In the past two months, this corner store and bistro's "Burger Night" has gained quite a following. Manager Aaron Christenson explained how this idea evolved among himself, owner Jay Junkin and chef Parker Vaughn.
"It's not our normal gig, we're not a burger place," Christenson said of the corner restaurant known for its salads, wood-fired pizza and espresso drinks, as well as its creative dinner entrees.
Not so long ago, Jackson's started a steak night on Fridays and Saturdays in order to keep things fresh and fun. The success that followed led to Burger Night, which features a different burger each week. But disabuse yourself of any notions about half-ripened tomatoes and wilted lettuce, this isn't your dad's charred hockey puck, or the prefab patties that you find at too many restaurants that lay claim to a "best" burger. No, this is ground beef gone gourmet.
"We've done burgers before in the past and we wanted to make it really special. We bring in really good product and by having it limited, we know we can count on selling out and it has become something special, as opposed to something we have all the time," Christenson said.
The storefront and its dining setup - in which folks order at the counter and seat themselves - felt strangely familiar to my Midwestern roots, specifically my experiences in Chicago. It turns out that owner Jay Junkin also hails from Chicago, but the culinary similarities end there, thankfully.
Jackson's Corner opened its doors nearly three years ago with a focus on accommodating the surrounding neighborhood by serving food as well as basic necessities like milk, eggs and of course, beer and wine to go - a carryover from the building's days as the Delaware Market. But aside from the coolers and a few snacks, the space is totally transformed with a distinctly modern feel that would not be out of place in Portland or Seattle. Still, Jackson's is cozy and warm, even when packed with people. It's interior isn't overwhelming and the wall cooler was a strangely pleasing sight while waiting to eat.
Surveying the scene on Thursday night, Jackson's felt quintessentially Bend. In other words, lots of Patagonia-clad families, microbrew connoisseurs and an overwhelming enthusiasm for the "local food" movement was evident throughout.
"We're into being part of the community while also having fun and serving good food," Christenson said.
Every part of the menu owed allegiance to a local outfit, be it the coffee, meat, bread or produce. The burgers in question came by way of the Brothers-based Country Natural Beef cooperative, said Christenson. Apparently Bendites are developing a taste for them because I found myself standing amidst many people all trying not to look like they weren't ready to attack the next person who feigned movement toward the front of the line. Claim jumpers beware. It was chaos; children scurried at my calves while folks hypnotized by their iPhones prevented a logical line formation. I briefly considered making a break for it, all the while pondering how the staff could be so serene and friendly.
My burger arrived in a reasonable amount of time considering the circus of people occupying every nook and I have no idea how the employees kept track of which plate went where. Regardless, my plate found me just fine. The Country Natural Beef burger was adorned with Rogue Valley bleu cheese, arugula, aioli, caramelized onions and Yukon Gold potatoes on the side.
I'm not gonna lie; had I not been eating alone, I would've uttered some excited profanity after taking that first bite. The burger was incredibly succulent and full of rich earthy flavor thanks to the arugula and aioli combination. The potato slices were equally flavorful, especially since I didn't know potatoes could have any flavor - save for when they are served drenched in some heart-attack provoking topping.
When I went to grab some water, I noticed that the sign for that night's special had already been removed. It was all starting to make sense. Those salivating masses around me were the victims of simple economics and supply and demand takes on new meaning during Burger Night.
Since this theme is in its infancy, chef Vaughn prepares only two dozen burgers for the occasion. In hindsight, this explains some of the tension I felt around me. There were a lot more than 24 hungry people, but only a select few were destined to win the burger lottery.
It was a wicked burger, but I don't know if I would dare venture near the throngs of agitated Bendites turned foodie carnivores to relive it. Thank God, Jackson's offers a carry-out option.