Timber – Got Wood?

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Timber is the new steakhouse in Portland earning some pretty good reviews. Knowing that, I had to go try it and see if the buzz was properly placed. On a Saturday after performing lots of manual labor, I thought it would be the perfect day to go stuff my face and enjoy a couple drinks. We made our way to the bull, bourbon, and felled tree themed restaurant, ready to enjoy the food and beverage we felt we deserved after a day of hard work.

Our reservations were for 7:00 pm and we were right on time. There was a small line of people trying to get in in front of us. We heard the hostess tell some potential customers that the wait was nine hours. It was a mistake, but the wait was still significant enough that they left. When we got the the front of the line, we were told it would be just a few minutes and that we could wait inside and get a drink at the bar if we wanted. We did go to the bar, but it was so busy that by the time we were able to get menus, our table was ready.

The table we were shown to was out of the way, past the bar, and up a few steps. We sat and looked at the menus. Someone who was not our server quickly visited and asked if we wanted anything to drink before our waitress came. We asked for water and a couple beverages.  I ordered the Whiskey Smash – Wild Turkey 100 Proof, mint, lime, and simple syrup – and Mrs. Portlandeater ordered the Strawberry Mojito – Bacardi, strawberry, mint, simple syrup, and soda. A waitress visited, informed us that drinks were on the way, and gave us a run-down of the evening’s specials. None sounded particularly interesting to me so I refocused on the menu. Soon our drinks came out with some wasabi peas. I immediately sipped my drink. It was simple, delicious, and the perfect blend of flavors with slightly more citrus than mint. My wife raved about her mojito and we continued discussing what to order while chomping on peas and sipping both water and non-water drinks.

From my first glance at the menu, I knew I wanted the Jalapeno Mac and Cheese – four cheeses, panko bread crumbs, and jalapeno. My wife agreed to share it with me. For my main course, I was considering a burger or chicken. I prefer both to steak which is good, because the steaks at Timber are pricey, running – on average – in the $50 range without sides. The burger was appealing to me as I wanted to see how the house beef turned out, but I also love rotisserie chicken and it came with a choice of two sauces. As a sauce guy, the sauce options looked amazing, so it was a difficult decision.

After some discussion, I made a final decision of the Timber Wagyu Beef Burger – lettuce, tomato, cheddar, brioche bun, and fries. For an additional cost, bacon, Portobello mushrooms, grilled onions, fried duck egg, stilton blue cheese, and foie gras could be added, but I decided to get it as-is. The burger wasn’t cheap – even with fries – at $18, so I figured it would be good without additions. My wife ordered the Caesar Salad – no anchovy – romaine, parm, garlic cheese croutons, and the traditional dressing – and a side of Thick Cut Onion Rings.

Before long, our jalapeno mac came out in a crock. It looked highly cheesy and was topped with a few bread crumbs and some sort of sprout garnish. We both dug in, spooning copious amounts on to our little side plates. I took a bite. By the fire that lights the floors of hell! The smoked gouda, pepper jack, parm, and cheddar all combined to make drippy, cheesy perfection while the delicious jalapenos were inserted to provide some heat and a practical metric ton of fantastic flavor. There’s a lot of food I like, but this was one of the very best things I’d eaten in a while.

We consumed all of the jal-mac, drank, and popped some wasabi peas.  Before our mains came out, I was ready for another whiskey and asked if they had a list; of course, I knew in advance that they did. I was delivered a “bourbon bible” – a list of the vast selection of bourbon, whiskey, rye, and scotch they carry at Timber. It came complete with details on where they were produced and full flavor profiles of the nose, palate, and finish. After reviewing many pages of whiskey options, I figured I’d try the Berkshire Bourbon out of MA in a Manhattan. I did check the price first as I knew some of their bourbon would cost more than a steak and I wasn’t rolling THAT hard. Mrs. Portlandeater ordered a savignon blanc.

Main courses came out within a reasonable time frame. My burger and fries were served with a side of ketchup and aioli. I put my burger together and got to work. The burger was large at 10 oz. I took a bite. It was perfectly cooked, but wasn’t what I expected. Unlike the jalapeno mac, there wasn’t enough cheese on the burger and it was bland. I was disappointed. I hoped the fries would be better. I took a few and chomped on them. They were even more underwhelming and were the most soggy fries I’d had in recent memory. I tried one of my wife’s onion rings. It was crispy, but underseasoned. My wife agreed and thought the Caesar was very run-of-the-mill.

In an effort to perk up my burger, I threw some of the ketchup on it, but that didn’t make much difference and didn’t leave much for the fries. Instead, I ate the fries with the aioli which was really good, but unfortunately, that didn’t do anything to make the tater strips more crunchy. Even the fries that looked crispy weren’t. The drinks came out in the middle of my food consumption and the Manhattan was excellent. That did help some with my overall outlook but didn’t make up for everything. We finished our food and though I was full, I was not satisfied.

I feel torn by the food I got at Timber. On one hand, I got amazing drinks and one of the very best apps I’ve ever eaten. On the other hand, the $18 burger did not compare to other burgers above the $10-12 range in Portland. Whoever cooked it did so perfectly, but there just wasn’t much to it and it came through in the lack of flavor. Fortunately, I have a solution which I believe would solve this issue. Timber should offer a choice of sauce like they do with the rotisserie chicken. That would power-up the flavor and really add something to talk about. The fries were really limp and never should have come out as they did. Those need to be cooked much more and the onion rings need a lot more seasoning.

My verdict on Timber is to go there for happy hour. The mac and cheese is half price and there are some cheap drinks – all of which I loved. For the price, I can’t say I was pleased with the main courses. Our meal came to over $100 with tax and tip, so it wasn’t cheap and we didn’t get any steak which would have upped the price significantly.  Nonetheless, the restaurant has an allure under the right circumstances, but it’s not for an entire meal.

Stay hungry.

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