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How is Taylor's Refresher, REALLY?

  • d

Yes, I saw it on Food TV.

I have not had a burger in4 years. I live in LA. Is Taylor' in St Helene worth waiting for for my "once in a blue moon" burger?

I was thinking about going there (the one in St Helena, not the Ferry building) on a trip to the Napa area.

I liked the look of the onion rings, Tuna Burger and mushroom burger (and the shakes!)

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  1. I haven't been to the one in St Helena, but at FB the thing to get is the sweet potato fries!

    1 Reply
    1. re: susancinsf

      I agree - the sweet potato fries for sure. We stopped in July on the way back from Lake County - DH had the ahi burger and I had one of the other more conventional burgers - I think maybe with carmelized onions and blue cheese but I can't remember for sure. Both were very good and the sweet potato fries were delish but I'm not sure that it was really worth the $40 or so that it cost (we had beers with our lunch).

      High point of visit was while we were standing in line and the fellow in front of us thought that DH was Steven Spielberg (he does kind of look like him when he wears a baseball cap...) He actually went so far as to have his girlfriend take their picture - he said he was going to show it to friends - on how he met a celebrity standing in line for lunch in St. Helena! What a hoot!

    2. I liked the fact that the ahi burger was on a squishy bun (I've tried a version with a hard bun and it is impossible), and I liked the wasabi, but I've decided that eating so much nearly-raw tuna at once makes me a bit queasy. My SO liked the regular burger. The place is fun. Why not try it?

      1. Forget Taylor's Refresher, at least in San Francisco. The burgers are consistantly dry and unimpressive. The sweet potato fries are good but not spectacular. I have never tried the St. Helena original.

        If you live in LA go to Father's Office in Santa Monica on Montana and get the burger, cooked medium rare, with sweet potato fries and the blue cheese dipping sauce. That burger is spectacular and worthy of a once every four years burger experience. If you need a good burger in the San Francisco area there are better choices like Barclays' in Oakland. The Barclay's burger is fantastic but the fries are unremarkable.

        Barclays Restaurant and Pub
        5940 College Ave
        Oakland, CA 94618
        (510) 654-1650

        1. I recently had Taylor's and while it is a very good hamburger, I don't think it qualifies for "worth waiting for my once in a blue moon burger". While the sweet potato fries could have been more crispy, they were tasty. Subsequently, I had burger at The Counter in Palo Alto but thought that Taylor's was better.

          BTW, when I had researched the L.A. board for my Summer vacation, one highly recommended item appeared to be Mashti Malone's ginger rosewater ice cream but unfortunately didn't have time to seek it out. Imagine my delight when I discovered it at a local Persian grocery store (wasn't looking for it). Bought it, took it home and had a spoonful even before I put the other groceries away and....it was just okay. Although the ice cream was good (not exceptional), felt the rosewater essence was too strong. Just wanted to give you a perspective of Chowhound reviews (btw, all other LA recs were great!)

          4 Replies
          1. re: ceekskat

            Gotta agree. While Taylor's Refresher has its appeal, don't expect excellent chow, or bad - it's quite good; not the best.

            Considering it's a fast food roadside stop, very good.

            1. re: Waterboy

              I have only been to the one at the Ferry Building, split a burger w/ a friend, I thought it was pretty decent. I agree w/ ceekskat and waterboy - a decent burger, but not too special either.

              Dave MP

            2. re: ceekskat

              I've seen several Masti Malone flavors at Whole Foods and (I think) at Rainbow as well.

              1. re: ceekskat

                In general ceekskat I'd agree with you, but The Gimp is right in recommending Father's Office as a superlative burger and fries. I try to eat there every time I get to LA. They also do a darn good cheese plate. ( I didn't know they serve the fries with blue cheese sauce, I've only had them with the aioli)

              2. The original -- St. Helena -- is, IMHO, much better than the one in the city. Then again, it's not really the original either -- considering they changed hands. Be prepared for a long line . . . it's very, very good. Great? Well . . . .

                1. I loved Taylor's. It is what it is- a fast food joint- and what it does, it does very well.
                  I still think about the two lunches we had there inbetween wine tastings. Nothing soaks up the wine like one of their burgers or patty melts. Can't speak for the ahi burger though...

                  1. It would NOT be on my top 10 San Francisco burger (or American fare) list. I like going to the one in St. Helena for it's location and ambiance (simple, outdoors, very nostalgic drive-up joint).. but the San Francisco location really lacks that same feel and the food is mediocre. Plus, with the San Francisco one being so close to other quality food spots, it's easy to pass up.

                    1. I'm not a fan of Taylor's in St. Helena either. Overpriced for what you get too.

                      1. I live in Saint Helena. I have eaten Taylor's burgers, fries and shakes. I think it is important to remember it for what it really is: a burger stand in the heart of Napa valley that also sells upscale non-beef items as well as beer and wine with outdoor seating. As a place of convenience for relatively inexpensive meals it is fine. Pilgrimage? No. When people I know, who also live up here, speak of great burgers, Taylor's isn't mentioned. For a place to grab a bite off-season or off hours, like on way to work it's fine. Up here my co-workers rave about the burgers at Andy's in Napa off the First St. exit on 29. Some people think the burger at Angele is terrific. In San Francisco there is (or at least used to be) a place in the outer Mission called Joe's and he ground his meat daily. It was a dumpy sort of place but tasty burgers. Now that would be an interseting adventure... Fries were good too. These days I very rarely eat burgers but when I do I look for In-N-Outs...

                        1. I always get the Chinese Chicken Salad.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Atomica

                            I ordered this from the Ferry Bldg. location and it was awful, one of the worst things I've ever eaten. It was a huge portion, with shredded cabbage of some sort drowning in sour,watery vinegar, some limp chicken slices and a few roasted peanuts scattered on top. That dressing did not remotely resemble either a rice-vinegar Asian-pickle-type marinade or sweet mustard dressing (Yank Sing). I'd ask for a sample first if at all possible.

                            1. re: MargotB

                              Oh well, I like it. Maybe they've changed it.

                          2. No, I live in Saint Helena, and Market Restaurant right up the street from Taylors has a MUCH better burger. Also, Martini House has a great Kobe beef burger with onion rings at the bar downstairs. Now that's an amazing burger! My husband and I have never gotten why people like Taylors so much. Their burgers taste like they were frozen, and the patties are totally sub-par. Some items that are excellent at Taylors are their fish tacos, any milk shake, sweet potato fries and garlic fries.

                            1. It's actually really good, and if you don't feel like a burger burger, the ahi tuna burger is sooo good, DONT FORGET A MILKSHAKE!!! (the best part) enjoy :)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: vinoveritas

                                The thing that is cool about Taylors Refresher is being able to order a bottle of good wine to eat with your burger. That is the novelty of eating there in my opinion.

                              2. Patty melt, mint chip milkshake and onion rings at a picnic table in the sun in Napa. Doesn't get much better!!

                                1. unimpressed really. expensive, greasy. not much there, there, beyond marketing, I'm afraid

                                  1. Okay I can't comment on the burgers, but I can on the place in general. I don't get it, I don't get the queue's at a fast food place, a few weeks back it was about a 10 minute wait to place the order. It's seriously over priced and the food is, at best, fast food quality.

                                    Our meal consisted of cold, rubbery bland fries, a fat soggy hot dog, an average shake and some chicken. The chicken was fine for what it was, but still I figure KFC would have been equal, and about half the cost.

                                    Seriously if you have the time to stand in a line at this place and the money to eat here, you have the time to go up the road find a sit down restraunt and enjoy a much more satisfactory experience

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: rob133

                                      Exactly. They must be laughing all the way to the bank: fast-food quality food for sit-down restaurant prices without the sit-down restaurant overhead.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        The burger is $5.99 and the fries are $1.99. Not that I go to fast food that often, but is that really more than In N Out? I know the shake price, $4.99 is comparable to what you pay at a fast food, but it is real ice cream.

                                        I think the sweet potato fries are way better than anything I can get at In and out. (though they are more than regular fries) The burger, somewhat better. (and somewhat bigger). the shake: WAY better.

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          I agree whole-heartedly.

                                          Besides, I'd rather give my money to Taylor's over any fast-food place any day.

                                          1. re: chemchef

                                            I guess me repy would be I'd rather give the money to place that serves up some better quality food than fast food. The point was that all Taylor's is is a fast food place, I'd rather stop down the road, sit down and have some decent food in a restaraunt

                                    2. Taylor's is so, so overrated.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: canard

                                        Got to disagree. Taylor's is a "must" for all visitors I've hosted in Napa Valley. 100% love it and always come back. Here's why:

                                        * it's not a burger place, but a retro 40's/50's drive in with a large lawn area with very fun picnic tables. The ambiance is the key: in the land of chi chi restaurants and wineries, it's a high quality and fun fast food stop. The outlet in Ferry Building does not have the requisite atmosphere. I go to Slanted Door or Hog Island instead.

                                        * for me, it's usually the ahi burger, sweet potatoe fries plus beer (Boont Amber Ale) or wine (Round Pond Cabernet) that's special. For others, it's the burgers and shakes. The specials are great as well. In June, I had their softshell crab sandwich -- two entire crabs on their signature buns. In July, I had the heirloom tomato and mozzarella sandwich. Both were excellent and not at all what you'd expect at a fast food place.

                                        * placing your order and then waiting at the picnic tables for your name to be called on the loudspeaker is part of the deal. The place is spotlessly clean, well managed, imaginative and can I say it again -- "fun." It would not win a "best hamburger" taste off. It would win best place to take a small group in Napa who need a break from big deal restaurants.

                                        * So, I join the locals and bring the out of towners to stand in line. They love it. I love it.

                                        p.s. Stay tuned for Taylor's new location to open later this year at the Oxbow Market next to Copia in downtown Napa. It's in a converted tire/car repair shop from the 40's. Rumored to have a much expanded menu.


                                        1. re: cortez

                                          It's a fun place, but I think it's fair to call it a burger place. That's one of the big things they push. (That's what retro drive-ins are usually all about,anyway.) And my reaction to the burger, fries and soda I had there was, pretty much, "Next time I'm in the area, I think I'll check out the Tra Vigne pizzeria across the street." It was a good burger, but good in the way of In-N-Out -- I've had a lot of better burgers at comparable prices.

                                          I haven't tried the ahi burger which many people have said good things about, granted. Maybe I'll give it a try sometime, but that initial visit left me kinda lukewarm. If I was a local, I'd be more kindly disposed, I think, but when Napa is a day trip rather than a quick jaunt... I dunno. And if someone was an out-of-state visitor with just a few days to poke around, I don't think I could recommend it unless the retro drive-in thing was profoundly interesting to them.

                                      2. Taylor's is fun. Some people swear by the tuna burger. Most meat eaters I know have better places to go for a hamburger. I am a french fry fanatic, but I won't vouch for their fries. When I do occasionally go up there, I've enjoyed their grilled fish sandwich of the day, not necessarily the tuna. It's solid. Their milk shakes are the old fashioned kind, they'll make them chunky if you prefer. It's worth a trip just for the scene, but remember, there's lots of traffic getting into St. Helena. Drives me a little nuts. For a killer burger, french fries and onion rings, try either Andy's (next to a carwash, no fun scene at all) off First Street near the Napa Valley outlets, or Red Rock on Lincoln. My dad, an old-fashioned Midwest beef eater, thinks Red Rock makes the best burgers he's ever eaten. I would skip the Ferry Building site.

                                        1. Based on the TR at the DF Ferry Building, I say it is not a once in a Blue Moon Burger (OIBMB) but the white espresso milk shake is memorable

                                          1. I definitly say try the Ahi burger and garlic fries

                                            1. For what it may, or may not be worth, there is another thread running that lists GQ's 20 best burger places. I believe there are a couple of listings from your area.

                                              1. The people saying it's just a burger place are exactly right. We live in Yountville and the big sit down restaurants are great, but get a little tedious. A lot to be said for a nice burger in the sun. Andie's Cafe is also a great burger place. I'm also an In-n-Out fan, but not so great sitting at a picnic table in a parking lot by Wal Mart.

                                                Another great cheeseburger in the area is the double cheeseburger at Solebar. Comes topped with pickled onions and fried pickles.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: teejaymoore

                                                  pickled onions & fried pickles ---- YES, PLEASE!!

                                                  I googled "solebar" and nothing in St. Helena came up. Where is it?

                                                  1. re: larochelle

                                                    Solage resort in Calistoga has a double cheeseburger with fried pickles. Here's a link to the menu PDF, http://www.solagecalistoga.com/dining...

                                                    Solage Calistoga
                                                    755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, CA 94515

                                                    1. re: larochelle

                                                      It appears the spelling is Solbar (no "e"). Sounds delicious!

                                                  2. just had a late lunch at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena..line was long but moved quick and got the ahi burger and the cheeseburger with ice tea and onion rings..really good and would definately go back..wish they had one in San Diego.

                                                    1. link

                                                      Gott's Roadside
                                                      933 Main St, Saint Helena, CA 94574

                                                      Gott's Roadside "Tray Gourmet"
                                                      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                      Taylor's Automatic Refresher
                                                      644 First St, Napa, CA

                                                      1. The question is.... Diana, did you go, and if so, what did you think of it???

                                                        1. I've been there twice, both in the last year. The first time was really good; the burgers (Wisconsin and plain) both tasted as perfect "traditonal" grilled burgers- patty not too large or thick, rich ground beefy flavor including a good amount of juiciness (read: fat) and smoke from the grill, and uncomplicated by unusual seasonings.

                                                          The second time was not as good, merely a v.good burger. On reflection I think the main difference between the two trips was the quality of the beef. The second time, the patty just did not have quite the same amount of flavor. Certainly less fat in the ground beef, and possibly not quite grilled as well (slightly too far from rare, not as much "grill flavor" in the good way).

                                                          Both visits were not at busy times, so attention should not have been overly compromised.

                                                          I liked it, and would go again, but would be leery of building it up as one of the great burgers of all time. Also, the sides are merely good, and I didn't really care for the sweet potato fries.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: twocents

                                                            Agree about Martini House's Kobe burger. It's $17, but it's definitely a special occasion burger. And eating at the bar in that restaurant is just great.

                                                          2. Absolutely not! The burgers are awful-- dry and flavorless.

                                                            1. I work and live in Sonoma, and work sometimes takes me close to Taylor's (in St. Helena) at lunchtime. If it is a nice day, and if I don't have to turn left back onto the highway, it is a pretty good lunch. For me, kind of expensive for the quality, but not outrageous. It is very pleasant to sit out on the lawn at a picnic table and watch the world go by on highway 29. But it is not "worth a trip", or even a detour, IMO. The onion rings are superior to the sweet potato fries, and I like the Ahi burger better than the beef, usually.

                                                              1. Taylor's Automatic Refresher is the jam. The beef is all high quality and the service is good (not impeccable, but solid). On a sunny afternoon, the Ferry Building patio is a great place to enjoy some delicious food and a tasty micro brew.
                                                                Other reports that Taylor's is expensive and slow are, in fact, completely true, but if you're prepared to spend a little cash on quality food and go any time other than the lunch-time rush it's totally worth it.
                                                                Personally, I always have a tough time choosing between the Western Bacon Blue Ring or Wisconsin Sourdough burger, both filling and satisfying, but, regardless, I always like to top it off with some sweet potato fries and drench them in ranch dressing (a house recommendation that was offered by their helpful staff).
                                                                I've had basically every item on the menu and while the ahi tuna burger is tasty (wasabi mayo is the hit) it's a little small for my appetite so I stick to the meats. I have, on occasion, delved into their chicken options, the Miss Kentucky being, by far, my favorite.
                                                                The shakes are also quite good, but Taylor's beer and wine selection is so extensive and reasonably priced that it's total necessary to enjoy a solid meat patty with a refreshing glass of red zinfandel or cabernet or nosh on those calamari with a bottle of savingnon blanc or pint of Trumer Pils handy.
                                                                To those who knock Taylor's, some of their concerns are warranted as there is occasionally a slow, or even lost, order, but 9 times out of 10 this place comes through. But don't take it from me. Head down to the Ferry Building on these lovely May afternoons and enjoy some great American fare.