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Burger Madness is a seeded tournament pitting 64 Portland patties against each other. Our critics ate through the best Bistro Burgers, Bar Burgers, and Brewery Burgers and Burger Burgers  in Portland—and will reveal their picks round by round until the best burger in Portland is crowned.


This week, we’re revealing the winners in the round of 16. Here are the bistro burgers,  whittled down to the top four bistro burgers in town on this mighty day.

Here are all the Burger Madness Round 64 Results, and here are the Round of 32 Results.


ROUND 1: SuperBite (8) and Toro Bravo (4)



527 SW 12th Ave., 503-222-0979, 5-10 pm Sunday-Thursday. 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday.


Before co-founding Ox steakhouse, Greg Denton cooked up the juicy burger at the now-closed Metrovino, which I judged the best in town for BurgerQuest 2010. At the Dentons’ new small-plate spot, SuperBite, the burger ($16 with steak fries) is no mere bite. It’s two mostly beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun—a gourmet Big Mac. But while the shiitake mushroom ground into the burger adds interesting umami, it comes at the cost of juicy meat. Still, the generous and perfectly melted mix of cheddar and fontina cheese balance out beautifully against tangy special sauce and tart pickle.


Toro Bravo


120 NE Russell St., 503-281-4464, 5-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday.


If serial restaurateur John Gorham is the Rick Pitino of Portland burgers, Toro Bravo is still his Kentucky Wildcats. The secret to the burger at Toro Bravo ($14) is housemade romesco, the special sauce of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. Alongside bread-and-butter zucchini pickles, that creamy housemade blend of garlic, nut, and roasted red pepper acts as counterpoint to the deep salt and richness of the 6-ounce, grill-caramelized Cascade Natural beef, pungent manchego and housemade bacon.


WINNER: Toro Bravo.


ROUND 2: Laurelhurst Market (6) and Cafe Castagna (10)


Laurelhurst Market

3155 E Burnside St., 503-206-3097, 5-10 pm daily.

Burgers at most of Portland’s best steakhouses offer as much excitement as a deflated basketball. But the balance of flavors is what lets the Laurelhurst burger ($15 with fries) at nontraditional steakhouse Laurelhurst Market compete with the best in the city. Tart balsamic onions and house pickles harmonize with the salty-sweet umami hit of bacon and Tillamook aged cheddar cheese. The squishy Fleur de Lis potato bun is grilled thoroughly, making it hold up until the finish. But while the beef is hearty as bison meat—nicely charred yet still juicy—the burger was a little undercooked, and a little short on the housemade herb aioli.


Cafe Castagna

1758 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-231-9959, 5-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday.

For more than a decade, Cafe Castagna’s burger  ($13 with fries) has been famous for hitting the fundamentals and for those still-unbeatable bread-and-butter zucchini pickles. The burger arrives naked and cooked precisely to spec, on a slightly sweet, plain brioche from Ken’s Artisan. All toppings are placed on the side, including pristine butter lettuce, onion, tomato (in season) and those great pickles. For $2 each, you can add bacon, sherry-grilled onions and cheese—cheddar, swiss or blue—or add nothing at all.


WINNER: Cafe Castagna


Inbox: Letters About Anti-Trump Protests, Parking for Apartments

Trump Protest Turns Violent

When a fellow “protester” is wearing a hoodie and a mask, carrying a baseball bat and rocks, you might want to assume they don’t hold your views and are going to hijack your cause [“Portland Anti-Trump Protest Turns to Chaos as Anarchists Smash Cars and Bus Stops,”, Nov. 10, 2016].

Police yourselves and stand up for the 99 percent. You know, the small-business owner who provides goods, services and jobs. The guy or gal who this morning is going to tell his employees to stay home while he waits for the insurance adjuster and glazier.

You outnumber the anarchists. Stand up to them, because today we don’t remember your voices, we remember the damage that was caused.

—John Retzlaff

This is about revolution. Destruction of property and sabotage are legitimate when it is done to the detriment to the bourgeoisie. Those who do not participate in revolution and defend the capitalist status quo are nothing more than traitors to the proletariat.

—Faolan Baldwin

Parking for New Apartments

I’m glad to hear Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler understands we don’t need a 1950s-style parking policy, and have more current tools to better match the supply with the demand [“Car Crushers,WW, Nov. 9, 2016].

The market can build parking where it’s needed. We don’t need to mandate each housing unit have a car-storage space costing $15,000 to $50,000, especially when the future of self-driving cars and shared mobility is soon upon us.

—Evan Manvel

Municipalities are famously bad at guessing how much parking is required for all potential land uses. Regulate where parking is located on the site, and let private property owners take the risk of delivering too much or too little parking.

Unlike many places, Portland is where people have actual options on how they spend their rent and transportation dollars. Cheaper rents are found in Beaverton or Vancouver, but that cheaper rent comes with higher transportation costs.

—R. John Anderson


A story on Ammon Bundy’s acquittal (“The Prosecution Flops,WW, Nov. 2, 2016) incorrectly stated that prosecutors spent nearly $12 million preparing for the trial. In fact, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams told The Oregonian that law enforcement agencies spent that figure responding to the Malheur occupation. WW regrets the error.

Last week’s Dr. Know column correctly stated that county and municipal judges are not required to be members of the Oregon State Bar. But judges in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, a state court, must be bar members.

Letters to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: 2220 NW Quimby St., Portland, OR 97210. Email:

Lawmakers Propose Preserving and Expanding Troubled Oregon Department of Energy

The Oregon Department of Energy can’t stay out of the news.

Earlier this week, The Oregonian reported that an outside auditor flagged $347 million in energy tax credit deals that it thought the Oregon Department of Justice should examine for possible fraud or criminal behavior.

The outside audit came after years of bad news about the Energy Department’s generous subsidies. Over 35 years, the state handed out nearly 15,000 tax credits that cost the state more than $1 billion in forgone revenue. Most of those credits came in the past decade as Oregon moved aggressively toward green energy.

Related: Oregon’s largest green fuels producer, a $200 million ethanol plant, ran for seven months, then shut down for good.

As lawmakers came to realize they’d given away vastly more tax revenue than they’d realized, some pushed to reduce subsidies (the biggest program, the Business Energy Tax Credit ended in 2014) or even shut the agency down completely.

In January, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) appointed a legislative oversight committee to ponder the agency’s future under Gov. Kate Brown.

Today, the committee will present its recommendations.

Those recommendations include that the agency, which has 84 employees and an annual budget of $18.7 million, not only continue to exist but that it expand, adding permanent positions to coordinate state and federal energy policies and to address natural gas transportation issues. It also would get its own permanent board, to be appointed by the governor. The panel also suggests that the ODOE director, who is appointed by the governor, be approved by the Senate. The agency has had five directors in the past seven years.

Lawmakers will decide on the oversight committee’s recommendations when the Legislature convenes next year.

Preoccupations’ (Formerly Known as Viet Cong) New Band Name Means Nothing—And That’s How They Prefer It

When Preoccupations last headlined a show in Portland, picket lines greeted them outside Doug Fir Lounge. “It was the same guy who organized both the protests in Seattle and Portland,” multi-instrumentalist and co-founder Monty Munro says. “We went out for drinks with him after. They needed a drink as badly as we did.”

This was in October of last year, when the Canadian band, formerly known as Viet Cong, was touring exactly as that. “We started changing everything we could to ‘FKA Viet Cong’ until we had a new band name,” Munro says, “which we didn’t at that point.”

Related: Top 105: Suggested Replacement Names For Viet Cong, Taken From a Random Band-Name Generator

Viet Cong formed shortly after the dissolution of Calgary band Women, which wasn’t long after the death of Women guitarist Christopher Reimer. Lead singer-guitarist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace joined Munro and guitarist Danny Christiansen to figure out what grief and sea change sounded like. While Women made bright, damaged indie rock, Viet Cong became something darker and more fervent in that band’s wake.

Back in 2012, little attention was paid to their name while the group was playing to mostly empty houses, peddling the tour-only EP “Cassette” and sharpening their sound into a menace-flecked arcana of motorik rhythms and Bauhaus goth. But by the time their self-titled full-length debut was released in 2015, whatever critical reputation they’d earned was quickly undercut by the backlash against their name. Promoters canceled festival dates, bookers turned them away, and as the band members waffled on how best to ditch the name they shared with a guerrilla army that murdered thousands of civilians during the Vietnam War, they were vilified for their seeming inaction.

“I wouldn’t mind being in a band with an offensive name if it was something I could defend. There just really wasn’t any good defense for it,” Munro says. “We had a bunch of conversations with people who actually fled the war. We knew that wasn’t our battle to fight.”

After many suggestions were emailed back and forth, a new band name was passively chosen, vetted to guarantee it would offend no one. As an objective third party, musician pal and early Women producer Chad VanGaalen christened the quartet Preoccupations.

“Ultimately [the name] was distracting from the music, which is all we really care about,” Munro says.

On their second album, also self-titled, Munro doesn’t see a new name as a fresh start. “We tried to make more of a pop record, I think,” he says, but considers Preoccupations a pretty natural follow-up. Look only to the LP’s 11-minute centerpiece, “Memory,” which features Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, to witness the brilliant tension between pop and opaque post-punk that’s part of Preoccupations’ primordial code.

After this tour, Munro plans to visit New Zealand in January to record with Flegel at the studio of Liam Finn, the son of Neil Finn from Crowded House. Already onto more, Preoccupations have moved way past clearing up any controversy. “Once you look at enough band names, they’re all fucking stupid, anyway.”

SEE IT: Preoccupations play Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Methyl Ethel, on Tuesday, Nov. 1. 9 pm. $16 advance, $18 day of show. 21+.

Inbox: Letters About the New Police Contract, Death and PSU’s New Gender Options

Police-Protest Organizer

I wish we had more people like Greg McKelvey who are willing to stand up to make the world a better place [Hotseat: Gregory McKelvey, WW, Oct. 19, 2016].

I am certainly willing to be a little late [in traffic] if it means we can help bring police reform, help make sure Portland is truly progressive and cares about black lives and homeless lives, and that we have a city that truly listens to the public.

I hope more people will join Greg and help bring about these reforms. Keep fighting the good fight!
—Jeremy Likens

This is not going to work well for Portland. I will not support [Don’t Shoot Portland] or what might turn to rioting. All the protesting is not working in your favor.

Smart people in Portland will move away and jobs will disappear, creating another Chicago, or Detroit. That’s how Democrats act, but they never improve their lives.

Just visit Chicago to see how fun it is living the Democrat Dream.
—Steve Jay

Talking about Death

Thank you for running this story [“Let’s Talk About Death, Baby,” WW, Oct. 19, 2016]. My mom died of cancer when I was 14. This was back in 1974, when even admitting the possibility of death was out of the question.

Up until several weeks before she died, adults were still saying things like, “When your mom comes home” to my siblings and me.

I’m thankful for the changes these past four decades have started and am glad that adults and kids are able to talk more freely about death and grieving now.
—Geri Hoekzema

This sounds like a healthy and necessary process for people who are ready for this conversation. I wish them all well—those who are living and those who are dying.

PSU’s New Gender Options

Being recognized in these ways, even if it’s confidential, will be a big boost to the feeling of well-being for many students, which would be reason enough [“PSU’s Nine Genders,WW, Oct. 19, 2016]. But on a practical level, there may be many useful implications as the years roll by.

I wonder if Portland State University has also considered nontraditional titles? I like Mx, which I’ve been using since 2002. Mx is a non-binary transgender title, pronounced “mix,” and used by more and more individuals and organizations (including governments).

When people see or hear my title, they are immediately alerted to the fact that I’m some sort of non-binary transgender person, which is really useful for them so they know how to interact with me.
—Mx Margaret D. Jones

Letters to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: 2220 NW Quimby St., Portland, OR 97210. Email:

The Commons’ New Helles Has All the Bready Warmth of a Fresh-Baked Bavarian Roll

The Commons is in a malt phase. A few years ago, brewmaster Mike Wright joked to us that his beers, like Urban Farmhouse saison, were “yeast-forward.”

But a recent visit to the brewery’s large space on Southeast Belmont Street found that the Commons is exploring other, more basic classic European styles, like an English mild and German Pilsner.

Related: We Tried All of Portland’s German-Style Beers—Here Are the Best.

My favorite was the Helles, a restrained, balanced version mostly notable for its freshness. It offered all the bready warmth of a fresh-baked Bavarian lye roll. The Commons used only noble hops and German Pilsner malt in this beer, giving it round edges all around. Wright and his team have always been good with subtle flavors and tight focus, and it really shows with this lager. Recommended.

Ralph Nader Arrives in Portland to Stump for Local Campaign Finance Ballot Initiative

Ralph Nader, the longtime consumer safety advocate and third-party candidate, will hold a rally today in Portland for Multnomah County’s campaign finance measure.

Rally proceeds benefit “Honest Elections Multnomah County,” the campaign working to pass Measure 26-184. Nader also be signing copies of his new book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.

The rally is at First Unitarian Church of Portland, Main Street Sanctuary,  with doors opening at 6:30 pm and the event starting at 7:00 pm.

WW: Did you view Bernie Sanders as a kindred spirit? What did you think of his approach to trying to reform the Democratic Party from within? 

Ralph Nader: I think he walked the talk. The Democrats have always said they’re for campaign finance reform, but they don’t want to unilaterally disarm vis a vis the Republicans. They say that every election, so nothing ever happens. Sanders did unilaterally disarm from fat cats fundraisers on Park Avenue in New York and Beverley Hills. He unilaterally disarmed from taking money from Super PACs. He proceeded to raise over $220 million with an average contribution of $27. That is a tremendous breakthrough, dispelling that myths or that devious argument by the traditional Democratic Party candidates.

What’s next for the progressive movement in the coming years? What are the issues you’d suggest he and his supporters concentrate on?

After the election, they’ve got to start a progressive party. Now they know they can raise significant funds over the Internet. They have the skilled people who did it for Bernie. They’re working on Our Revolution, a new group Bernie started. Others are working on a brand-new Congress organization called BNC. They just have to start to break the grip of the two party tyranny, the two party duopoly that’s dialing for the same dollars. And on foreign and military policy and Wall Street policy is pretty much the same. On corporate policy is pretty much the same. On the abridgment of civil liberties is somewhat different, but they both supported the Patriot Act. And on campaign finance reform one party talks better than the other, but they don’t do anything.

Is Trump something totally new or a product of the two party system?

He’s inherited politics as entertainment and turned it into a circus. He’s a chief circus barker. He’s a failed gambling czar and corporate welfare king that’s cheated his workers, his creditors, his suppliers, cheated taxpayers by not paying any taxes and by getting subsidies. And brags about it. He calls his serial bankruptcies a competitive advantage, to use his term.

He wouldn’t have had a chance 30-40 years ago. Anyone in the gambling industry wouldn’t have gotten to first base. They would be laughed out of the party. See how things have degraded.

The two parties are working off their opposite failures. They don’t say vote for the Republican, and I’m better. They say vote for theRrepublicans, you know how bad the Democrats are. The Democrats say you have to vote for us, not the Greens, you know how bad the Republicans are. It’s a race to the bottom. They’re driven by campaign cash.

I think the two party duopoly is going to be battered from now, just the way Trump battered it in one way, and Sanders battered it in the other.

Has Hillary Clinton won your vote with her promises to repeal the Supreme Court Decision Citizens United, which overturned campaign contribution limits?

No no no. You can never believe her or Bill. They say exactly what they think people want to hear and then they go back and become the representatives of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. Hillary means more war and more Wall Street; that’s been her record and she’s not going to change.

Who are you voting for?
I never say who I’m voting for. The Green Party platform is the best platform of any party in America. I ran on it. And people should focus on that to see what they want to do. I always believe in a vote of conscience, rather than a tactical vote that keeps allowing the least worst party to get worse every four years.

Even against Trump?


For A Play About Dismemberment, Head. Hands. Feet. Is Surprisingly Beautiful

It’s a stick, not an ax, and it doesn’t even touch Nikki Weaver’s outstretched wrists when Chris Harder (playing her dad) lowers it with a bang to mime chopping off Weaver’s hands. Still, you can’t help but flinch at her harrowing screams that last for a very disturbing 30 seconds.

The Brothers Grimm’s “The Handless Maiden” is one of the four fairy tales and myths in Shaking the Tree’s Head. Hands. Feet. (directed by Samantha Van Der Merwe). The first half is a series of devised vignettes that tell three fairy tales, and the second half is an adaptation of the Greek tale of Iphigenia. All four stories feature a female lead who gets dismembered in some way.

With such a slaughterfest, it’s surprising to find that Shaking the Tree’s warehouse looks like some kind of elvish spa. The set is pale blue, and the sound of trickling water plays through the speakers. Like a lot of Van Der Merwe’s work, the play starts before you sit down. The actors carefully take the hands of audience members and lead them to a sink, where other actors delicately wash the audience’s hands.

Even with the likes of Weaver’s harrowing scream and a few eerie jump scares, the first half manages to feel light and (disarmingly?) funny. The stories are dotted with fairy-tale weirdness, and the minimal set and dialogue lend the play to tons of impressive miming: Actors double as trees, doors and kitchen appliances.

The second half, though, is much more dense and heavy. There’s way less abstraction and way more dialogue. There are still some welcomingly off-beat moments, as when Iphigenia (Claire Aldridge) tells her parents, “Hell is dark and creepy, and I have no friends there,” or when Clytemnestra (Jamie M. Rea) tells Iphigenia, “Your father intends to sacrifice you,” in that mom voice usually used to disapprove of much more banal things.

But ultimately, it’s the images that stick with you. Head. Hands. Feet. doesn’t sugarcoat the gruesome, but it also doesn’t seem to fear that it’s capable of corrupting the beautiful.

SEE IT: Head. Hands. Feet. plays at Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant St., 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 5 pm Sunday. Through Nov. 5. $25.

Jo Ann Hardesty is Considering a Run for Portland City Council

Jo Ann Hardesty, 59, is a central figure in Portland’s ongoing struggle to enact meaningful police reforms. So when Mayor Charlie Hales announced last month that he had reached a deal with the Portland Police Association for a new union contract, the former state representative offered a piercing critique.

Here are five things you may not know about Hardesty, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP. 

Hardesty was one of the first women ever to serve aboard a U.S. Navy ship. Hardesty, who left the Navy in 1981 as a personnelman third class, served on the USS Samuel Gompers, a ship that supplied destroyers in the late 1970s.

Hardesty was urged to run for the Oregon House in 1996 by the woman she replaced, Avel Gordly. Gordly called Hardesty to let her know she was running for the Oregon Senate. “My first response was, ‘Oh my God, who’s going to represent me?’” Gordly’s answer? “You.”

Hardesty was a beneficiary of Oregon’s short-lived limits on campaign contributions. Oregon voters in 1994 approved putting $100 limits on campaign contributions to state lawmakers. Those rules were in effect for the 1996 election, when Hardesty beat Bill Stewart, a white small-business owner. The Oregon Supreme Court overturned the limits in 1997.

She’s contemplating running for the Portland City Council. Hardesty was elected three times to the Oregon House, but left in 2001 to run unsuccessfully for the job of Multnomah County chair. She says she would be “very tempted to run” for Portland City Council in the next cycle.

She’d consider working for Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler. Hardesty says she believes change comes from the outside and the inside, and would welcome the opportunity if he signaled he was interested in fundamental reforms. “I think that would be a brilliant move on his part,” she says, “but he has not had the conversation with me.”