Eugene will soon welcome Portland-based Little Big Burger, a minimalistic, gourmet-meets-fast-food burger restaurant. Set to open in September, the chain’s newest location will be at Courtside, a new apartment complex near Matthew Knight Arena and just blocks from campus.
With one site in Portland’s Pearl District and another newly opened joint in North Portland, the Little Big Burger chain is growing fast. Poppe said she and co-founder, co-owner and boyfriend Micah Camden already had their eye on Eugene when Project^, a real estate development firm based in Portland, approached them with the Courtside site. It all fell into place from there. @@http://www.projectpdx.com/@@
The location couldn’t be better, Poppe said. Knight Arena and Market of Choice will be good for business, as will the proximity to the East University residential neighborhood and campus.
“You pretty much have a constant supply of customers,” Poppe said. “As one class (of students) goes out, another comes in.”
Eugeneans also envision steady business for the new restaurant.
“I think there will be droves of freshmen from the dorms,” said 2010 University graduate Eric Lake, who currently lives in Portland and frequents the Pearl District restaurant.
The location isn’t the only thing that will draw in customers. The restaurant itself is eye-catching with its bright red storefront. Inside, retro mixes with modern; classic red and white highlight the counters, and a graphic mural by Portland artist Damien Gilley fills a wall in each location.
The restaurant’s inventory is part of the decoration, too. Food is prepared and cooked in the open, and the constant sizzle of meat on the grill gives a pleasant ambiance. Four shelves of canned beer — including Fat Tire, Rolling Rock and Blue Moon — are proudly on display on the wall near the register.
“We’re working with the University to ensure there is no abuse of alcohol,” Poppe said, since the location will be so close to the dorms. Although the canned microbrews are on sale, Poppe added that she doesn’t see them as a main draw to the restaurant.
The food is the main attraction. The fries — Yukon gold potatoes cooked in white truffle oil — are “addicting,” according to Lake. Chez Gourmet veggie burgers are available for the non-meat crowd. Local brioche buns, local cheeses, organic veggies and Cascade natural beef make up the burgers, which are no bigger than a fist and taller than they are wide.
Mike Olson, a first-time Portland customer to the Pearl District restaurant, said he liked the size of the burgers.
“It wasn’t too much; it wasn’t too little. And I thought it was good quality,” Olson said.
Quality is the reason behind Little Big Burger, said Poppe. After Portland-based Japanese pub Yakuza, also owned by Camden, won Portland Monthly’s Best Burger of 2009, the couple searched for a way to deliver the Yakuza burger faster without sacrificing the quality of the food. Since little burgers cook more quickly, Little Big Burger was born.
The small burger is accompanied by a small menu. With only seven items to choose from, the restaurant keeps it simple.
“We do one thing, and we do it really, really well,” Poppe said. “We’re proud of our product, and we’re able to ensure it’s consistent.”
Little Big Burger strives to be environmentally friendly and was designed to reduce its carbon footprint, Poppe said. There are no trashcans; except for the beer cans, everything from the paper bags to the soft drink cup lids is composted.
“Eugene has a similar ethos to Portland,” Poppe said. “I think they’re going to be really receptive to our message.”
The grand opening of the new Little Big Burger will include free burgers.