Always up to try the newest burger in town, my family recently headed to Wolf’s Head in Southeast Portland’s industrial section for lunch. (The brick-and-mortar location in the Waterman Building is under the Hawthorne Bridge — be warned that some of Portland’s various challenges are on full display in the area — but our trip was incident-free.)
Wolf’s Head started as a smoked barbecue cart in Beaverton, then expanded with a burgers-only cart. Now Wolf’s Head has opened a brick-and-mortar location with ample seating including a diner-style counter that allows patrons to peek into the kitchen and tables covered in cheery, red-check tablecloths. (At the time of our visit we did not spy any high chairs, so you may consider bringing a clip-on chair if you’ve got a baby or toddler.)
The menu is laser-focused on burgers, sides and malts. The single burger is a 4-ounce ground beef/brisket patty smashed onto a hot griddle and topped with a thick slice of American cheese, caramelized onion, burger sauce and dill pickles ($7). That’s what I ordered and I was not disappointed. It’s like an elevated In-N-Out burger. The sauce was exceptionally creamy and the pickles especially fresh and crunchy. The patty didn’t have the crunchy crust other smash burgers we’ve tried have, but it was extra meaty and juicy. This is a smash burger for people who don’t like smash burgers. All the elements worked together beautifully. My husband had the double deluxe, which added another patty and lettuce and tomato to the burger ($12). The burger was so sizable he couldn’t finish it, a first in all our years together. Next time, we’d both add tomato and lettuce to a single. You can also get a chili cheese burger ($12). Sadly, my kids ordered their usual dry burger, or as I always say to the person taking my order, “meat, cheese, bun.” But they finished them off, so I can’t complain. One day I’ll convert them to the wonderful world of toppings and sauce.
For sides, we tried the curly fries and fried cheese curds ($7). Cheese is a major food group for my 11-year-old daughter. She was especially eager to try the fried-cheese snacks. She liked them, but my 8-year-old son who isn’t as big a fan of cheese liked the cheese curds even more. Both also loved the seasoned curly fries. There’s also the option to get curly fries topped with cheese sauce, burger sauce, melted onions and bacon bits, which is reminiscent of In-N-Out’s secret menu “animal-style” fries ($8); or cheese sauce, chili and raw onions ($10). Pro tip: We ordered two combos (an extra $5 each), which come with plain curly fries and a canned soft drink. That was plenty of fries for four with an order of cheese curds.
And we had to try the malts ($7 each). I had a salted caramel one and my kids shared a chocolate. They were made to order and delicious, but I was a little overwhelmed by the sweetness of the salted caramel.
We overlooked the monthly specials, which included a burger, malt and soup (heirloom tomato gazpacho) when we visited. Pro tip: Don’t overlook the specials menu!