burger battle2
Image: David Reamer

Bibiano’s hanger steak and toasted asadero cheese burger.

Oswaldo Bibiano

Chef/owner, Autentica

“What’s better,” Bibiano asks, “than meat on meat?” The obvious—nay, only—answer is “nothing.” And so, before the patty is even pounded out, the bun toasted, or the accompanying aioli emulsified, Bibiano—who’s served time in the kitchens of Basilico, South Park, and Pazzo—busies himself hacking off thick cuts of hanger steak. When you’re the brains behind one of Portland’s best Mexican restaurants, and you’ve just been dubbed by the Oregonian as a “Chef to Watch,” something as rote as a bacon cheeseburger just won’t do.

THE PATTY: A generous mix of ground pork, lamb, and 65 to 75 percent lean beef gingerly bound together and laid out in big, bun-filling patties.

SECRET WEAPON: Asadero cheese. Bibiano cuts half-inch slabs of the hard white cow’s milk cheese and places them straight on the griddle. They don’t melt, but a charred crust forms on the outside, and there’s just a touch of gooey goodness on the inside.

PRESENTATION: A pale-red swirl of heirloom tomato and habanero aioli is swiped across the plate, as well as freshly pickled cucumber and onion. The slab of fat-on hanger steak creates a meat-on-meat mélange (separated only by a thick-cut tomato) whose delicious drippings are captured by the quickly moistening bun.

REACTION: “Juicy bread, lightly grilled cheese, a fresh tomato flavor,” Schroeder says between mouthfuls. “There’s everything I wanted in each bite.” Reynolds, too, reveled in the delectable mess of the creation. “I love the messiness,” he says. “A burger should be wet and soggy and flavorful.”