Napa Valley: June 2006 Archives

By M.L. Hilton

(Napa) -- Step away from the research. Put the hamburger down.

I voluntarily undertook a story assignment oh, about January. It sounded simple enough -- where's the best hamburger in Napa County? This is a topic that can be hotly debated, and one I didn't want to complete without doing the requisite research. It is not something, I felt, that you can just power through, analytically determining how the meat is cooked, what kind of meat is used, bun type, bun size, condiments, and even what's served on the side.

In order to seriously size up a great hamburger you have to be in the mood for a great burger. Luckily, I have been in the mood at least a couple of times a month. This, however, did not satisfy the editorial staff who saw the story stay perpetually on the assignment calendar. The problem was, and is, there is just another place around the corner that *really* has to be assessed.

Enough pressure was finally applied, and enough research completed to induce the release of my preliminary results, though I am sure this will be an ongoing topic

Absolutely Fabulous:
I found two burgers that I felt fell into the category of absolutely fabulous:

Boon Fly Café
Snake River Farms Kobe Burger on a Brioche Poppy Seed Bun with choice of cheese (blue cheese, for this taste test). This wins my award for the best burger in Napa County. I tried it three times just to be sure. This is also the more traditional of the two "fabulous" burgers, in that it is served with pickles, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and red onion, all on the side, of course. It comes with salad greens dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette that is very tasty and doesn’t make you miss fries. The burger is $12, by the time you add the beer and tip you are going to spend around $25.

Martini House
If you love seriously concentrated burger flavor, this is likely the sandwich for you. Take note: It is ONLY served at the bar downstairs, and only after 3:00 p.m. On the menu as Kobe & Cab, the Grilled Snake River Kobe Beef Cheese Burger is served large and stark. The burger is bigger than a man’s hand and is only complemented with a small tower of onion rings. There is no lettuce, no tomato, no anything except a slightly sweet dressing akin to French, some grilled onions, melted cheese and lots of juicy hamburger goodness: nothing disguises the great burger taste. BTW: This is a two-napkin endeavor, if anyone comes up to shake your hand – just grin at them.

The Cab served was Fusee, a 2003 California Cabernet by Sebastiani. The burger is $15.95, with the cab $20.95, tip on top.

In the Excellent Category:
The Grill at Silverado
Monday night is Kobe Burger Night at The Grill. An American Kobe Burger (also) from Snake River Farms on a Poppy Seed Roll with olive medley. Served with cole slaw or fries. Special price on Monday is $8.00; other nights $12.50

Celadon
On the lunch menu only, Snake River Farms American Kobe Chuck Burger with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise. Served with French fries or salad. $12.50.

What I didn’t like:
Fume Bistro & Bar
Their burger was good, but I didn’t think it was good enough for a really serious burger fix. On top of it, I did feel a little bait-and-switched: on Monday nights they have a special burger price – at the bar only. Since the wait was long they seated me at a table near the bar and charged me twice as much.

Good To Great:
Rutherford Grill cannot be left out of the good-to-great category. A big Angus Beef Burger served with a great Asian-style cole slaw side. There was sooo much chopped lettuce on the burger my friends watched, amused, to see if I would be able to eat it.

For the Burger Joints:
Taylors Refresher (gourmet price, but still a hamburger stand burger)
Big D Burgers
Andie' Cafe (located at the corner of Freeway Drive and Browns Valley by the car wash).

What I heard about, but haven’t yet tried:
I understand the CIA has an amazing foie gras burger. Sounds like something that has to be tried.
I also hear the Calistoga Inn puts together a mean burger. So those are next on my list.

Do you have a favorite burger on yours?
Read what our locals and visitors have to say about their favorite burger in Napa.

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