PLASTERED WITH PORTRAITS of Richard Nixon, Richard Burton, Dick Van Dyke, and other noteworthy namesakes, the new Dick’s Kitchen—owned by New York native and Yankees fan Richard Satnick, founder of the Laughing Planet empire—sends Portlanders back in time while pushing a decidedly modern, local, and healthy ethos. The menu focuses on classic diner fare like burgers, sausages, and sandwiches, but with a twist: beef is local and grass-fed; buns, ketchup, mustard, and special sauces are made in-house; fries are not deep-fried but thinly coated in tapioca flour and olive oil and “air-baked” in the oven; sugar and salt are used sparingly; and vegan options abound.
Chef John Huyck (star of Portland’s long-gone Casa U-Betcha) is busy honing his execution—the "not-fries," for instance, may leave some diners nonplussed—but the French Onion “Zizou” Burger already makes Dick’s worth a visit. The Zizou finds its inspiration in French soccer star (and national hero) Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final: first, thinly sliced onions are "smashed" into a five-ounce, lightly seasoned patty from Carman Ranch in Oregon’s Wallowa Valley. A quick sear in a super-hot cast-iron skillet seals in a wealth of flavors and juices while simultaneously caramelizing the onions. Topped with swiss cheese, served on a sturdy, perfectly sized vegan potato bun, and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onions, house-made pickles, and a piquant sauce, this creation is an eye-opening update of an age-old staple. And if it’s any indication of how Satnick plans to overthrow what he calls the "military-industrial food system," count us in.