Oregon is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Portlanders aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food players to share their recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Originally from Chicago, the Sugar Cube's Kir Jensen is a first-generation American born from two European parents, so her diet growing up was far from the Wonder Bread sandwich variety. She first studied pastry at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, and during her time there, she scored a stage at the prestigious Trio in Evanston. Shortly after, a pastry cook position opened up and her career took off under the influential young pastry chef Della Gossett, who has mentored many aspiring pastry chefs.
After moving to Portland, Jensen worked at Genoa, Clarklewis, and Florio Bakery, but in 2008, she struck out on her own, purchasing an 8 x 14-foot food cart. At the beginning of 2013, Kir bid farewell to her beloved food cart and in September she opened her first brick-and-mortar bakery. But she still finds time to visit one of her favorite rock and roll haunts Club 21, especially when a late-night burger craving comes into play.
One of my favorite places to go after work is Club 21. It has become my go-to bar for stiff drinks, solid bar food and an legitimate build-your-burger menu with a ton of different topping options. It's my kind of dive bar, with wonderfully bad velvet paintings on the wall, no windows to distract you from pure gluttony and excellent drunk food. Loud music is generally blaring and on the weekends you'll likely be dining to a live metal show that's so loud you're teeth are vibrating.The back wall is lined with vintage pinball machines and for you gamblers out there... there's lotto. There's also an old fireplace to warm up to and an altar above... I believe once upon a time this building was a church. How ironic. There's a back patio that's great in the summer time, but they do have heaters out there to accommodate the smokers or if you're so inclined to suck up a hearty dose of second hand smoke. The staff is friendly, fast and they consistently give good service.
For me it's all about the cheeseburger basket, fully loaded with a side of extra crispy tots. The burger is a juicy mess... a perfect vehicle to sop up the residuals of tall vodka tonics. The meat is perfectly seasoned, always med rare and dripping with cheesy goodness. The tots are salty, superbly crunchy and makes the fries play second fiddle to it's awesomeness. It's Friday night gut bomb that puts a smile on my face. I've eaten A LOT of burgers in this town and this place is tops in my book. I believe I may have a bit of a burger addiction and when I need a dose, Club 21 delivers. They are also known for their brunch menu with house made biscuit sandwiches and bottomless mimosas on the weekends for $10.
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Photo of Club 21 courtesy Facebook