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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Sideshow Eatery

SW 9th Ave & SW Washington St., Portland OR 97205 (map); 503-208-6681; sideshoweatery.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: Tasty grass-fed beef burgers served up plain and simple (or super fancy)
Want Fries With That? Nope! You want to upgrade to poutine. It's not authentic, but it's still awesome
Price: Single Burger, $5; Little Poutine, $5

For lunch in downtown Portland, there's no better place to go than the food carts. Throughout the city center throngs of local, independent purveyors of tasty eats are arranged in pods, selling everything from big, juicy bratwurst to heaping containers of pad thai. With such an international array of items offered, it may seem counter intuitive to get a burger, but the grass-fed, fast food-style burger at Sideshow Eatery makes a worthy argument for keeping things simple. Besides, there's also poutine.

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In keeping with the "test the baseline burger before going bananas" principles of AHT reviewing, I went with the most basic burger ($5): a griddled 1/4-pound patty with the standard roughage and a gob of housemade burger sauce, which tasted like a spicy take on Thousand Island dressing. The thin grass-fed beef patty, sourced exclusively from Cascade Natural Beef, was nicely seasoned and lightly browned, with a fattier, less grassy flavor than most grass-fed beef I've tasted. If you need a little something extra, you can always add bacon, pork belly, or a second patty.

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For a classic cheeseburger, it's great. All elements are executed well, and that little pop of spice from the sauce is a welcome addition.

There's also the Fancy Burger ($9.50), a more gluttonous option features a 1/3-pound patty cooked in duck fat and topped with arugula, white cheddar, Gruyère, and white truffle mayo. But going with the most standard burger presentation felt like the smart option since I also ordered what felt like a pound of poutine ($5).

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Behold, the glory that is fries doused with gravy and topped with a pile of cheese curds! Sideshow does this iconic French Canadian dish up a bit differently. Namely, the gravy is a vegetable stock thickened with a roux, and the curds are cheddar.

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Owner Jason Myers explained that he's tried to find a source for fresh curds (and has even attempted making them himself), both to no avail. Even though the curds aren't fresh enough to squeak, they stand up to the warm gravy, holding their shape and maintaining a chewy texture. There's also a ton of them. My best estimates put the fry-to-cheese ratio at about 60/40. Conclusion: Sideshow's poutine may not be by-the-book traditional, but it was more than good enough for me to holster my index finger, which I'm normally tempted to wag in the face of all poutine imitators. Translation: poutine good, Canadian reviewer approves.

If by some miracle you've saved room for dessert, there are beignets and soft serve. I can't comment on either since I was reserving any excess stomach real estate for poutine. I suggest you do the same.

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

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