by Scott Zeppa
Eugene Daily News
Greetings all, I’m the Fast Food Junkie and I’m not sorry! I’m also not sorry about taking a little break from my burger joint quest these last two weeks to stuff my face with Thanksgiving turkey over one extended weekend, as well as “hyper” sampling some of the Civil War’s best tailgate flank steak the following weekend. Both food and family-friendly occasions that allow for a little “top-button popping” excess, and the smug satisfaction of a happy and full belly. Despite the whirlwind of seasonal celebrations and their own carnous pleasures, I have not lost sight of my mission gentle readers; the quest for a great local burger with a side of Americana is still on. This time it’s right in the heart of Eugene.
Given this is the “Eugene” Daily News, I have gotten some friendly flak regarding this series since the first two locales were on Main Street in Springfield. Well, I have a confession to make – I’m a Springfeldian. I hope this doesn’t cause too much controversy. I want to assure you, burger lovers, that I will never let municipal bias interfere with my taste buds. Great burgers know no borders and as long as it’s local and meaty, the Fast Food Junkie will be there. This time around, I was at Dickie Jo’s Burgers.
Dickie Jo’s Burgers (201 E. 13th Ave) is right off the corner at 13th and Pearl in downtown Eugene. I call it “new old school” because it was opened in 2009 by Westraunt Concepts, a local West Bros. enterprise with the objective of offering a high quality “quick casual” dining experience. The place created a lot of local media buzz when it first opened and received much praise for the quality of fare, however, there were a few complaints regarding service and price so I was interested to see what I would discover now that the hoopla has long since quieted.
Aside from the handicapped parking spot and modern bicycle security cage, the Dickie Jo’s frontage is comfortably traditional. The color scheme and sign fonts exude the feeling of a classic burger joint. The feeling is well amplified when you walk through the door and see the sign instructing you to order at the register counter. Dickie Jo’s runs what I call a semi-sit down service operation (aka Carl’s Jr. style) where one orders at the register counter, gets a number and the food is brought to the table. There is ample seating, including a great counter and space for those waiting on to-go orders.
The menu is basic, offering variations on burger baskets (1/3 lb), hot dogs and chicken strips but with many fresh and homemade ingredients. All buns and breads are baked fresh on-site and homemade chili is served in a bowl or on top of a Hebrew National kosher dog. Dickie Jo’s also proudly offers “Aloft Serve”, a special organic and natural soft-serve ice cream available as cones, shakes, sundaes and banana splits. Soft drinks, including tea, are pricey ($2) but include unlimited refills. A selection of bottled beer is also available. There’s no breakfast menu, as Dickie Jo’s is only open for lunch and dinner. No matter to me though, as my dedicated focus is the burger joint experience.
When I walked into the place at high noon, there was one party of two ordering at the counter and about 15 customers already eating distributed across 7 tables. Pleasant Christmas music could be heard in the dining area befitting the season. Patrons ranged from elderly couples, to college students, to a family of four, to myself and there was a slow but steady flow of traffic in and out of the place while I was there. The excellent lunch counter was empty so I decided to sit there after I placed my order. Travis, the young man behind the counter, was courteous and efficient. I noticed during my meal that each of the six workers were relatively young and quite industrious. I ordered a burger basket with a bottomless Dr. Pepper, scratching the tomato and adding cheddar. This came to $9.50, so again, maybe a little steep for the starving student but a typical price point for the whole experience. Dickie Jo’s also offers to cook your burger “a little pink” or “no pink”. I went with “a little pink.”
The cook staff impressed the heck out of me. I had my basket brought to me inside of five minutes! Amazing. It was so fast I thought for sure they had rushed it, but no, they got it done fast and well; perfectly “a little pink”. The burger was excellent quality, the fresh baked and butter-toasted bun was incredible and the toppings were all fresh and appropriately distributed. There was a lot of grease on the paper the burger was wrapped in, but the burger itself was tastefully juicy and the bun was unaffected; I can’t emphasize how excellent Dickie Jo’s buns are. The fries are also top drawer, shoe-string style and near perfect. No grease to speak of, thin natural-cut slices, crispy outside yet with full potato body inside; nothing compliments a burger like fries. My one greedy complaint would be to get more fries in the basket, though the quantity I received was ample for a filling lunch.
So, based on my experience, if there were any legitimate service issues when the place first opened they have been well resolved. The staff was always hustling, with a friendly demeanor and I’ve never had a properly prepared order brought to me so fast. The place is clean and inviting, and, aside from a few modern conveniences (like HD TV’s) which we will absolutely forgive them for; Dickie Jo’s does an excellent job of providing a quality burger experience. I call it a tasty lunch and a nice new rendition of an American classic.