Burger 89 Day 83: Northside Bar & Grill, Southwestern Burger

In an industrial complex off a north end road sits Northside Bar & Grill (no relation to Southside Pub. In any form). I’d never heard of it until the bartender at Hong Kong Restaurant recommended it during my recent visit there. The Bamboo Room is good for insight. That bartender wasn’t lying.

Further investigation and a midday drive-by confirmed it was a biker bar. Blue collar folk. My usual sources for intel gave off hints of anxiety at the thought of me wandering in there. But I had spent the morning prepping steel and smelled of acetone and spray paint. My Carhartt pants were a mess of stains. This seemed worthy camouflage. I mounted my trusty motorcycle, currently leaking a sufficient amount of coolant to look dirty and mean, and headed to Northside.

I parked next to a Harley at least three times the size of my bike. With my busted engine stop switch I had to stall the bike out to kill the motor. There were a few leather jacketed folks smoking cigarettes on the small sidewalk outside the front door, barely glancing my way. I did the required hop and stumble to dismount a bike far too tall for me, then took off my helmet with a slow confidence and hung it from one of my mirrors. I headed out of the sun and into the cool of the bar. I ordered a Coors Light.

Just after ordering a burger I remembered that I’d forgotten to shut off the fuel petcock. This was important. The float is busted on my carburetor and tends to leak gas profusely wherever it sits. I headed back outside.

After standing upright from shutting off the valve a voice asks “what size motor is that?” I answer the factually correct “it’s a 400.” This begins a motorcycle conversation with the 60 year old trucker sitting out front. His stories are long and involve motosport legends I’ve never heard of, bikes I know nothing about, and technical riding details I can’t pretend to follow. My acumen for smiling and nodding is pushed to the limit. I’m sweating both from the bright sun reflected off this concrete patio and the fact that I’m moments away from getting found out as just another weekend warrior rube on a dirt bike. The bartender sticks her head out with my burger, “you eating this inside or out?” Grabbing at the salvation I say “inside!” and dart in after her.

Trucker Biker follows. He continues his tales.

Trails near Sisters. Trails near Mt Hood. Snowmobile routes in the winter that become bike trails in summer. Know how to figure you’re on a wrong path on a snowmobile? The trees close in. Most snowmobiles don’t do wheelies, but the ones he knows to rent, well, they sure as hell do. At least when he’s driving them. It’s called “cow trailing” when you follow cow trails on your bike and when they don’t go straight you just connect the zig zags. He was up east side of Hood with his son who was afraid of big foot. But Trucker Biker wasn’t. He was carrying. Licensed to do so. There’s a dirt bike rider celebrity who developed this technique where right before you slam sideways into a tree you pull the tree-ward leg up outta the way. Trucker Biker had invented that, before it was made popular by that other celebrity kid. Mind you, this technique bends the frame, but when Trucker Biker was perfecting this stunt he was sponsored by Yamaha who had a full laser guided frame alignment system in a trailer they’d follow him around with.

Trucker Biker returned his focus to the immediate surroundings. He told me how the heavy guy on the Harley had been there last night. Drunken himself a bit stupid right up till close. Trucker Biker had seen him come back today to declare “shit, 15 hours of sleep and I still feel it.” Trucker Biker had an opinion on this level of excess. I wanted to remark that Trucker Biker had been here long enough to see Harley Rider both leave and return, but I figured it best to trust that detail was relevant to Trucker Biker being stuck in town waiting on a haul. I was not one to question Tucker Biker’s reality.

This is Northside Bar on a Saturday afternoon. The place is a bit too clean and well maintained to be a full on biker carnage bar, but certain details do lend itself to the occasional drunken frenzy. The bar is well stocked, not with variety, but with the same bottles lined several deep and at arm’s reach, a layout that knows about a rush on Jameson shots and Malibu shooters. The curb just outside the door has the stenciled lettering “NO DRINKS BEYOND THIS LINE” repeated every few feet, obviously addressing an established problem with impromptu parking lot parties.

While I didn’t get Trucker Biker’s thoughts on the burger, I’ll concende that Hong Kong Bartender’s assessment was correct. They know what they’re doing and are dedicated to a good burger. Just be sure to show up when the place is really hoppin. That’d be Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. According to Trucker Biker.

Score: 3.75 of 5
Price: $9.25 with fries
Beer: Coors Light


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