Portland: Fatty Melts and Big Mac Clones at Brunch Box
620 SW 9th Ave, Portland OR (map); 503-287-4377; brunchboxpdx.com
Cooking method: Griddled
Short Order: Big, crazy burgers that are more about entertainment value than being perfect specimens
Want Fries With That? Meh, I'd skip them. The fries were on the dry and cardboardy side
Price: YouCanHasCheeseburger, $7; Burgermeister, $9; fries, $1.50/$4
With the opening of their brick and mortar store on 4/20, Brunch Box expanded out of Food Cart Alley on the corner of SW 5th and Stark, offering Portlanders another place to get their mitts on budget-friendly and hunger satiating grub, including breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers. At both locations, burgers go from over-the-top to Redonkdonk (an actual burger from the Brunch Box menu, topped with egg, bacon, cheese, spam, and ham with grilled cheese sandwiches for buns).
Even with my hotel within easy stumbling distance, I knew I'd need some reinforcements, so brought along my defacto +1 (husband), and met up with Portland AHT contributor Adam Lindsley, thinking two burgers and an order of fries could be culled between the three of us.
Both Adam and I went for fairly understated options: a YouCanHasCheeseburger for me, and a Burgermeister (aka: Big Mac clone) for the gentleman.
The YouCanHasCheeseburger ($7), a take on the fatty melt, features a 1/4 pound of griddled Black Angus beef topped with the typical fixings and condiments, snuggled between two toasty grilled cheese sandwiches. Nailing this burger variant is all about proportion. There's the all-important bread-to-meat ratio, but when you're introducing that much cheese, you've also got to think about dairy-to-everything-else.
Looking at the top photo, you've surely diagnosed yourself that the YouCanHasCheeseburger is a little heavy on the bread. Two slices of Texas toast would probably skew the burger's bread margin, let alone four slices. So yes, I'll confirm it: there is too much bread. But there is also too much cheese. The patty gets a slice, and each slice of bread does too, bringing the total to six slices of cheese. That's way too much for the beef to stand up and be noticed, but let me tell you something: with the mayo, tomato, spreads (ketchup and mustard, if you swing that way), and burger patty thrown in, this is one hell of a grilled cheese sandwich, and that's how you need to think of it.
I'll pass the (greasy) burger baton to Adam and let him weigh in on his selection, the Burgermeister ($9):
With twice the beef of Erin's You Can Has Cheeseburger, the Burgermeister should have packed a meaty wallop, despite the presence of a third bun in the center. No such luck. The overcooked, underseasoned patties barely tasted like anything even when I tore off a hunk and sampled the beef on its own. Compressed to an almost sausage-like consistency, the two slabs of desiccated cow provided textural resistance in each bite and little else. Too bad.
Like the Big Mac it's mimicking, the Burgermeister keeps it simple on the toppings: American cheese, lettuce, grilled onions, pickles, and Thousand Island dressing. The salty cheese came through strongest, followed by the toasted bun, meaning this tasted like a grilled cheese sandwich more than anything. A grilled cheese sandwich with pickles and something vaguely beefy about it that you can't quite grasp however much you'd like to. In other words, it was totally fine example of an admittedly fatter-than-usual cheese sandwich, but a boring example of a double cheeseburger.
Big burgers like you'll find at Brunch Box don't really require a side, but if a burger without fries leaves you with a gaping hole in your soul, these spuds ($1.50/$4) will fill it. I found them to be on the dry side, but Adam liked them, so go figure. If you want fries that are equally as festive as Brunch Box's burger, there are always the "loaded" options ($6-$6.50), like the Black and Blue fries, with Cajun spices and blue cheese, but tread carefully. I found it difficult to remain upright and not groaning after eating only half of the YouCanHasCheeseburger.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax