US eatery in a pickle after getting best burger award

SEATTLE • One would think that earning a juicy award for the United States' best burger would be a great thing, right?

But, just like how some Michelin winners in France have felt the heat to deliver perfectly every time after they were awarded the stars, that recognition is also making the owner of a US diner flip over with the intense pressure.

Last year, after a US-wide search, the popular men's lifestyle site, Thrillist, bestowed the award on Stanich's, located in Portland, Oregon.

Founded in 1949, the legendary diner has catered to the likes of basketball star Michael Jordan, television news anchor Dan Rather, members of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team and other famous and not-so-famous burger lovers.

The eatery has received other awards before, but unfortunately, this particular prize - while very much appreciated - created so many problems that the decision was made to temporarily close it.

"It was not only bittersweet, it was also a curse," the restaurant's second generation owner, Mr Steve Stanich, said.

Since winning the award, the restaurant has been inundated with new customers - so much so that lines are long and the staff are overwhelmed.

Recent online reviews are reflecting its customers' frustrations and Mr Stanich - no lover of the Internet - has been forced to field advice on how to run his restaurant and even - gasp - how to cook a burger from some of the haters online.

But worst of all?

The restaurant was unable to serve country music star Tim McGraw when he stopped by for a bite.

"There was a five-hour wait and I couldn't wait on him. Be careful what you wish for," Mr Stanich warned. "Because it almost crushed our business."

Although the decision to temporarily close was his, it was likely motivated by a recent city inspection that gave the place a clean bill of health, but recommended a "thorough, deep cleaning".

Mr Stanich got the message.

"We're making sure that everything's spotless," he said.

Has the 69-year-old owner been tempted to just chuck it all in and sell? A little bit.

But it seems likely that he is going to stick around for a while.

"We've been offered a lot of money to tear this down," he said.

"But I'm not motivated by money. My parents taught me that the more you give, the more you receive."

McGraw might want to drop by again then.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'US eatery in a pickle after getting best burger award'. Subscribe