Ah, hamburgers; the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. But where do you go for that burger to beat all burgers when you’re out retrieving property for Marcellus Wallace in the rainy northwest woods of Portland, Oregon? You need not look any further than the little diner that has been clogging Portlandian’s arteries since before anyone can remember – Skyline Restaurant. The Skyline has changed hands several times since its initial inception; the staff thinks it was started back in the 1920s and a picture on the menu is captioned “Circa 1935” (although some of the cars in the picture look like 1950s convertibles). Facts don’t usually stand in the way of taste, and like the throngs that flock to see the Shroud of Turin (even though it has been dated to the 12th century or so), the faithful still take the mossy, winding roads up the mountain to eat at Skyline Restaurant. The inside looks like it may have been modernized in the early 1970s, and there was no shortage of red paint and vinyl when the place was “retroed”. One corner wall has some old photos of the Skyline, but the rest of the place appears to be decorated by Mrs. Saperstein’s 3rd grade class at P.S. 201 with crayon art festooning most of the walls. The menu is typical 50s diner, although they have a variety of milk shakes including one chock full of the local favorite, marion berries. On my visit, I wanted the one thing that brought people back, their pièce de résistance; the waitress said that all of their burgers were popular, but when I asked about #14 (the Everything Steak Burger), she said it was her personal favorite, which was good enough for me. This magnum opus was composed with a 1/2-pound ground sirloin patty with everything on it including cheese, bacon and a fried egg. As impressive as this bad boy was, there was a sinister, formidable behemoth on the menu that somehow slipped in under Adam Richman’s radar – #19: The Giant Giant Burger. This harbinger of arteriosclerosis combines 2 1/2 pound patties, each with its own layer of cheese – you can further hasten your coronary bypass with the choice of up to 6 pieces of bacon for a mere $3 – that’s about a third of the co-pay for your next cardiologist visit. I asked if any one ever finished one, and she told me that a lot of people do; the winner of the Portland marathon came in and ordered one, finishing the Giant Giant, an order of fries, and a shake. She let me know that she serves an average of three of these silent killers a day.
I thought about a side dish, but wanted to keep it simple. I saw an order of fries delivered to another table that were skinless and uniformly thin, but still golden brown and crispy looking, but I decided to risk the onion rings. The rings were brought out with the burger, which was breathtaking in its artistic beauty. The burger was cleanly halved, and the strata was perfectly formed – pickles under a layer of mayo, under a layer of tomato, under a layer of onion, under a thick layer of lettuce, under a layer of egg, under the burger, under a generous melt of cheese, with a layer of Mesozoic fossilized sea creatures just under the bun (I may be making that last layer up). Several strips of bacon poked their crispy little arms out from under the bun like the victim of a pork pedestrian fatality. The meat was seared dark on the outside and cooked through with just a hint of pink (the waitress didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked, and it arrived medium well – hot, tasty and juicy, but not bloody). Each bite was heaven, and the ingredients complemented each other so well that it was difficult to tell that there was a layer of raw onions in there. I sat there with burger juice dripping from my wide grin in the misty morning fog with our hearts a-thumping and you – my Everything Steak Burger. The onion rings were passable – they seemed uniform in size and texture, but they weren’t greasy or soggy. For the most part, each bite didn’t free the cooked onion like some tiny white eel; they stayed crispy and hot, redeeming their diminutive size.
On my visits to Portland I usually try to find the traditional, the unusual or the delicious, and the Skyline Restaurant delivered on all three counts, regardless of the fact that it may be lying about its age. Now if I can just figure out why all this light is coming from this damned briefcase.
1313 NW Skyline Boulevard
Portland, Oregon 97229
GPS Coordinates: 45°31’54.42″N 122°45’17.82″W
Jules Winnfield apparently eats at the Skyline Restaurant