100 Burgers, 100 Days

The goal: eat 100 burgers in the 100 days from June 20th to September 27th.

The rules are self described. The rewards unknown and unimportant. The risks manageable. Let it begin.

Follow the posts here: The Posts

Follow the burger map here: The Map

Track my destruction of health and finance here: The Metrics

Suggest a burger here: Suggest a Burger

Send me an email: hamonrye@synercorp.com

Burger 108 Day 102: Brother Jon’s Downtown, The Big Machell

I just figured it out. “What the hell is a The Big Machell?” I’d wondered ever since ordering it. Double patty. Special sauce. Sesame seed bun. Owner’s name is John Machell. Ooooohhhh. It’s their spin on The Big Mac. 

Ain’t that cute.

This is the closest I’ve come to a repeat in my months of burgers. I’d had a burger at Brother Jon’s on Galveston (106 burgers ago, but who’s counting). Now I’m at the downtown location. But as far as repeats go, I’m glad this is one of them. Bro Jo’s makes a good burger. 

The menus and atmosphere of each location are different enough to warrant a visit to each. Downtown feels more like an actual pub, a bit more communal and warm and neighborly. The Galveston location is great for showing up still wearing a bib number from a race or ski pants from the slopes. It’s simply a different tone.

The burgers downtown all focus around double 1/4 pound patties. I’m a huge fan of this approach if you can pull it off. A 1/2 pound is big no matter what, but attempting a single patty can become a bit too… beefy. Double patty allows for more surface area to soak up the char and grilling awesomeness, but it’s the skilled cook who can keep each patty medium and not overly dobe. Brother Jon’s hires those cooks.

And ask for the bomb sauce for the fries. It’s just fry sauce with liquid smoke added, but a fun diversion from full on ketchup.

Score: 4.25 of 5
Price: $12.50 with fries
Beer: Double Mountain Vaporizer Ale

Burger 107 Day 101: Timbers Bar & Grill, Burger & Brew Special

Another day, another lodge themed sports bar, another part of town. Supposedly of the same seed as Cascade West and Mountains Edge, Timbers represents the more casual bar experience when you’re deep east. When the crowds of Worthy and the silver hair of Phoenix don’t fit the mood: Timbers it is.

I’d been warned of their food quality, apparently the scariest of the triad. But it was Wednesday, Burger & Brew night, and here we were. Timber’s Facebook page declares it one of the best in town. Timber’s Yelp page declares it many, many other things than “Best.”

And ultimately, I’ve had worst. Certainly. But this was the first where I looked at the beef, studying the dry grainy texture, attempting to forensically reconstruct its past, and actually hoped that it had been fully cooked and frozen and stuffed in a plastic resealable bag with its brethren at some point before this point. For it to be here, now, in this condition, and to have been raw recently, to have been handled and formed and cooked and somehow become… this… That gave me fear. 

But maybe that’s why it’s basically free when your order a beer and fries. It’s not Burger & Brew night, no, think of this as Free Burger with Beer and Apps night. You’ll sleep better.

Score: 2 of 5
Price: $8 with fries and beer
Beer: Rainier

Burger 106 Day 100: La Magie, Bacon Cheeseburger

To catch the eye of the visiting traveler the downtown bakeries specialize in sweetness. Powdered sugar on cookies and cakes all sized as snacks but purchased by the bag full. La Magie itself sits like the overly frosted birthday cake of a 14 year old girl, all pastels and printed swirls and sparkle. 

I had simply assumed they didn’t have burgers beneath the confection. But when I’d stopped in to see if they offered a brioche bun as I was gathering prospects for The Burger 100 I was surprised to see they offered half a page of burger choices. As if they’re proud of their burger skills and creativity. 

They didn’t sell their brioche buns to the public  claiming they bake them as a loaf. This statement confused me but I didn’t seek clarification. I left empty handed except for adding yet another burger place to the inventory. But now I’m back, sitting on the patio for a late lunch, feeling a little judged as I sit beneath the painted window and cartoon lettering and general quilt-shop ambiance of the place. The burger took a while and had all the hallmarks of a short order cook who doesn’t see many burger orders come through: overcooked patty, cheese not completely melted, bacon fried to dryness, and all assembled long since cooled. Likewise the bun was off kilter, a touch stale and overly sweet.

They did put lettuce on the bottom, though. Somebody, at some time, had known how to build a burger. But over time that knowledge and skill faded to the pastry shop burger here today. 

Score: 2.5 of 5
Price: $11.35
Beer: Boneyard RPM

Burger 105 Day 99: The Phoenix, The Phoenix Burger

There’s honestly not much to say about The Phoenix. I’d thought it was another Chinese restaurant so it’d been low on my list and I was surprised to hear it was actually a classic suburban American roadhouse style restaurant (it was even supposedly the previous location of Kayo’s Roadhouse). I guess nobody I know frequents the place or thinks to mention it. Plus it really seems to cater to the same aging alcoholic demographic that frequents Pine Tavern. 

It’s a big place but not too busy, sort of comfortably underwhelming. Basic mediocre American dining experience. The burger was decent. Fries were good. Service cordial. Parking convenient. 

Score: 3.5 of 5
Price: $12.00 with fries
Beer: Sunriver Vicious IPA

Burger 104 Day 97: Mitchell Stage Stop, Mushroom Swiss Burger

I’d hiked in the Ochocos Mountains a few times, always spending a bit longer than I’d planned on a peak staring northeast to the shimmering dust and rock of the desert beyond. I’ve always been drawn to deserts, and this weekend I’d finally made it through the Ochocos to explore the land beyond.

It’s generally understood that the Cascade Range divides Oregon between west and east, but I’d argue that line has been pushed slowly further east as the popularity and population has advanced down the eastern Cascade slopes. Now passing through the Ochocos out to Mitchell or through the flat desolation to Burns is required to feel that sharp departure to a lifestyle so detached it goes beyond even being being classified as rural. Simply existence. Somehow.

For a town of only 150 souls, Mitchell still offers two places to grab burgers: the Sidewalk Cafe and the Mitchell Stage Stop (formerly the Little Pine Cafe). The Stage Stop promises the “Best Burgers East of the Ochocos!” Naturally I headed there.

It aims for a cute 50’s mountain diner, with old movie posters and Marilyn Monroe calendars and the satellite radio tuned to Classic Texas Honky Tonk. Inside some hefty local hunters order burgers. Outside tourists stop their cars just long enough to take pictures of the old Pine building.

The cuteness fades with attention to detail. Sitting next to an old decorative spice rack is a small framed print with crude skull and crossbones surrounded by the lettering “This establishment is ROAD MAGGOT approved.” Cases of Busch beer line the back wall, next to an old glass front cooler with a tub of questionable raw shrimp floating in a tub of water. I have to wonder the journey those shrimp must have endured even before their current resting place. Flies hover about unmenacingly. The freshly made coffee tastes like stale truck stop black.

The burger was good though and I certainly can’t argue the claim of being the best burger east of the Ochocos. For all I know there’s only a couple more between here and Idaho.

Score: 3 of 5
Price: $13. 95 with fries

Burger 103 Day 96: Blackened Dragon, Dragon Burger

Earlier in the week I’d noticed the Blackened Dragon food trailer in the parking lot next to Atlas Cider. I wandered over to see if they had burgers and the owner excitedly told me about their Friday-only burger special, the Dragon Burger, a barley beef burger he was very proud of.

Now it’s Friday and I’d been sitting outside waiting for the trailer to open. It was supposed to open three hours ago. The trailer next door says he should definitely open at some point. The Blackened Dragon Facebook page was already bragging about the burger. Ben and I muched on free popcorn debating how long to wait.

Then I saw the owner wandering about the parking lot. I moved to intercept. He seemed to feel I was focused on him and changed his path to put several rows of parked cars between us. Like a Pacman ghost I anticipated his new route and altered my course. I confronted him and made my burger plea.

Through puffy red eyes he promised to be open in 10 minutes. He explained that he’d partied pretty hard last night and had been slow to get things open today. I hold no judgement, but am certainly impressed of any night out that can make it difficult to get to work by 6:00pm. Well done.

The burgers were delivered as promised and were really damn good. The patty had a blackened seasoning, maybe a hint of Old Bay in there. Above the patty, freshly made coleslaw. Below it the aioli and caramelized onions. A toasted brioche bun holding it together. It came together perfectly.

If you can find Blackened Dragon, and it’s a Friday, and they’re open, get the burger. It’s worth the effort.

Score: 3.74of 5
Price: $10 with fries
Beer: Poor Man’s Black Velvet

Burger 102 Day 95: Joolz, Organic Elk Kafta Burger

Joolz is such an ethnically focused restaurant that I never thought to check it for burgers. But their menu actually lists three burger options of three separate mammals: beef, elk, and lamb. I, as always, underestimated the breadth of burger.

Walking into Joolz feel like walking into the poorly lit guest bathroom of my late grandmother’s house. But, you know, in the good ways. That warm moist air. The aroma of a half forgotten bowl of potpourri. The last few incandescent bulbs left in America. The decorations that started with strong intent but quickly waned when the local Pier One Imports shut down. Plus lots of old people.

I debated between lamb or elk, ultimately falling for the peppers and spice promoted on the elk burger. All burgers are served on Sparrow Bakery brioche buns, my chosen champion of local burger buns, so I was excited. I was also excited about the default option of sweet potato fries and the curry ketchup.

The fries ended up being a mix of standard and sweet potato. Like they had run low on the good stuff and had to dilute them down. Everything about the burger was great except the patty, which was a bit dry and had a certain soapy taste. Like too much coriander. Fortunately I was distracted by the endless supply of very exotic and flavorful drinks that can be ordered off the multiple cocktail menus. Very distracted. My head still aches.

Score: 3 of 5
Price: $16 with fries
Some of the drink ingredients: basil, sage, fresno peppers, ginger, and mango


Burger 101 Day 94: Bistro 28, All Natural Buffalo Burger

I’m past Burger 100. Off the map. This is no longer a game but a lifestyle. I’m too deep in. Too far gone to return. I can’t remember the taste or chicken. Of pizza. Of salad. Of anything listed under “entree” on the menu.

It’s partly cloudy and cold and dusty on this last day of summer deep on the west side of town. My target is Bistro 28, the cafe inside the Athletic Club of Bend, a sort of gym trying hard to be a country club. The parking lot had been overrun for a Cyclocross bout. I saw some friends off on their bikes as they raced and stumbled through dust and around corners and over jumps on a serpentine course. I’d lost interest quickly and headed inside for the burger.

From the outside The Athletic Club looks and feels like a public middle school. Concrete brick facade with teal trim and large pull through drive way. I felt a tinge of apprehension approaching the front doors on my own beat, no teachers or backpacks or class bells to dictate my arrival. The entrained fear of authority doubled up as a front desk of sharp dressed greeters smiled falsely at me as I stepped inside. The glare of “state your business” forced me to bow my head in submission and I managed only a slight nod towards the entrance of the restaurant.My passage was permitted.

I felt more at ease at the bar. The bartender’s false glow was undermined by his sincere interest to bypass his own boredom in this darkly lit gym cafe. Country club restaurants always remind me of airport restaurants: a false sense of elitism, like just the act of being here somehow puts you above the rest, above the ruffians scurrying about their useless days.

The only burger option was buffalo. The only bun option pretzel. I opted for bacon but that request was lost in idle translation. The result was good, sure, but unremarkable. But the fries. Damn, those are good fries. I shoveled them through the chipotle aioli and into my mouth faster than appropriate. I only learned later this was the sister restaurant to Zydeco, that place of legendary shoestring fries. If only they could carry over the burger abilities.

Score: 3.5 of 5
Price: $14 with fries
Beer: Crux Pilz

Burger 100 Day 93: My Apartment, The Burger 100

Burger 100. It seemed like a big deal. Even weeks ahead my burger compatriots were demanding to know my plans. Where would it be?! I’d debated making one of the Bend classics my target: Dandy’s, maybe. Or Pilot Butte. But I had been (rightly) told not to put so much weight on those places. I also knew I was going to keep going. It wouldn’t stop until Bend was complete, 120 burgers at least, so burger 100 was just a small milestone, a nod to that original goal set three months ago.

I reviewed the Burger Inventory over and over again.  And then it hit me. I had one major category missing: I hadn’t cooked my own burger yet. Burger 100 would not be about any one place, it would be about my accrued experience over the previous 99 back-to-back burgers. My realization of my perfect burger.

So what follows is mostly a recipe. Sure, there are stories around it. I might even touch on them, like how it took me two days to clean the apartment of all the grease and spilt booze. The keg grill that was turned into a blast furnace. The days bouncing from bakery to bakery, testing buns and toasting methods. Sourcing the hottest jalapenos. Pages of scrawled and abandoned sketches of layers and ingredients and styles. 

But first, the recipe. I’ll start with the fundamental structure, then dive into the specifics of each. This could spark outrage. Or applause. People will have opinions. They will yell in horror. Please do so, and then recommend your own version of The Burger 100.

From top down, the burger looks like this:

  • Top bun
  • Cream cheese spread
  • Bacon
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Beef patty
  • Diced raw veggies
  • Whole lettuce leaf
  • Condiment layer
  • Bottom bun

Relatively simple, but the magic is in the details. 

The Bun

It had to be brioche. The brioche bun is a relative newcomer to the burger scene but has justifiably taken it by storm. Simple flavor that doesn’t overpower. Light, yet sturdy enough to withstand whatever lays between. A basic recipe with ratios that can be quickly dialed to range in texture from biscuit to cake. 

A runner up is the potato bun, a long time favorite of mine. I even contacted an old pastry chef friend to get her thoughts on a potato brioche bun. She thought it was brilliant and even constructed me a recipe. I hesitated, ultimately abandoning it for several reasons: I’m a terrible baker, I didn’t want to risk the rest of the burger on a prototype bun, and I wanted this to burger to be easily reproduced by fellow burger enthusiasts in Bend.

I collected buns from every bakery in town that made them. After intense sampling, I settled on Sparrow Bakery and their unpretentious and consistent bun. 

As for toasting, I’m a big proponent of throwing them alongside the patty on a flatiron griddle. But I couldn’t reproduce it consistently on my stove top, so ended up toasting right in the oven, cut side up, under the broiler. And then the kicker: a light layer of mayonaise to facilitate a crunchy finish. 

Cream Cheese Spread

Only three ingredients in this spread: cream cheese, fresh diced jalapenos, and oven roasted bone marrow. Ratio, by volume, was about 2:1:1 cheese:jalapeno:marrow.

I’m not picky on the cream cheese, just don’t get low fat. 

The jalapenos should come from Food 4 Less, which has the spiciest and crunchiest in town. 

The marrow bones should be from a butcher that will cut them long ways. Soak them in salt water for at least 6 hours to draw out the blood. Rinse, then roast in the oven at 450 degrees, marrow side up, for 20 minutes. Scoop out the goo and mix everything together. 

This layer is dedicated to Drake and The Row, who introduced me to the wonders of marrow and soft cheese atop a burger.


Thick cut, apple wood smoked. 1.5 strips per patty (basically three strips, each at one patty width). 

I like them deep fried and extra crispy. 

This layer dedicated to McKay Cottage Restaurant, whose bacon I still dream of.

Cheddar Cheese

A layer of sharp cheddar cheese adds a tart cap to the patty and a gooey foundation for the bacon. All other cheeses are worthless on a burger (except blue cheese, but that’s the nuclear option). 

I ran with Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar. Because it’s amazing and I ate half the brick before even prepping the burgers. 

This layer dedicated to the hardworking cows of the Pacific Northwest.

Beef Patty

The hands down best beef on this journey was from Pono Farm. It’s $11 a pound but worth it. It’s so good that you need zero seasoning. No salt, no pepper, no Montreal Steak, no Worcestershire sauce, no egg, no gimmicks. Pure beef.

Now, my preferred size patty is 1/3 of a pound. The working man’s patty, enough to fill you up but not put you to sleep. My preferred doneness is medium. The problem is it’s difficult to cook a 1/3 pound patty to anything less than well done. Consistently cooking a patty that thin to a medium requires levels of burger kung fu mastery that most mortals can’t be expected to master even after decades of flipping burgers. I had been resolved to cooking hefty 1/2 pound burgers all my life because it was my only route to medium. That is, until I was introduced to a bit of technology and a cooking method the French call “sous vide” (note: we also call it sous vide). 

Here’s the run down. Form a 1/3 pound patty. As thin as you want, at whatever diameter you want (I made my meat the same girth as the buns, plus 10% to account for shrinkage. Giggity.) Vacuum seal that patty in plastic (I put mine in freezer Ziploc bags and submerged to push out the air). Place that bag in a tub of water held precisely at 130 degrees. They make machines for this. I borrowed Vic’s, made famous by her use at Vic’s Desert Diner.

After two hours at 130F, the patties are a perfect medium pink. Completely. It’s weird. That’s when you throw them on a super hot surface (after removing the Ziploc) to sear and char the outside. Only 30 seconds or so or until your desired charriness. 

On the first flip, add the cheddar. Ben had some good advice to pour water on the griddle (or pan) and cover it. The cheese melts perfectly. 

Boom. Patty complete.

This patty dedicated to Vic and Dave for their technical and mobile cooking prowess, and to Pono Farm for their stellar beef.

Diced Veggies 

I kept it simple here. Raw white onion and iceberg lettuce. White onion because they’re the most offensive of the onions. Iceberg because it’s more texture that flavor. If I wanted to taste ruffage I’d go with something like romaine or arugula or “spring mix” and just order a damn salad. But this is a burger 

Diced fairly small. The point of this layer is to soak and absorb and marinade in the greasy outflow from the beef. It’s like a beef fat coleslaw. 

This layer dedicated to Jody’s, where I first experienced the magic of lettuce-bottom.

Whole Lettuce Leaf

Again iceberg. This is your protective barrier between bun and patty. It’s a defense to maintain bun integrity as you eat the burger.


Here’s where you put your sandwich lubricants. Tastes vary, and I feel there are no wrongs here. But there was a common thread I’ve seen up here in the Pacific Northwest that I hadn’t seen anywhere else in the country: Thousand Island Dressing. And I liked it. 

I made my own for this burger, simply mixing ketchup, mayonaise, and relish. You’ll notice I skipped pickles up above, which I find a little overpowering in their texture and taste. Relish, mingled in this poor man’s fry sauce, is the perfect replacement.

Bottom Bun

See top bun. 

And that’s it. My perfect burger. I tried to score it a 100 but that broke all my spreadsheets. So I stuck with a 5.0. 

Score: 5.0 of 5
Price: $8.80
Beer: Olympia, Coors Lights, Old German, Shiner Bock, Pub Beer, Flaming Dr Peppers, etc
Bonus: As for the rest of the night, I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Burger 99 Day 91: Third Street Pub, Burger

“Don’t get stabbed” was the usual response to mentions of 3rd Street Pub. In a town with plenty of blue collar dives I was curious what could make this one regarded as stabbiest. I’d driven by it a few times, always having to twist around in a double take at the dirty and poorly marked building with chipped white paint that looked eternally closed. I’d finally felt I had a good handle on its location when I decided to commit to going there, only to speed by and double take again at the now freshly painted maroon red building. The paint was layered on thick enough to smear over the dirt and defects of what lay beneath. The owner, running the bar, told me the hope was to be more noticeable and not blend in with the adjacent tattoo shop.

The place looks like the bits and pieces of a defunct Cascade West or Mountains Edge bar shoved into a long vacant space last held by a Payless Shoestore. Unfinished wood slats randomly decorate the bar and some walls. A plywood stage covers a quarter of the space sitting warped but recently expanded. Music must be a big deal here.

The owner handed Dave and I “the” menu. The only copy of it, a wrinkled and folded over sheet of paper off a black and white printer. There wasnt much reason for them to keep it updated or even be aware of what they offered. It was pretty certain than anything listed was buried someplace in the drop freezer beneath the bar. Only a matter of digging.

The jukebox was deafening but a highlight for the crowd of early evening regulars. As a 2 Live Crew song ramped up the owner screamed “Jesus, Todd’s in jail, I thought I wouldn’t have to hear this song for a while,” before she began singing along. She was the only woman in the building until a second entered, a dangerously thin young blonde with pierced nose and that eye of having both seen some shit and not willing to take any. Turns out she was the new bartender as the owner swapped to a more actively engaged position in front of the bar.

Dave and I ordered burgers. The blonde gave an uncomfortable wince and a look towards the owner. We added cheese and bacon and she gave a nervous laugh. We pressed her for details. Turns out she’s normally the weekend bartender, live music nights, when they only run the fryer. This would be her first attempt at these griddle items. We comforted her with false reassurances as she dug through the freezer for the bag of burger patties.

Dave and I discussed the merits of fully cooked frozen patties as ours slowly thawed on the griddle that hadn’t warmed up yet. Raised voices began erupting a few stools down. Those high pitched slurs of deep intent. Pure passion. Loss of reason. The tinged edge of Fighting Words. Those accustomed to the idle and fleeting anger of your habitual drunk would disregard such a commotion as temporary. This crowd was not unaccustomed. And they did not disregard. The woman next to me with which I’d earlier been discussing the inconvenience of wrongful police accusations was now standing and talking slowly attempting to calm the tension between the aggravated parties. The whole bar seemed slightly set back on their seats, poised and ready for whatever fury might errupt.

“Dont get stabbed” seemed the common thought across those of us at the bar. The sun was still high outside above the brightly lit street. It wasn’t even night yet. I smirked at how accurate the warning had been.

“HEY!” yelled the tiny blonde bartender, two hamburger buns clenched in one hand as she leaned back around to face the bar. “YOU sit there. YOU over there.” She separated the offenders like school children. An ease of calm fell over the bar.

I returned to thoughts and discussion of burgers. The place was back to jovial, if not with a touch of strain here and there. A hefty kid in an XXL Ultimate Fighter shirt at the pool table was beginning to argue with his opponent, a short older gentleman with neat gray mustache in a Panama hat and pressed short sleeved dress shirt. The Ultimate Fighter kid was without backup, no comrades to support his claims as he reached for his wallet and began begrudgingly counting money. The Panama hat gentlemen only spoke in Spanish, gesturing calmly to the four lean young men lazying about behind him, who also only responded in Spanish. In his own forced nobility, Ultimate Fighter kid handed over a wad of cash and walked sullenly back to the bar, likely never having understood a word of the transaction but comprehending every moment of it.

The blonde brought us our burgers, having coming together damn well for frozen ingredients, and accompanied by perfectly fried frozen fries. The bacon exceeded expectations, regardless of how low those expectations had been. We gave our compliments. I considered the quality of this burger and the fact that it was actually cheaper than Dandy’s. It’s a good value, all told. And that tinge of adrenaline fueled by the setting only builds on the flavor.

Score: 2.75 of 5
Price: $7.50 with fries
Beer: Coors Light