Healdsburg Bar & Grill [Sonoma County]
An adult milkshake seemed apropos to toast Douglas Keane’s victory in Top Chef Masters. Regular milkshakes are $5, and grown-ups can add another fiver for a spike of spirits. The Mudslide combines Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, chocolate shavings, and Humboldt Creamery vanilla ice cream. Served with a spoon, cocktail straw and a regular straw, this concoction stayed thick to the last alcoholic and frosty spoonful.
Alongside, the HBG Burger, $9, cooked “medium” by default. Ordered as is with no additions, this was a hamburger stripped down to just the essentials. The beef’s sourced from a ranch in Petaluma and ground in-house with a 70:30 lean-to-fat ratio. Beautiful crusting, and “medium” with a red center as promised, the patty exactly matched the circumference of the bread. The juices were still bubbling up out of the hot beef patty, so I did not cut the burger in half as I normally would. With each mouthful, a stream of bloody, fatty juices dribbled onto my plate. The grind felt coarser than typical with the very flavorful meat offering more resistance to the bite.
The perfectly toasted Costeaux Bakery bun had a buttery sheen to which I added the roasted garlic mayo provided on the side. The sourdough bun’s on the firm side, but necessarily so. While I didn’t love the bun, its density and the added backbone provided by toasting and moisture barriers kept it from falling apart when challenged by extreme juiciness. Sonoma Brinery (FKA Alexander Valley Gourmet Pickles) supplies the pickle chips. Besides the red leaf lettuce and sweet red onion, the tomato is now included in the price of the burger and not an add-on. The slice of tomato was too small, and I noticed that other tables had larger. Still this was the most luscious tomato I’ve seen on a burger in ages.
A basket on each table holds napkins, flatware, and condiments. The HBG Burger turned out to be a three-napkin event and I was glad to have as many as I wanted at the ready.
Healdsburg Bar & Grill
245 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Food & Wine magazine, Top 25 Burgers
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Chef Keane will be autographing photos today, Sunday September 29, from 2pm to 5pm at HBG for a $10 donation to his chosen charity, Green Dog Rescue.
We had lunch there a few months ago. I wasn't expecting much since it looks kind of touristy, but we were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. Can't remember what we had, but everything was very fresh with great flavors. Also very nice eating outside on the patio. If we weren't currently hooked on Taqueria Guadalajara, we'd have gone back!
re: The Librarian
Well, it not only looks touristy, it is indeed full of visitors on weekends, at least. I'll confess that I'd stayed away for the same reasons, and also that there tends to be a line of tourists at peak eating hours and I don't do lines. Judging from that alone, it's probably the most popular eating place in Healdsburg. I guess visitors find the town's food offerings too "foreign" and can seek a safe harbor here.
When Keane and his partner, Nick Peyton, took over management 5 years ago, my friend was still working at Cyrus and told me about it. He said they wanted to keep the same menu concept but make the food better. I'd say they've been successful in that. The outdoor patio is indeed a draw, just steps away from the Plaza.
After trying this burger, I'm surprised that it's only $9 considering the top drawer local ingredients. The menu doesn't specify, but this seemed to be a 6 to 8 ounce patty. Maybe they make it up on volume, as this was the most popular order from what I could see, and the higher profit on the various add-ons.
An advantage of the high volume is the well-oiled operation. I was in and out in 30 minutes, my burger was served blazing hot (love that the red juices are can be seen percolating up in my photo above), and my server checked in with me three times yet I never felt rushed. HBG is popular for good reason.
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Planning 80th birthday celebration at a winery in Healdsburg last year, we met for a late lunch with the winery's owner at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill - it's also for locals, not just for tourists. We shared the plate of roasted beets, the HBG burger, a basket of fries and I recall that the food was very good on the sunny patio on a midweek day.
It seemed to me that everyone recognized everyone from staff to customers and it was a low-key relaxed and chatty local scene; not crowded and not rushed. I think I'd return for the HBG burger and a malted milkshake.
"HBG is popular for good reason." Located on the corner by the Square has high visibility - an easy destination for out-of-town visitors.