Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Automatic Refresher) in St. Helena has been a Napa Valley institution for years. Everyone talks about wine when they think of Napa, but they should also think of great hamburgers.
My wife, Patricia, and I visited the St. Helena location on an unseasonably hot Saturday in November. This is a great time of year to visit Napa, because the fall colors are in full swing. The great weather brought out a throng of like-minded folk. The mid-century style building sits just south of town. A sheet metal smoke stack belched smoke form the grill.
At the refresher you order at one of two windows. They take your name and you sit at one of the many picnic tables outside to wait for your order. There was a line of at least 50 people waiting to order when we arrived. It took a good 20 minutes. But we got acquainted with burger lovers from Fresno, Denver and Mississippi while we waited in line. Pat got a white wine for her and a beer for me while we waited.
When we finally got to the front of the line, Pat ordered a plain Cheese Burger ($6.79) and I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.99). We also ordered fries ($1.99), Onion Rings ($3.99) and a Black & White Milk Shake ($4.99).
We sat down with our new friends and quickly got our shake. It was a handsome looking concoction with chocolate syrup artfully flowing in the shake. It was very creamy and tasty. Perfect on this hot day.
About 10 minutes later our name was called. We retrieved our feast from a nice young man carrying it on a metal baking sheet rather than a tray. Everything looked very good.
I immediately bit into the burger. An ample patty, I guess 8 oz., was nicely cooked over a flame until pink. The California beef is all natural with no added growth hormones or antibiotics. On top of the patty was crisp bacon, American cheese, pickle chips and a secret sauce, that resembled thousand island with a little extra spice. The yellow egg bun was toasted and firm. Everything blended very nicely. I quibble that the cheese should have been directly on the patty instead of on top of the bacon. The cheese was not all melted.
Pat’s plain cheeseburger was actually better. You could taste the excellently flavored beef and the American cheese was all melted.
The fries were thin cut with skins on. They were crisp and fresh tasting. Very nicely salted and yummy eaten several at a time. The onion rings were beer batter style. They were crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside.
I asked if I could try the sweet potato fries that our Mississippi friends had ordered. Southern hospitality still reigns and I was rewarded with a chili-spiced fry. They were very good, even better than the French fries.
The line continued to build throughout our meal and was only slightly shorter when we left around 2 PM. When we drove back by at 3 PM it was still there but considerably shorter. It is no wonder that at some time in the past Taylor's Refresher decided to do away with the carhops. They could never have kept up with the demand. The drive-under awning is still there though if they should ever decide to revive it.
Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Rings 4.5 spatulas
Milk Shake 5 spatulas
933 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
Also locations in Napa and in San Francisco at the Ferry building.
(Photo Below: Vines and trees battle to show the most fall color in Yountville.)