Burger 92 Day 86: Pilot Butte Drive-In, Roasted Garlic Cheeseburger

You can’t argue that Pilot Butte Drive-In is a bit of a local legend. Everybody knows of it. Everybody’s been there. It draws a certain mythos. A “Pilot Butte Challenge” means one of two things, depending on who you associate with:

  • An unsanctioned race event where you eat a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake, then sprint the mile up Pilot Butte. You have to hold it all down for 30 seconds once at the top to qualify your time.
  • Eat a double patty version of the Pilot Butte Burger. A single patty is 18 oz of beef, putting you up over two pounds of meat plus all the fixings and what must be a loaf of bread for a bun. Nobody seems too clear on the rules or rewards. Nobody really knows first hand anybody that’s done it, or for that matter even actually attempted it. (For the record, a reporter at The Source asked me to take this challenge and she’d right the story. I explained that 100 Burgers is the Arctic science expedition of eating endeavours and a 36 oz burger is some perverse crossfit competition. I declined).

I’ve held the establishment in awe, never having set foot in the place and saving it towards the end of my expedition. It and Dandy’s are considered rival spots for best local traditional burger experience in Bend.

But Ben Holloway (who requested to be specifically named in this blog, not just mentioned as “the guy that said the bartender probably spit in your burger” that time) told me to relax on my expectations. Don’t do the drive-in, actually walk into the tiny diner setting with the gas fire pit and plates too small for ketchup and awkward booth arrangement. It’s about all the place has to talk about, the uncomfortable dine-in experience.

And right he was. It was a late lunch and the place had only a few scattered elderly folks in it. I took my seat on the inner elevated ring of booths, all arranged radially around the fire pit, such that you’re always facing at least two other tables at askew angles. The burger (a 6oz roasted garlic burger, not a 36oz compensation-for-failed-dreams burger) took near 15 minutes to deliver. I  picked it up at the counter where she offered me fry sauce or ketchup, the ketchup temporarily missing and the fry sauce having to be poured directly amongst the fries on the small plate just as Ben Holloway had described.  The bread was starting to stale and barely held the ingredients together, which were haphazardly arranged anyway. The overcooked patty wasn’t a true circle, deceptively leaving me in the end with a lump of cheese, garlic, and crumbling bread. I looked around for a fork and failed to find one, ultimately just using fries to shovel the remaining mess in my mouth (I’ve eaten 100% of every burger so far, and I wasn’t about to stop now).

Somebody had explained Pilot Butte as the start of the $10 knife-in-the-bun burger style so prevalent in Bend. My burger was definitely over $10, but didn’t even come with the knife out the top.

Next time I’ll just get a shake and run up the butte.

Score: 2.25 of 5
Price: $10.95

2 comments to Burger 92 Day 86: Pilot Butte Drive-In, Roasted Garlic Cheeseburger


    Wow I have been eating there over 20 years and never had that experience ,, Always just ordered their premium cheese burger, never was served one without a knife? Sever/cook musta had a bad day haha. Anyway try a busy friday night when things are rolling,,, love the blog btw.

  • Ben Holloway

    I believe I said I would like to earn the right to be named specifically… this just makes me feel cheap and dirty

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