Brunch Box (SW Portland, OR)

Posted: January 8, 2013 in B^4
Tags: , , , , ,


Brunch Box

Every time I visit Portland, I have a laundry list of new and old restaurants + food trucks to visit. And trying a few new burger joints is always at the top of my list. I’d been seeing Brunch Box near the top of Yelp for awhile now, but I don’t spend much time in SW, so I’d never been. On this occasion we were en route to Beaverton via public transportation – all of a sudden Brunch Box was on the way – AND I was hungry! Good deal.

Brunch Box is located at Food Cart Alley – more than a whole block of food card stretching from SW Stark to SW Oak on 5th street. You could go to a different place for lunch every work day for at least a month. Brunch Box opens at 8 on weekdays because you’ll note they serve breakfast, too (but I don’t think they have a brunch menu *cue snare drum and crash cymbal*).

I was excited to try a grilled-cheese-cheeseburger, which from what I can tell started as a food cart thing. Basically you make two grilled cheese sandwiches, and then throw a cheeseburger in the middle. There is no possible way to make one of these burgers even remotely healthy, so kiss your diet good-bye, at least for one meal.

Don’t worry, not every burger is a grilled-cheese-cheeseburger, but Brunch Box is definitely about outrageous, crazy burgers. As a result, I’d normally have a tough time deciding what to get, but I figured for my first time, I’d try the YouCanHasCheeseburger ($6), and I think it’s a good option. And for all the food that is packed into these burgers, the prices are quite reasonable.

A bit confusing to order at first – you fill out a laminated menu with a dry erase marker, and then leave it sitting there. I came at 2:30 PM, very much off-peak hours, but I’m impressed if they can keep stuff in the right order, since there’s not necessarily someone standing at the front to see who is in line when. I foresee it being an issue, but people seem to love this place, so I guess they have it worked out.

The mystery of how to order solved, I got the burger, and then went to find my friend, who was going for food that was…a bit on the lighter side.

Being that it was 2:30 PM on a dreary Tuesday, there was not much of a line, so I got my burger quickly. Boy does it look delicious – creamy cheese enveloped in Texas toast. Then the glistening caramelized onions, and then the burger patty which has got to be so juicy to make this burger just right. I open my mouth to take a bite…




OH GOD it delivers. Juice going everywhere…er wait is this description helping your appetite?

But yes, this is a well-seasoned, cooked-to-perfection beef patty (with more cheese melted atop the burger). It will make you forget all those times you were served a lifeless industrial frozen patty that was bland and dry. Every bite is packed with flavor, yet somehow the American cheese orgy in your mouth isn’t overpowering of the meat flavor. I imagine the grilled onions have something to do with that. Also, shockingly, four pieces of Texas toast isn’t a ratio-killer. I’d attribute this fact to the makings of Texas toast – soft and buttery bread soaks up all those wonderful juices, but is thick enough to keep the structure from collapsing into a soggy mess.

In the fairness of disclosure, the amount of cheese could cause the overall package to border on salty, so you might opt for a more modest offering if you don’t like salt that much. I, however, finished the burger quite quickly, as umami overload kept me from putting it down. As tasty as it was,  I find myself feeling like my arteries are clogging just thinking about this experience. So keep that in mind, or completely ignore it (might I recommend the latter option?)

Well, that concludes my meal at Brunch Box. Thanks for reading…hm, what? You’re imploring me: Conrad! where are the fries?! You ALWAYS get fries with your burger! Why not now!

Yes, that was the biggest question mark I felt having finished my first grilled cheese burger, too. You’re not alone. But I hate to break it to you: no fries here. No shakes either. 

Before continuing, I’d like to remind you that it’s not that my arteries didn’t feel sufficiently clogged, but rather I was quite surprised by the options offered instead of fries.

See, when I think Portland food truck, I don’t think of Lays potato chips and Coca Cola. Really, I’m craving those fresh-cut organic potatoes and local corn-syrup-free natural sodas. For $2 you can add a bag of chips and a soda (or water). But seriously, it can’t be that hard to throw a deep fryer in there. I want my fries! 😦

But this got me thinking…what aspect of Brunch Box actually is Portland-y? No fries? Heck, my burger came with American cheese! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had American cheese. I couldn’t shake the notion that someone picked up Brunch Box out of LA or Austin or any southern foodie haven and just dropped it in Portland to see if it would cause a hipster riot. Maybe hipsters think American cheese is offbeat and therefore cool? Dang now my head is spinning…

I’m not at all saying there’s anything wrong with not screaming OMGPORTLAND just because you’re located there, but I thought it was an interesting departure from the way things are done in a very proud city with such a vibrant food culture. Especially when so much of the food scene is so hipster, too.

And as I mentioned above, Brunch Box is in a cart pod of 20 or so trucks, so it’s not like you can’t walk five feet and challenge yourself to get a different side. Seriously, if you get a bag of chips and soda with your Brunch Box burger, with all the options on Food Cart Alley, you need to get yourself checked out. You can schedule it with your blood pressure test after you become addicted to the wonderful specimen that is the YouCanHasCheeseburger.

‘Nuff said. Writing this has made me quite hungry. I need to eat lunch, now.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: A-

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): B 

Keep on nomming!

Note: Apparently Brunchbox is opening a restaurant soon, according to the online menu. I’ll bet you a Redonkadonk burger that they serve fries.


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