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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.0
7.0
$25
American
Bar

Hours
Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30am
Sat–Sun 5:00pm–2:30am

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx

www.slowbar.net

Southeast Portland
533 SE Grand Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 230-7767
Slow Bar
A lively, sometimes awkward bar with a near-perfect burger

This cult-following bar in a cult-following part of town is in this book for one reason: it does burgers right. But the righteous atmosphere alone justifies that cult following: fun, friendly bartenders; sultry round banquettes; dark red mood lighting; drunkards any night of the week.

There are problems, too. The music is good, but too loud. A chilly wind blows in from the door. Bar patrons huddle in their coats, yelling to each other over the soundtrack. Fondue—a nice idea—is overwhelmed by truffle oil. Ceviche—a dive bar attempting ceviche? Nah. And the fries that come with the burger are totally soggy. Some are warm, some are cold. What’s up with that?

But about that burger. First, the bad news: the kitchen doesn’t really honor medium-rare orders. If you want to see much pink, order “very rare”—and even then, don’t expect much blood. But it’s okay, because the Painted Hills beef is of excellent quality, and has enough natural flavor to carry the burger even at medium. It’s juicy, and its juices seep into every crevice of the sweet, delicious bun. In the face of mild mayonnaise, butter lettuce, generally timid Gruyère (its stinkiness only comes out in about every fourth bite), and subtlely flavored beef, pickle relish turns out to be a dominant flavor, and, happily, it’s a flavor that works.

But here’s the punch line: there are also onion rings on the burger. Putting onion rings—good onion rings, richly battered and carefully fried onion rings—on a burger may be the Slowburger’s, and Slow Bar’s, greatest stroke of genius. The batter’s great crunch and the sweetness of the onion are unexpectedly wonderful. If only the kitchen would stop down the meat a notch or two, this would be one of the very best burgers in the city.

Oh, by the way, here’s another theory of why it’s called “Slow Bar”: cocktails haven’t progressed out of the Sweet Age. Even the ones with masculine names—“Cock and Bull” (Fighting Cock Bourbon and Red Bull) and “Zerkpatric,” a pomegranate margarita with peppercorn-infused Sauza tequila—are sugar bombs. And what’s with the lack of local beers here? Here’s hoping for some fast bar evolution.

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