TheBurgerKingdom: Favorite Burger in Portland

I’ve been writing about burgers in the city of Portland for nearly a decade. I’ve seen highs, lows, fire, rain, and I even ate nothing but burgers for an entire month. HamMayBurgers, and it was my senior thesis at Portland State University.

I’m always asked: “Nate, what’s your favorite burger in Portland?” 

The quality of burgers available to Portlanders right now is simply staggering. Super Deluxe, Hit the Spot, Burger Stevens, PDX Sliders, Fill’s, MCSB. May they stay here forever. Portland is filthy with delicious burger options. A glut of burger gluttony, and I’m happy to take advantage.

But deep in my quickly clogging heart, I love old barns. And I love burgers made by the hard-working people who run them. So, I will always yearn for a tavern burger.

A tavern burger, in my opinion, is a burger served inside a dark neighborhood dive bar. You have to be able to see it being cooked. And it has to be accompanied by a cold domestic beer. 

Stanich’s had a great tavern burger until the Eye of Thrillist hobbled the Fremont neighborhood burger giant. Way out west, there’s the Helvetia Tavern. And Woodstock’s Lutz Tavern has a great burger, too.

But for my money, the best tavern burger in Portland has to be the “Good Sam” burger griddled up at Nob Hill Bar & Grill.

The Good Sam Burger at Nob Hill Bar & Grill

Served out of a porthole of a pass window in the wood-walled oasis on NW 23rd. The classic diapered burger, “Good Sam”. Chopped onions. Shredded lettuce. The silliest of pickle chips. Special sauce. Many people go out of their way to fuck up a quarter pound of ground beef. But not Nob Hill.

The “Good Sam” is so simple it would be laughed out of a gastropub. But you’re not in a gastropub. You’re in a friendly, neighborhood tavern dedicated to keeping down-to-earth Portlanders happy and trendsetting Portlandians confused.

Pair it with a tall boy of Hamm’s, and when we all feel comfortable with arm-in-arm camaraderie, I’ll always join you for one.

Other Notable “Tavern Burgers”

The Happy Hour Smash Burger at The Leaky Roof Gastro Pub

This was a REAL surprise I stumbled upon here. She’s not overdressed, with only her shoelaces of white onion spilling out and not showing off, even with her top-shelf pickles. I wanted another before I finished my second bite. There’s just a nice savoriness to this little beauty. Let’s call this the “gastro-smash,” perhaps? Pardon my hyperbole, but this might be the best $6 burger in the city.

The Juicy Lucy at Renner’s Grill

Renner’s became a phenomenal bar in Multnomah Village since the opening 1939 that’s survived a recent fire and now a pandemic (fingers crossed). When I reviewed the Juicy Lucy (my go-to order at Renner’s), the bar was coming back from state-ordered closure. So, let’s forgive them for not having the right pickles or buns.

Hopefully, better days are ahead for Renner’s. And on all excellent tavern owners griddling up a surprisingly tasty burger in this imperfect yet irreplaceable city.


This story has been adapted from previous reviews at

About Author

Nathan P. Gale is a native Oregonian, a graduate of Portland State University, bar enthusiast, and burger connoisseur. He is the founder and operator of Instagram’s The Burger Kingdom and co-creator/co-host of the History By the Glass podcast — Portland’s premiere (and only) historic bar podcast.


Instagram: @theburgerkingdom & @historybytheglass