Hiking is fun but can be difficult sometimes. I like to joke with passing hikers, asking if there is a Starbucks or a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere. So far, I have not seen such a shop in the wilderness, and that is not surprising. That is why I was shock to learn that there are hiking hotels along popular routes. One such example is the LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located at the end of an 8 mile hike. Phantom Range in Grand Canyon National Park offers similar services. Skyline Restaurant reminded me of finding these respites in the woods, even though it is next to a road and easily accessed from nearby Portland. We just finished a hard hike, and I’m going to imagine that this is the restaurant at the end of the universe.
Who knew that the restaurant above the sky line gets busy at 4pm in the afternoon? Even the restaurant feels understaffed, and I realized that a large party was about to leave as we get there, thus the lack of service as we arrived. They were well dressed, so I could not figure out why these people were here on a Saturday afternoon. I was reminded by many alien comedy movies with the opening scene of aliens landing on earth in the middle of nowhere, trying to blend in with suits and dresses but eating at a diner in the middle of nowhere. Okay, I doubt these are aliens – but maybe that disguise really work? We took a large table because all the other smaller tables were occupied. Even though we are about a month away from Christmas, the restaurant still feels festive with the lights dangling over the ceiling. This was just how it looked like a few years ago when I paid a visit. I wondered if they ever redecorate the place.
Skyline is like an 80s diner, but they do not serve diner food. Only burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes. I would not even label Skyline as a diner because it is so different from the ones I’m used to back on the East Coast. But it does have the old bright green leather seats, the large counter top in the middle of the restaurant, and large neon signs outside. As much as I thought that America is homogenous, these older diners prove that there are some regional characteristics to them. The booths are much larger and more comfortable here. Similarly, the kitchen is located at the back of the restaurant so there were neither display, nor sound, nor smell from the sizzling on the stove top. The menu is rather simple even though there are loaded with options. I opted for the #12 giant-size cheeseburger with an additional fried egg while Megan ordered the quarter pounder Skyline cheeseburger, and we shared a fry pile of tater totes, fries and onion rings.
Our order came out quickly; seems like the kitchen wasn’t as overwhelmed as the front of the house. Both burgers look neat and amazing, and the fried platter is as beautiful a spread as I’ve seen. Megan loved the tater tots and acknowledged that the onion rings were a standout. The fries though feel a little underfired and al dente. All of them look like they came from a frozen package drop off at Walmart, so don’t expect something amazing. Fortunately, that’s not the star of the show. These might be the best burgers west of Forest Park in Portland, even better than Burgerville while costing less. The juicy and meaty burger was dripping with au jus, even though it looked like the burger from any fast food commercial just before I picked it up. Unlike most restaurants, Skyline opted to make their burgers wider rather than taller – this made eating the burger a non-messy scenario. There were no special sauces added, except for the fried egg which I feel like is an amazing sauce on any cheeseburger. Even though the burger had raw onions, I did not regret my decision. I do wonder how much better the cheeseburger could be with caramelized onion.
I did not dig into the history of Skyline. There were some hints that it was a drive-in, as seen from the long parking lot and the murals. The current owners only inherited it from the 90s, so who knows what happened before that. In the restaurant, there is a little painting showing Skyline looking like a In-n-out burger joint from the 60s. If that is true, this restaurant would have been a refuge to the hungry for a very long time. Judging by the greatness of their burgers, I hope more would stop by after a long day of hiking. Just like how I imagined it is.
Visited: January 18th, 2020 for dinner at 17:00.
Address: 1313 NW Skyline Blvd