Micah Camden has become known for his miniature empire in Portland, at one time owning at least a piece of respected restaurants Yakuza, Beast, D.O.C., Fats, and now Little Big Burger in the Pearl District.
I’ve heard very mixed things about Fats over at NE 29th and Killingsworth, known for its British pub fare, since it opened back in late 2009. I never made it there myself, but opinions of friends seemed to vary wildly from really good to not so good.
For whatever reason, bangers & mash, fisherman’s pie and Spotted Dick don’t seem to have been quite the hit the owners had hoped, and Fats closed last week. According to a reader, it will eventually be replaced by a second branch of Little Big Burger. When the new restaurant will open sounds a bit in the air at this point, and there are some interesting whispers floating about town.
If you haven’t been, Little Big Burger is on NW 10th over by the new Penzy’s Spice store. It has a very limited menu: (small) cheese burgers, hamburgers, veggie burgers, fries, sodas and floats. All food is packed to go, but there are tables available if you happen to get there when the restaurant isn’t overflowing.
Personally, I don’t quite get LBB. I’ve been three times – every time the burger has been dry, which isn’t much of a surprise if you watch them forcing the juice out of the meat with the spatula while they are cooked. The fries have been all over the place – one time they were the frozen krinkle-cut variety, another time just perfect, and the third time a greasy, limp over-seasoned mess. Clearly some work needs to be done.
It will be interesting to see how the formula works over at the old Fats location.
My biggest problem with LBB is the burgers are too small; I’m definitely not in the minority with that opinion, either. They don’t offer an upgrade to a double patty or a slightly bigger one; like, they could do one for $4.95 and make the burgers a more filling variety. I like the fries personally, especially the ketchup which I usually abhor. I think this is a pretty smart move; we need a more legitimate burger chain in town than crappy, overpriced Burgerville. I’d love it if LBB became our own version of a Five Guys or In-N-Out.
Food Dude says
I agree that the burger is too small. Actually, when you compare the cost of a cheeseburger, fries and a soda to Burgerville, the latter comes out cheaper. I also like BV’s commitment to local/sustainable/recyling etc. Still, two totally different animals.
I DO like LBB’s house catchup, and the Picklopolis pickles are pretty darn good too.
Burgerville’s latest seasonal burger comes in basket/meal form for $8.49. The sandwich alone is $5.29.
Both BV and LBB use a 1/4 burger patty.
A few other differences between lbb & bv
Lbb uses a brioche bun made with butter not corn syrup
Lbb uses organic lettuce, onions and catsup
The patties at lbb are hand formed and seasoned not machined and processed….
So with that said, after only 16 days open, I don’t claim to have all if my processes down…
But I do appreciate all of the support I’ve gotten from the community & look forward to becoming a better option for quick affordable burgers then bv….
Food Dude says
Micah, you should put that info on your website. I looked for any details on where you get your meat, buns etc., but couldn’t find anything. Maybe I’m just blind today.
I feel as though we are getting punk’d. We are all going to wake up one morning and all restaurants are going to be burger joints(see also: Demolition Man). Of course, like typical fat assed white people(not you Pollo…)we will continue complaining that our 1200calorie lunch should be bigger for the $3 it cost.
also, LBB sure looks a whole lot like this: http://www.littlebigshouston.com/
The meat is cascade natural, same as gruner… The blue cheese is rogue, the chevre is cypress and the cheddar & Swiss are both tillamook.
The pickles are from David barber, the buns from Portland french…. And the fries are Yukon golds….
I could never quite understand the wisdom of “elevating” pub food, so it’s not much of a surprise to me that the Fats experiment has come to an end. Haven’t checked out LBB yet, I’ll have to go see what all the hubbub is about one of these days. Sounds like I might wanna give ’em a little time to let the dust settle, though.
In response/echoing of CO, since I can’t respond to an individual comment:
I, too, am wondering when this purist-burger-chain fad is going to hit its saturation point. No offence to Micah here, since a) I haven’t been to LBB yet so I cannot comment on the quality of its food and b) actually this one was pretty slow to come to Portland; we only got Five Guys a couple of years ago, and until Foster Burger, I’m not sure that there was an upscale burgers-only joint in town. But somehow, it just feels old to me. One thing that I find interesting is that I became familiar with the concept in London where it was taking off like a F-18 when I lived there in 2004/2005. Not saying that is where it originated, but it’s the first place that I saw it, which I find funny since burgers are seen as so quintessentially American. (insert profound point about the comparative failure of the british-pub-food trend to explode here).
Irene… Thank you for the perceptive comment, I cannot speak for what everyone is calling a huge amount of burger restaurants to hit Portland recently…. And I sure as hell didn’t jump on any train of sorts…. I used to live in the pearl and spend quite a bit of rime here still, there was a need for lbb in the pearl… I filled it, with time I’ll perfect it… You should come give it a try…. As for turning fats into lbb, once again other then yakuzas 12 burger, ne I feel would benefit from the addition
Tom F. says
I just went to LBB and liked it a lot. For me, the size and price are perfect–I don’t want a big, honkin’ burger. The burger wasn’t dry at all, and I liked the combo of pickles, lettuce, and finely sliced red onion. Fries were perfect, although I asked for them without the truffle oil. (How does the aroma of old gym socks improve French fries?)
Yeah, I was wondering about the grill-mashing, which I’ve always heard you should never do to your patties.
I LOVE the size of the burgers. Just right for me.
I’ve only been once, but I sure hope the fries are crispier next time.
Check that! Crispier fries next time : )
LBB = yummy. The fries last Friday were ridiculously, lusciously crispy. Better than Violetta’s version of truffle oil fries (and I dig Violetta).
As for the observation/criticism that the burgers are small . . . really???? That may be the dopiest critique I’ve read on this site b/c it amounts to this:
“I went to this new place called “Little ______” and it was totally lame b/c the _______s were little. Making matters worse, they have the nerve to charge a whopping $3.95 in the high-rent district for the little ________ that was topped with and surrounded by organic, high-quality ingredients.”
@mike, you really cracked me up.
@Micah, open that NE LBB up already! I wanna walk there for lunch soon!
I do find it heartening that Micah is clearly watching the commentary on this site closely with an open mind to customer preferences or opportunities for improvement. The Portland dining scene can be awfully snarky (I was trying to avoid that tone in my earlier comment) and I can imagine that it is difficult as an owner, chef, server, or whatever to take it on the chin and see the positive instead of becoming defensive. That alone makes me more inclined to try his restaurants.
FD: “I’ve heard very mixed things about Fats over at NE 29th and Killingsworth […] For whatever reason, bangers & mash, fisherman’s pie and Spotted Dick don’t seem to have been quite the hit the owners had hoped…”
The problem with Fats was the utter lack of anything that could even remotely be called something that vaguely rhymes with “service.”
[There, that should make up for the relative lack of snark in this thread.]
Re patty-mashing, there’s this:
LBB is a great addition to the neighborhood. Some things need fine tuning. Overall the neighborhood has responded well judging by the line out the door daily. Where else can you get a quickie like this? Price point suits many as well as the size. Having locally sourced ingredients is a big draw for our crowd.
The recycle program needs some fine tuning, which I hear they are doing.
The veggie burger was good the first time, moist primarily mushroom flavor, the last two were deep fried, flavorless.
Not sure I like the idea of deep fried veggie burger. The first one was so moist and plump I didn’t know. It wasn’t until the next two came out shriveled up and so hot it burnt the roof of my mouth that I found out.
I too would prefer not to have the juice squeezed out of my burger. Originally the buns were warm, lately cold.
The balance of lettuce, onions pickle and catsup has been consistent, helping the somewhat dry burger. Please don’t squish the beef patty!
Fries have been all over the board. Krinkle, soggy, crispy and just right. Sometimes over dressed with the truffle oil.
Depends on whose spraying. Maybe adjusting the nozzle would help.
Like any new opening it takes time to figure things out, get the team up to speed etc. Good for the hood. Good for those on their lunch break and good for anyone to take a leap during these tough times.
It’s the mark of an inexperienced cook when they can’t stop dicking around with food; this goes for ingredient combinations, cooking technique, plate presentation, etc.
Irene…. You’re correct about the volatility of remarks when regarding ones livelihood / investment…. So please forgive the next comment..
Jdg…. I wish I could say, to you, sry for the lousy service, but after the comment you left, I can’t bring myself to do it….
Wine&dine…. We are working on all the systems you mentioned as if now… The new vinyl for the trash has been ordered… I’m sry about the veggie burgers being fried however the only way to ensure they don’t touch meat is to do that… Besides they are fried in rice oil and when done correctly they taste great! As
With that said, thank you for your patience….
Nancy Rommelmann says
We just had great burgers and even greater fries at LLB, which were perfectly crisp this time. The burgers are on the small side, which I see as a plus, because then I can order and eat the fries and not leave feeling like a whale. The place is also really cute, bright, jumping. I think it’s going to make a mint.
In other burger news, I just saw that Hamburger Mary’s just opened downtown. I wonder if they will serve disco biscuits like their predecessor.
There’s a new burger place on Sandy Blvd. around 45th. Does anyone know the name or have been?
Killer Burger. Haven’t been, but a friend went. She described it as “good but really intense”; perhaps a good choice for those who find LBB’s offerings diminutive.
Just went to lbb today and it was one of the worst burgers I have has in this city. My burger was basically a carcoal brick on the outside and a little tinge of pink meat in the middle. Thank god the bottle of ketchup was in front of me because it used half of it to choke down my little big kingsford biricquette. The funny thing is there is not even a flame used on the burger, but it was completly toasted on the outside. If only there was a way to attach a pic for everyone to see this disgrace. By the way the fries were crisp. Sorry lbb keep on trying I will try again one more time.
Tried LBB today and it was spot on delish. Fries perfectly crispy, burger perfectly cooked, pickles had a great tang to them and loved the ketchup.
My fave burger in town is still Laurelhurst Market but I could see myself craving that LBB again on the near future.
Job well done!