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Still Cookin... Burger joint intends to "ketchup" with customers

New owners rescue troubled restaurant, make plans for the future


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Shannon Chisom and Adam Reid made no changes to the menu at Best Burger and BBQ, in recognition of the restaurant's 'phenomenal brand' among customers. The pair took ownership April 1, after months of soul searching over the restaurant´s future.

Sometimes, polishing a tarnished reputation is as simple as hanging a banner reading “new ownership.”

And for loyal junkies of Best Burger and BBQ, that announcement sizzles.

“A lot of people were telling me that they were upset they couldn’t go to their favorite burger place,” said Adam Reid, who along with Shannon Chisom, became owners of the burger joint April 1. “Now, they’re excited to be able to come back and we are excited to keep this small business successful.”

From its humble beginnings in a Rockwood food cart in 2011, Best Burger quickly exploded on the fast food scene, earning honors as the People’s Choice in an East County food cart competition, as well as a winner among Outlook readers. Locals braved the elements in herds to stand in line inhaling the scent of barbecue, waiting to order the holy grail in ground beef. The business developed such a following that founder John Cartisser opened a sit-down restaurant 10 blocks west on Southeast Stark Street in early December.

But shortly after opening the new restaurant late last year, Cartisser was jailed after he was found in violation of his probation for a 2010 attempted sex abuse conviction. Cartisser had failed to tell his probation officer he had changed his employment location, frequented a tavern and consumed alcohol. Additionally, Cartisser’s probation prohibited him from having contact with minors or to grace the entrance of a bar. His newly opened restaurant was not only family friendly, but shared space with an over-age-21 establishment.

The iconic burger business was in trouble.

Reid is the owner of Coffee’s On in Gresham Town Fair. He knew Cartisser through the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, but became acquainted with the burger baron when he frequented the coffee shop to do his bookwork.

“Maria (Reid’s wife) and I mentored John with his food cart business,” Reid said. “We helped him hire his employees and solve his business difficulties because we wanted him to succeed. When John wanted to open the restaurant, Maria and I looked at several places with him. I was simply helping a friend start his business, but I was never a partner.”

Chisom also knew Cartisser through the chamber. While spearheading fundraising for the USS Ranger Foundation, Chisom enlisted Cartisser to offer a burger on his menu and donate a percentage of the burger’s sales to the foundation’s efforts to bring the decommissioned aircraft carrier to Fairview. The Ranger Burger, topped with cheese and pastrami or corned beef brisket, remains one of the restaurant’s mainstay offerings.

Reid and Chisom both said they were “blindsided” by the news of Cartisser’s legal problems and torn over the restaurant’s possible closure.

“We both care deeply about the community and small businesses,” Chisom said. “More than anything, we didn’t want to see another business in Gresham close. And there were 13 employees here who depended on their jobs. The most important thing was to keep the doors open and provide the staff with some continuity.”

Reid began “volunteering” as manager at the restaurant in December. Despite the significant loss in business, Reid and Chisom did a lot of soul searching and joint discussion over whether to purchase the restaurant or let it close.

“We talked to John and we all agreed on a way for him to exit gracefully,” Reid said. “As of April 1st, he has nothing to do with the business. It’s been a roller coaster and we certainly didn’t see it coming that a business would fall into our laps.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Best Burger and BBQ will continue the tradition of hand-ground beef burgers and fresh cut French fries that put the restaurant on the map two years ago.

New ownership brought a subtle name change — Best Burger and BBQ — and is meant to be a nod to a “phenomenal product and brand,” Reid said. Nothing has changed, Reid and Chisom added, saying all Best Burger’s employees retained their jobs during the downturn and transition and hiring has begun for an anticipated summer rush.

Breakfast service has been curtailed to two days a week, while the menu is undergoing some “tweaking,” but the trademark ribs, brisket and pastrami are still cooked daily on-site. Beef continues to be ground for burgers each morning and the fries remain fresh cut.

“We learned all the recipes and kept all the procedures,” Reid said. “Everything on the menu is the same, but our success depends on providing something people are talking about.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Sand was trucked in from the Oregon Coast to refurbish the four beach volleyball courts behind the restaurant.

So how does a burger and brew on beach sand sound?

“We had sand trucked in from the Oregon Coast so we now have four beach volleyball courts,” Chisom said. “We’re putting in new lighting on the patio and we’re going to put a stage outside on the sand for live music this summer. It’s a challenge to find a place in Gresham to sit outside when the sun’s out and have something to eat. Outside seating is starting to happen in downtown Gresham, but they don’t have sand!”

Along with the beach volleyball courts and renovated patio, Best Burger and BBQ’s back yard features a newly installed fire pit and play area for sand castle building.

“Our vision for this summer is an ongoing beach party,” Reid said. “We’ll have wait staff outside, a fire pit going so people can make S’Mores, kids playing in the sand and beach volleyball going all day. We’re gearing up for a grand opening and great summer.”

Best Burger and BBQ

Where: 17527 S.E. Stark St., Gresham

What: hand-ground burgers and fresh cut fries; barbecue ribs, brisket and pastrami are all cooked daily in-house; an on-site smoker is currently in the permit process; outside dining is adjacent to four sand volleyball courts and firepit.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Online: Visit and like Best Burger and BBQ on Facebook for special promotions.

More info: Call 503-709-9843.




Local Weather

Fair

80°F

Gresham

Fair

Humidity: 32%

Wind: 8 mph

  • 22 Aug 2014

    Clear 80°F 55°F

  • 23 Aug 2014

    Sunny 88°F 58°F