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Beaverton’s Beloved Brisket-Happy Burgers Are Coming to Portland’s Central Eastside

Wolf’s Head, of the destination barbecue and burger carts, will open a restaurant in Portland serving malts and fried cheese curds

A hand holds a stacked burger with pickles and American cheese at Wolf’s Head Burgerhouse.
A burger from Wolf’s Head Burgerhouse.
Wolf’s Head
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Soon after opening their original Beaverton barbecue cart in December 2019, Wolf’s Head owners Jason Wittek and Roy Doty switched things up. In true pitmaster fashion, they had originally used the trimmings from their Texas-style brisket for sausages, but found making sausages on a cart particularly tricky. So instead, they decided to grind that brisket and turn it into a burger. The burgers were so popular, they inspired a whole other food cart.

Now, Wittek and Doty are bringing their burgers to Portland, opening a restaurant underneath the Hawthorne Bridge in Central Eastside. Wolf’s Head Portland, opening in early July, will serve the cart’s brisket blend burgers alongside other Americana-nostalgic standards like curly fries, fried cheese curds, and old fashioned malts.

Wittek and Doty met at the produce-centric Bay Area restaurant Stem Kitchen & Garden, eventually moving to the Saratoga in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The chefs moved to Portland, attracted to the region’s natural spaces. The Pacific Northwestern woodsy theme now appears in the restaurant’s decor, which includes paintings of woodland flora and fauna, taxidermy, and mounted antlers.

With that context, the menu resembles one similar to a country diner or lakeside general store, with a lineup of single, double, and chili cheese burgers as well as add-ons like bacon and fried eggs. The patty itself has changed since its original smokehouse cart days; instead of a straight brisket grind, which was close to a 50 percent fat percentage, the cart uses a blend with brisket, which gets closer to 70 percent lean; that percentage allows the burger to stay juicy as it’s smashed on a griddle, without being too greasy. These aren’t char-centric, hyper-lacy smash burgers, however. “We just call them old school burgers,” Wittek says. “We can still get lacy edges sometimes, but that’s not our goal. It’s a Midwest-inspired smash burger. They’re fully cooked, but retaining moisture, the happy medium.”

Sides like curly fries, tossed in a house seasoning blend, are also available as chili cheese fries; battered and fried cheese curds come with ranch, a nod to Wittek’s Minnesota roots. “Classic Midwest,” he says. “This place in particular, it’s more focused on coming in with your family, having a chill vibe, getting a burger and relaxing.”

Part of that Midwestern hospitality: Free refills on coffee (Coava coffee, specifically), part of a drink menu that also includes a selection of malts — strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel. “I don’t know why they fell out of fashion and everyone went to shakes, but they’re just so much more flavorful to me,” Wittek says.

The restaurant will offer a malt of the month, as well as a burger and a soup of the month. The soups are meant to offer something a little lighter and fresher to contrast with the burgers and fries; Wittek mentioned possibilities like sweet corn soup and gazpacho. Similarly, the malt of the month will be somewhat seasonal — think: Marionberry pie malts.

As for the burgers of the month, that’s where visitors may spot the cart’s smoked-brisket-topped burgers, an original favorite from the first Wolf’s Head cart.

Wolf’s Head plans to open July 10 at 80 SE Madison Street, Suite 100.