By Ellen Spitaleri
At Oscar’s Burgers, the impossible is possible — at least in the plant-based burger world. During the pandemic, the restaurant, located at 3500 SE Milwaukie Ave. across the street from the Aladdin Theater, survived on take-out only.
It is now open for dining inside and outside during the summer. Diners can choose to sit outside on a secluded patio, complete with a water feature.
Oscar’s serves the Impossible Burger and Beyond Chicken plant-based, breaded tenders exclusively, said owner Charles Barker. He noted that he chose Impossible Burgers because the “flavor is good and they are designed for meat eaters who want to reduce their meat consumption and carbon footprint.”
“There are great reasons to eat them — they are healthier to eat and they are greener for the environment. Plant-based products use less land and water, and generate fewer greenhouse gases to produce,” he said.
The Impossible Burger is made mostly from soy, he noted, but also contains coconut and sunflower oils, along with natural flavors, a small amount of potato protein and other ingredients.
The menu offers two sizes of burgers, served on an organic bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and the house-made “O” sauce. The burgers can be served as combos, with fries and a soda.
The Beyond Chicken sandwich combo is served with a side of fries, soda and sauce. Sides include shoe-string fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw made with vegan mayonnaise and onion rings made with Walla Walla sweets dipped in a beer batter. Sliced jalapenos, plant-based cheese, plant-based bacon and mushrooms are popular add-ons.
A breakfast sandwich is also available and features an Impossible sausage patty “that is spiced to taste just like sausage,” Barker said, adding that it comes with scrambled, locally sourced tofu.
Everything on the menu is completely vegan, even the milkshakes and dishes of soft-serve ice cream.
“Customers love our milkshakes. We use an Oatly base that tastes like soft-serve ice cream,” Barker said. He noted that Oatly just started in 2021 and is “an innovative plant-based milk company.”
Shakes come in four flavors: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mocha and soft-serve comes in vanilla, chocolate and swirl. Toppings include Oreos, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce and sprinkles.
Oscar’s Burgers is a local family business named after Barker’s son, Oscar, who is the menu tester and cook. His daughter, Chloe, designs all the graphics and nephew, Harry Barker-Fost, provides technical support.
Barker, who grew up in Portland, trained as a chef and has worked in many different restaurants in Portland, the Oregon Coast and beyond.
His family bought the former Whynot Tavern property in the Brooklyn neighborhood in 1978. Over the years they have used it as offices, a restaurant, a catering kitchen and apartments that have helped revive the area.
“The Whynot opened right after Prohibition ended and lasted 40 years” in that spot, Barker said. Barker and Calkins Real Estate took over the spot, 1979-1991, giving way to London Catering, 1992-1998, Lulu’s Diner was at the site, 1999-2000, followed by Sala, 2001-2003.
Most recently, the site housed Sanborn’s, a breakfast café, 2004-2020. In March of 2021, Barker opened Oscar’s Burgers at that time for take-out only. He felt the time was right to open a climate-friendly restaurant and customers have supported the “simple concept” of plant-based foods.
He added, “People love it. We have a 4.9 rating on Yelp.”
Oscar’s is open 11 am-7 pm, Wednesday-Sunday and is closed Monday and Tuesday.
3200 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Photo: Owner Charles Barker by Dick Trtek