Central Oregon's best burgers

By Julie Johnson / The Bulletin


Published Jul 30, 2004 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

It's official - Pilot Butte Drive-In makes Central Oregon's favorite burger.

At least, according to a heated, if scientifically imperfect, survey conducted on The Bulletin's Web site.

The survey, conducted by Web-based market research software Zoomerang, pitted about a dozen local burger restaurants against one another as readers of The Bulletin voted (only one vote allowed per computer - no ballot-stuffing here) for their favorites.

Bend's Big Three burger joints - Pilot Butte Drive-In, Dandy's Drive-In and Jake's Truck Stop - garnered nearly 82 percent of all votes cast, or 1,509 out of a total of 1,842 votes.

But it was Pilot Butte that came out on top, with 29 percent of the votes, or 539 votes, squeaking by Jake's, which had 501 votes (27 percent). Dandy's came in third with 469 votes (25 percent).

This was no easy decision for burger lovers.

Do you go for the sheer mammoth size of the burger? The tastiness of the signature sauce? The tenderness of the bun?

All worthwhile considerations, to be sure.

In the end, the 20-year-old restaurant at the base of Pilot Butte won the hearts - and stomachs - of locals.

”It's like, 'the envelope, please...' ” joked Melanie Mangin, a member of the family that has owned the Pilot Butte Drive-In since 1983.

The Bulletin conducted the survey from 8 a.m. July 18 to 5 p.m. July 22. Early on, Pilot Butte was the runaway winner, with at least 50 percent of votes cast, followed distantly by Dandy's. But by Wednesday, Jake's Truck Stop had overtaken both drive-ins, leaving Pilot Butte and Dandy's duking it out for second place.

Why a truck-stop burger?

”Because it's good,” said Mary Bugge, a 14-year veteran of the wait staff at Jake's, 61260 S. Highway 97. Bugge said she can't even imagine how many beefy burgers she's served at the restaurant that proudly claims to dole out Central Oregon's largest portions. Open 24 hours a day, Jake's is hopping at all hours, and is not only a hit with the truckers who pass through Central Oregon, but is a locals' favorite, as well.

Extra-large portions? You bet. In addition to its standard-sized but still large burgers, (more than 20 are offered on the menu, starting at $6.25), the restaurant serves a 16-ounce monster, ”the biggest, baddest, beefiest burger in Bend,” claims the menu. It comes with fries, all the fixings and even a portion of ham or bacon atop the burger, all for $10.45.

But the biggest? Not according to Pilot Butte Drive-In, which offers an 18-ounce whopper for $12.75 that doesn't include fries, but comes with an extra plate for those who want to share it. Pilot Butte, 917 NE Greenwood Ave., also offers dozens of standard-sized burger choices, ranging in price from $4.25 to $8.25.

Dandy's, 1334 NE Third St., has been selling its burgers, fries and more since 1968. At this drive-in, muddy four-by-fours and pragmatic construction rigs idle beside minivans and BMWs as roller-skating waitresses take and deliver orders at car windows.

”It tastes the best and it's the freshest,” said customer Suzanne Davenport, who waited for lunch recently with her children, Kara, 9, and Bryce, 4. ”It's fun and different for the kids.”

Dandy's, where cheeseburgers cost $4.25 and a large order of fries is 95 cents, is old-fashioned in every sense of the word, from the roller skates to the taste of the 100 percent- ground-chuck burgers, said owner Bill DeGree.

There are plenty of other burgers to be had in Central Oregon. Some voters in the Web survey favored the Sno-Cap in Sisters, Red Robin, JC's Bar & Grill and Deschutes Brewery in Bend and Jody's Drive Inn in Redmond (each got from 22 to 50 votes in the survey). Madras' Original Burger Works and the Tastee Treet in Prineville were also vote-getters (12 and 21, respectively).

”It's all just harmless fun,” said Mangin, with the modesty that comes with winning. ”No matter how it turned out, it's just nice to see people excited about it.”