The $15 hamburger has become standard fare in Portland at some of our finer restaurants.  That price  gets you rarefied beef blends (short-rib and brisket are a favorite) molded into the shape of a typical hamburger and sandwiched on a hand-made roll like brioche.  Add hand-cut fries made from heritage potatoes and slices of heirloom tomato and local lettuce and the picture is burger heaven.  But where oh where are those less costly burgers that are as good as their pricier counterparts?

Ruski’s dive bar vibe

Ruski’s still makes a mean burger.  A delicious half pound of beef is perfectly charbroiled and set onto a commercially made roll.  The fries come from a freezer bag and the onion rings, too.  Is this bad?  No not really.  But what really matters is the flavor of the beef and how it’s prepared.  Ruski’s buys their meat from the Fresh Approach Market butcher who, I might add, sells the most economical pound of good ground beef chuck in town at $3.49 per pound (as of this week; the price fluctuates).

Blue cheese burger with fries; cheeseburger with Swiss and  onion rings

Ruski’s retains its true dive-bar status.  Sometimes the patrons look a little sketchy hobnobbing with plain old neighborhood folk.  But that’s its charm.  As for the rest of Ruski’s menu, it’s hit or miss.  It’s best to stay with the basics, which is their $7.95 burger with fries; add a few dollars more for additional toppings.

The bar serves some local beers, but cans of Bud are  the norm, and drinks come from the well for just a few bucks.  A premium shot of vodka, gin or whisky is about $6, not the typical $12 goblet of fancier brands of booze elsewhere.

Ruski’s, 212 Danforth St., Portland, Maine 207-774-7604

Rating: Best burger in town

Ambiance: True dive bar vibes

Seating: High tops or at the bar

Service: One server works the room but amazingly efficient

Price: Not an issue

Parking: On the street and fairly easy