Burger Project – Roakes

January 26, 2013

Today was a bit bittersweet; it was the last visit to the burger joints listed in the Oregonian’s Top Ten Burgers in Portland article in November 2011. I’ll follow up with the overall ratings and comments in a week or two. But today we cover our last visit. Jay was up in Tacoma watching his grandson Owen’s basketball game; but Norm, John, Ray and I made a quorum.

When we first moved to Aloha in the early 80’s we would go to the Roake’s on TV Highway between 185th and 198th. It was sold and renamed Annie’s at some point. For the years when Jeff and Andrew were in middle school and high school we had a tradition to start our Christmas vacation there (weird tradition, but there it is). Even when the kids were in college we’d try to head there during their visits home. We’d have the same thing, mostly: foot long coneys, fries covered with coney sauce and root beer milkshakes.

Well, today the burger bunch headed to the orignal Roake’s in Milwaukie, Oregon. It’s about a 40 minute drive from our home in Beaverton. One of the side benefits of this trip is we would be able to drive over the Sellwood Bridge which was recently moved 66 feet north so a new bridge could be built in its place. I didn’t want to be the first ones over the bridge but I wanted to try it.

A long drive. The arrow marks the Sellwood Bridge over the Williamette River

Its a tiny, tiny place. I had to pay close attention to make sure I didn’t drive past it

Classic burger shack.

The parking lot is much larger than the restaurant; they must have car service sometimes. Look at the sign closely; a few years ago they switched from Coke to Pepsi.

Outside menu; you can see a few years ago they switched from Coke to Pepsi

Inside there is a small counter in the ordering area.  Four cheerful young women were there to take our order and cook our lunch.

A small order, cooking, and prep area. Efficiency is required to not bump elbows

In all my visits to Roake’s in Aloha, I’ve never had a burger; I’ve always, always gone for the foot long coney dog. But this is a burger project after all, so I bit the bullet and ordered a bacon cheese burger.

Attached to the main trailer is a little addition with one 4-seat table and three 2-seat tables. After we ordered we headed into the small dining area and grabbed the 4-seater as a threesome was packing up.

Norm and Ray grabbing our seats after ordering. You can get an idea of how small it is.
Ray and Howard after ordering. 

Compare the two pictures to see  how close we are to either end of the dining room

John and Norm waiting for lunch


 We ordered one batch of fries to share. Had I been with my boys we would have had them pour coney sauce over the top; but since it may be an acquired taste, we ordered coney sauce on the side. It looked and tasted very much like the sauce at the Roake’s/Annie’s in Aloha.

Fries with Coney sauce

 The burgers came next. I thought they were excellent; check the ratings and comments to see what the others thought. The buns were perfectly toasted with nice crisp edges – not overdone. The burger sauce was fantastic: creamy with a little spice. The only downsides were too much lettuce and the bacon was just a bit tough. If memory serves, a lot of our hamburgers have been loaded up with lettuce. My suspicion is it is a good way to make a burger look larger than it really is. The toughness of the bacon may have been because the slices were so thick. Who am I too complain about too much bacon?

Bacon cheeseburger. Note the edges of the perfectly toasted bun.

 What to say about the fries. If you like greasy fries, you’ll love Roakes. They are thin cut fries, which I like, and the coney sauce is my secret pleasure.

Remains of the day: greasy french fries.

If you want a good hamburger and are in the southeast suburbs, Roake’s is a good bet. That is my take, check out the ratings and comments to see what my fellow researchers think.

Ratings

Comments

Burger

Howard

Excellent hamburger. The bun was perfectly toasted, the sauce was nice and creamy with a little zing to it. One of the best “special sauces” I’ve experienced. The huge mound of lettuce keeps it from being epic.

Norm

Great Burger. Large fresh, and most important for a burger this size, a STRONG bun. A very large tasty piece of meat, with flavorful bacon, cheese, and special sauce. It was wrapped old school style in a piece of paper.. so you could get a good grip without losing the goodies out the bottom. Pretty close to EPIC..

John

Very good burger. Toasted moist bun, tasty ‘special sauce’, patty was ample and juicy.A little mayo to keep it legal. Fresh veggie condiments. Bacon was good – could have been a bit crispier.

Ray

 Meat was good, but pretty thin. Bacon was a bit tough. A little too much lettuce. Good toasted bun and very tasty sauce. Juicy but not dripping. A nice fat slice of tomato. Altogether, a very good burger.

Fries

We all shared an order of fries with some coney sauce on the side

Howard

What can I say? I’m powerless in the face of greasy fries with coney sauce. They may be greasy for most peoples’ taste and the coney sauce may not be for everyone, but oh, how I like them

Norm

The burger was great, but the fries…… Oh My. They were the “shoestring” style…with plenty of Oil!. You might even call them greasy. I don’t mind shoestring fries if they are substantial…but these were not that long…and down about the middle of the basket they started getting smaller and smaller. The final pieces weren’t even big enough to dip in the sauce. The vaunted coney sauce in my opinion was not that great.

John

Tried one or two. These fries were pretty soggy (greasy) and limp. Not my favorite.

Ray

I liked the fries. They were small and pretty greasy, but I really liked them.

Shakes

Howard (Root beer shake)

Pretty standard soft serve milk shake. This was made with a shot of root beer from the fountain, not root beer extract.

Norm (Chocolate shake)

Shake was average… If you are going to serve a shake that is somewhat thick make sure you give the customer a large diameter straw. Had to take the cap off and drink the shake because it was too thick for the small straw. It was chocolate. it was ok.. but nothing special

John (Malted chocolate shake)

Good shake. plenty of flavor, thick, with some malt added.

Ray (Chocolate shake)

It was a pretty average shake. Very thick, which I like.

Service

Howard

Quick and friendly. Just right

Norm

The Service at Roakes Milwaukie was very good. An energetic group of young woman in the very small kitchen have figured out how to give quick service, handle a large number of orders and keep everyone happy. Hats off the servers and cooks!

John

Friendly, efficient and prompt.

Ray

The service was very fast, accurate, and friendly. They were pretty busy and didn’t have time to chat, but it was very good service.

Ambience and Atmosphere

Howard

A classic roadside burger joint. Small, cozy, but clean.

Norm

The ambience was very historic. Apparently this location has been in business for decades…and started in a small trailer which has been added on to. Inside it’s very stainless steel, like the kind of diner you might find in New Jersey. But it’s very clean and well organized with a lot of happy customers. In spite of the tiny area inside, there is a large amount of parking outside and a couple of tables under cover outside that could be used in good weather.

John

I like this place. It’s been around since 1937 or so. Not sure of the structure but it looks and feels like parts of a grounded stainless steel trailer or something along those lines. Very compact, but there seemed to be enough room for all who showed up. Funky, old-school burger joint vibe.

Ray

Old and funky. Clean but very well used environment. Tables were squeezed in with little room to maneuver. Chairs were standard folding chairs.

Overall

Howard

Certainly a place to return to.

Norm

In spite of the disappointing fries and the so so milkshake, over all experience was pretty good. If you’ve never been to Roakes you must check it out.

John

Good, reasonably priced burger and shake, cool old ‘building’. Nice folks working there. I’d go there again.

Ray

I would definitely recommend this place. It is very unimpressive from the outside, but very good food and service.

About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
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