The Yamhill Valley Burger Bracket winner is ... Carlton Corners
By Matthew Meader
If there is one thing Americans love more than sports events, it’s hamburgers. We decided to combine the two and host our own single-elimination tournament, the Yamhill Valley Burger Bracket. We asked readers to nominate their favorite burger restaurants around the local land and you responded enthusiastically. The top 16 vote-getters would compete for the title of Best Burger in the Yamhill Valley.
In the first round, Carlton Corners beat Community Plate and Grain Station Brew Works edged out Jem 100. Golden Valley Brew Pub trounced Burgerville and the Deluxe Billiard Parlor won over Valley Commissary. Alf’s Ice Cream & Burgers knocked Archie’s Ice Cream & Eatery out of the game, while McMenamins Hotel Oregon advanced over On the Way Café. The Block House beat The Barlow Room and Barrel 47 dunked The Diner.
The second round witnessed Carlton Corners prevail over the Grain Station. Golden Valley booted the Deluxe while Alf’s triumphed over McMenamins and Barrel 47 edged out The Block House.
In the third round, Carlton Corners beat Golden Valley and Barrel 47 defeated Alf’s.
And then there were two.
150 N Yamhill Street, Carlton
With all the jokes about gas station sushi flying around, the fact that Carlton Corners is a convenience market, restaurant and, yes, gas station could be fodder for bad humor. But the menu at the Corners — as locals call it — is no laughing matter. Carlton Corners is the type of place where they know your name and what you’ll order when you walk through the door — the sort of joint that serves up honest food at an honest price with no backtalk. Well, maybe a little backtalk.
Vince Larson bought the landmark service station in the early 1990s and his son, Mike, a lover of great food and good beer, added the deli side in 2013. Since then, Mike has built the business into a full-fledged restaurant with an expansive menu celebrating classic American cuisine. The Corners is all about seriously great diner food!
Oh, yes, and beer. With nine craft beers and a cider on tap, the Corners plays host to The Carlton Growler Boys, complete with Tom Peterson-esque images of Vince and Mike smiling out from the labels. “I like to stick with Oregon beers,” says Mike. He rotates the beer selections regularly but tries to keep his proprietary Yamhelas Westsider brew on tap daily. “It’s great beer, brewed just for us by Fire Mountain Brew House,” Mike says. Always community-minded, Mike donates proceeds from the sales of the Yamhelas Westsider to the popular trail project bearing its name.
But the real magic at the Corners starts in the kitchen. With a menu featuring a full range of burgers — including a veggie burger “for the bad hunter” — the Corners also sports hearty country breakfasts and popular children’s selections. “A family of four can come in and eat a great meal for under 35 dollars,” says Mike. The father/son partnership is planning to remodel and expand the kitchen at the Corners this summer, adding new items along the way to the already-good-sized menu.
When asked what burgers the Corners is known for, assistant manager Sandy Wodarczak said she knows a family from Corbett who visits just for the mushroom bacon cheeseburger. “Our regular bacon cheeseburger is immensely popular, too,” she says. Served with French fries, tots or sweet potato fries, the burgers at the Corners are juicy, meaty and mouth-wateringly delicious. Smothered with Swiss, American, cheddar or pepper jack cheese, the mushroom bacon cheeseburger is topped with fresh lettuce, onions and tomatoes and served on a grilled bun. A strong argument could be made that the secret sauce served on each Corners burger is the singular item that perfects each burger, but Mike is picky about all his ingredients. “We use only choice Angus beef,” says Mike. “And our bacon is center-cut and thick.”
Menus proclaim it all the time but, at the Corners, it’s true: the burgers practically melt in your mouth. And that’s why Carlton Corners has earned the title Best Burger in the Yamhill Valley. “We’re way more than just a gas station,” says Mike.
Carlton Corners is open Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The grill shuts down half an hour before closing time. Burger meals run from seven to eight dollars, and the rest of the menu is priced similarly.
111 E Main Street, Carlton
In the 1990s, a legendary eatery called the Log Cabin Restaurant and Lounge burned to the ground in Carlton. Twenty years later, people still talk of the exceptional hamburgers that were offered there. When Andy Rabung transformed an old bank into Barrel 47, even he — born and raised in Alaska — had heard of Log Cabin’s fabled food. So Andy decided to pay homage to the king of all Log Cabin burgers.
“It’s our reincarnation of the Log Cabin Logger Burger,” says waitress Bonnie Ingham, describing Barrel 47’s Barrel Burger. Served between special-ordered six-inch buns, the Barrel Burger is ten ounces of premium Carlton Farms beef, wrapped in bacon and cooked exactly to order. Topped with ham, more bacon, a fried egg and fat mushrooms, this meaty masterpiece is held together by virtue of its melted Swiss and cheddar cheeses. It’s then topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and special burger sauce. A pile of shoestring-cut fries topped with Parmesan cheese is the perfect accompaniment.
The Barrel Burger is truly massive. “We call it the teenage boy burger,” says Bonnie. “They’re the only ones who can finish it.”
In addition to awesome hamburgers, Barrel 47 features sandwiches of substance and dinner entrées like prime rib and bangers and mash, in addition to salads, appetizers and desserts. A full bar featuring many local wines and craft brews provides the perfect accompaniment to any Barrel 47 meal. Although the hefty Barrel Burger is priced at $17, most other menu selections are in the ten to twelve dollar range.
You can try your own Barrel Burger at Barrel 47 on Monday and Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
It’s unlikely that the owners of Carlton Corners and Barrel 47 — located only about a block apart — will let the results of the Yamhill Valley Burger Bracket cause a rift. In fact, Andy and Mike are friends who get together for a weekly round of golf, taking their good-natured rivalry to a more personal level. “We know that we each offer great food and our mutual success contributes to the vitality of Carlton,” says Andy.
It’s not just Carlton. Indeed, that amiable spirit permeates the entire Yamhill Valley, putting us on the map for good living — and good eating.