expands the menu to include chicken strips, chili, a few sandwiches, a wedge salad, hot dogs, and desserts. Surprisingly large options aside, make no mistake: the burgers are the cornerstone of this operation.

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Feeling brave (or just particularly ravenous), I started with the Double, a full two-thirds of a pound of beef resting on a house-baked bun and topped with iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onions, and "DJ" sauce, which consists primarily of mayo and ketchup. I opted to add American cheese for 49ยข, although cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, and blue are all available.

The first thing I noticed was the beautiful brown crust on the patties from the griddle:

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I'll say this about the beef, it was not bland. Unfortunately, it was oversalted (and in case you didn't get enough, there are huge canisters of La Baleine sea salt on every table). Also, the patties aren't seasoned with pepper, though they really should be to add that extra layer of flavor and even out the salt a little.

The coarse grind of the beef (an 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio) seems to work against it, because the patties contained more than a few tough pockets of fat that made certain bites difficult to chew. Dickie Jo's doesn't grind the beef themselves, but they really ought to give it a try to help spread the gristle around more efficiently.

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At the counter, you can request your burger cooked "Pink" or "No Pink," and I of course went with the former. "As pink as possible," were my exact words, but the burger arrived pretty close to well done regardless of my decision. It's by no means a dealbreaker for a fast food-style burger, but I wish they had at least given me a little pink as advertised. That said, it was still leaps and bounds better than the hockey puck frozen patties normally used in these burgers, and plenty juicy.

Dickie Jo's bakes their buns in-house, slathers them with butter, and then toasts them. It's a serviceable bun that held up well even under the heavy load of beef on the Double, but it's a little too dense for these burgers; something airier would work much better. The buttery crunch was pretty satisfying on its own, though.

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All in all, the Double was just too much meat for me to handle (boy, if I had a nickel for every time I've uttered those words). I think most people will have a hard time finishing it, which is why the Regular, at just one-third of a pound, is a better option. The harmony between meat and toppings is much more balanced here than with the Double. I went with blue cheese instead of American on this one, and the pungent crumbles weren't lost in the strong flavors of the bun and beef.

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Four options of Northwest Russet fries are available, and all are skin-on and fried in rice bran oil. The fries themselves emerge from the fryer texturally inconsistent; some were nicely crisp while others were flaccid. They're pretty salty, but that's no surprise given the rest of the food. Both the Truffle-Parmesan and the X-Virgin Garlic Oil fries were significant improvements to the standard variety, but the latter was the standout. Tossed with garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil and then dusted with parmesan and Italian parsley, they pack a lot of flavor into relatively small areas.

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Shakes were some of the creamiest I've had anywhere. The chocolate malt was sufficiently malty, and with the exception of the sometimes-inefficiently mixed chocolate syrup, I found little at fault with it. Real ice cream would be a nice upgrade, but it would also jack up the prices, so I'm fine with a soft serve progeny at this price point ($2.99 for a small, $3.99 for a large).

Does Dickie Jo's need work? Yes, it does, if it wants to ever bear comparison to Shake Shack or any of the other establishments elevating the fast food-style burger. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to going back in the near future. By altering their methods just slightly in key problem areas, Dickie Jo's could have a serious contender on their hands that doesn't need nostalgia to sell it.

About the author: Adam Lindsley is a Seattle-based writer, musician, and the author of the pizza blog, This Is Pizza. As a contributor for both Slice and A Hamburger Today, he is contractually obligated to say he loves pizza and burgers in equal amounts. Which is to say he is a polygamist.

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