1466 W. 7th Ave.
Eugene, OR 97402
If you regularly drive along 7th Ave, near Wells Fargo, you’ve probably noticed a new restaurant under construction for the last few months. Well, Mr. Eugenified finally took the plunge and gave it a try (after leaving the appropriate one month waiting period for them to serve all the “construction dust burgers” to other more gutsy patrons). The name of this place gives a pretty good idea of their goal: specialists in burgers. But their claim to be “the best burgers in Oregon” is certainly ambitious. So the question is: Are they good burgers, the best in Eugene, and/or the best in all of Oregon?
Unfortunately, before you can try one of these burgers, you’ll need to find the place. And really, it’s quite easy. First turn onto 7th Ave (one way) from, say, Garfield. Accelerate hard to bring your vehicle speed up to 88 miles per hour. Stay in the far right-hand lane, but watch out for those cute little aged-hippies who love to stick the nose of their Subarus into traffic to “test the water”. Continue at 88 miles per hour in the right-hand lane and try to spot the first sandwich-board sign that says “Open”…that’s not it. Look for the second sign that says “Now Open” with “Burger Lovers” in small print underneath. (No, you won’t be able to read that line while traveling 88 miles per hour). OK, now here’s the hard part: At just the right moment, flick the steering wheel to the right to start a Vin-Diesel-style power slide (I wonder what Vin’s real name is? Probably something like Mortimer Snerd) while, this is the important part, keeping your foot firmly planted on the gas pedal. At just the right moment, slingshot into the Burger Lovers parking lot. Viola…You’ve done it! (Bring along a change of underwear, just in case).
OK, so the menu…It’s as you would expect, a basic entry-level burger and then thirteen different variations on that basic burger. Topping choices among these thirteen variations include bacon, cheese, cream cheese, avocado, mushrooms, a fried egg, teriyaki sauce, pineapple, ham, BBQ sauce, double patties, corned beef, rat droppings, green chilies, etc. (Just checking if you’re paying attention. They really don’t offer rat droppings as a topping). They also have chicken sandwich, BLT, Rueben, and Po Boy choices on the menu. But we’re here for burgers, so let’s stick with that area for now.
Being a wily burger lover, I ordered a basic “Original Burger” rather than one of the fancy slathered-up sauced-down variations. My theory being that you first start with the basic burger to check the quality of the “foundation”, only later moving on to check-out the “decorations”.
Ordering at Burger Lovers is done at the front counter and is fairly straight-forward. The only thing out of the ordinary were the somewhat frenzied blue felt-tip pen markings on the overhead sign board. Things likes “cheese add $0.50″ and “comes with fries” were forcefully circled in thick blue marker pen. Seems the front counter people are getting tired of answering the same dumb questions from dumb customers, so they decided to help the dumb customers out by adding the blue felt-tip pen circles and underlines of the answers to dumb questions. Thanks.
Also of note, the front counter person during my visit was named Agnes Bae, a nice Korean American lady who is the brains behind this operation. Actually, the owner of Burger Lovers is Agnes’ sister, but Agnes supplied most of the strategic planning based on her 20 years of experience owning and operating similar restaurants in various cities around the US (I think she mentioned Portland, Oakland, and maybe LA). Notably, she also owned Jamie’s Diner in Eugene (now called Terry’s Diner, located at 18th and Chambers) for several years before selling the business.
But let’s get to the core issue: How was the burger? Taste-wise, it was ok. Some charcoal flavor in the meat, not too fatty, and an ok bun. Maybe a little dry, but not bad. Condiments included somewhat thin slices of tomato and finely shredded lettuce. The burger came with fries (read the sign board where they have clearly marked this with blue felt-tip pen!), and they (the fries, not the staff) were somewhat thin-ish as well. I remember these previously were called shoestring potatoes at some point back in ancient times. They were slightly overcooked and perhaps had sat in the warming area a bit long. (I am guessing the overcooking may have come from them having been dropped back into the fryer for a quick re-warming…an old diner trick).
But clearly something was missing…a certain je ne sais quoi…then it came to me. Burger Lovers lacks sufficient chunkification. Nothing is chunky enough. Not the beef patties, not the bun, not the tomato slices, and certainly not the daintily shredded lettuce. Even the fries are too thin.
Admittedly, a de-chunkified burger is probably easier to eat. You can pick it up and take a reasonable bite without the whole thing falling apart, but…I still prefer the chunky version. Something about it just says “indulgence” or maybe “weight gain”. Either way, that’s the feeling I want in a gourmet burger and Burger Lovers does not deliver this feeling for me. Is it the best burger in Oregon or Eugene…uhhhh…no. For sure it’s the best on that section of 7th ave. And that’s better than nothing.