Climbing the Alps - Gruner

There isn't much in Portland like Gruner, an "alpine" restaurant on SW 12th and Alder in downtown Portland. It takes inspiration from the mountain nations of Europe, like Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania.

Predictably, the menu is a little bit different than most of what we've had before. As you can probably guess from the locales the dishes originate from, it's a meat and potatoes kind of place, but being in Portland and with an emphasis on sourcing locally, it has that influence as well.

When Gruner first opened many people really seemed to like it, but we couldn't necessarily get excited about the place. Plus, it was only open for dinner, which made it unlikely we'd be heading back into downtown after work. A couple months back Gruner made the decision to be open for lunch as well, with a highlight (for us anyway) being their burger was on the lunch menu. For dinner you have to sit at the bar to get the burger, and we aren't necessarily sit-at-the-bar people because we don't drink much or often.

Since that burger was recently named #2 in Portland by Nick Zukin in Willamette Week, Wifey knew what she was ordering. So I just had to find something else on the lunch menu.

After perusing I decided on the Tarte Flambee, which contrary to the name did not come out on fire - disappointing. But what is it? It's an Alsatian pizza, with a creme fraiche white sauce, grilled onions, and a hefty helping of bacon. (Pictures were taken with our cell phones, so they may not be quite up to snuff - forgot the camera.)

I have to say, we didn't know what to expect, but it was excellent. I'd recommend this in a heartbeat.

The burger was a nice chunk of meat, very well seasoned. The bun was very solid, but still soft, and those pickled onions were fantastic. The fried smashed potatoes were also very good. That bacon was excellent.

We did have one beef (no pun intended). We ordered the burger "medium" after being told by default it would be medium-rare. We even asked the waitress for Gruner's definition of medium and though it met ours - slightly pink in the middle but mostly cooked.

That's not what we got. Instead, we got mostly pink with a thin layer of cooked outside. In fact, there was a red puddle under the burger when it was cut...that's rare in our book, nothing close to medium.

Could we have sent it back? Perhaps...that's just not something we do though, for whatever reason. Seems like they should be able to get it right the first time, being pros and all.

I will say we were the first customers of the day. We got there right when it opened for lunch at 11:30am, thinking it might be busy. By the time we left an hour later, there was one other customer. Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking it may not be that cost-effective for them to be open for lunch, unless what we saw was a complete aberration. Did that factor into an undercooked burger? Was the grill not warm enough? I have no idea, but as Wifey and I agreed the cooks should be able to deal with that and adjust accordingly.

Again, both dishes tasted wonderful and we would probably go back, but I think we'd be a little more clear on the burger if we ordered that again.

Oh, and if you have a dog who wants to join you, there is outdoor seating with umbrellas and the waitress did tell us well-behaved canines were allowed.

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