Where to Stay
I’ve already mentioned the Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg, and while it can be a bit of a pain, at least their vintage rooms, those in the Tuscan wing are rather a step up in luxury and appointments. It does offer terrific value and a great location, right off the freeway, a mile or so from the center of town.
I always try someplace new when I return to a region I’ve visited before, and on this trip I checked out the Sonoma Creek Inn, a few miles from downtown Sonoma. This kind of old school motor inn has potential, with clean (if small) rooms and large bathrooms with terrific water pressure. I get the feeling that things are on the upswing here; most of the rooms have a comfy private little patio, though there is a fairly busy road just over the wall. There’s nothing really close by except for the attached Creekside Café, which puts together a fine breakfast. If you don’t mind being out the way and are tolerant of some traffic noise, this could be a good value-priced option for you. Otherwise, keep looking.
I’ve been on a bit of burger discovery mission since earlier this year, when I had a superb burger from the Prather Ranch outlet in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Of course, not everybody can do a burger quite that well. Case in point: Healdsburger. With a cute name and a folksy old location on the outskirts of Healdsburg, I had high hopes for Healdsburger, and truth be known their burger is pretty darn tasty, if only they could cook them correctly. I dined at Healdsburger twice, once with a friend, and out of the three total requests for medium rare we were only able to get the burger cooked correctly once; the other two times it was overcooked. I’m not that fussy, so I ate the burgers regardless, and they were mighty tasty. But if you’re a stickler when it comes to your burger then you might not be happy here. One side note: the fries, truly fresh cut, were delicious, not crispy (fresh cut fries hardly ever are) but properly cooked with excellent flavor.
And the Winner Is…
Superburger. I’ve driven past this place many times without giving it a second thought, but on this trip, with their bigger winner 2012 banner out, I felt compelled to stop. I forgot to look at the banner to see what it actually said, but I would imagine Superburger has won either best burger, best milkshake, or both, in Santa Rosa or Sonoma.
This is as old school as you get, with a low, U-shaped counter occupying the entirety of the restaurant, which would be a cramped NYC studio apartment—it’s that small. I doubt you could legally build this place today. Like its design, the menu harkens back to simpler times, though with some thoroughly modern touches like lamb burgers and the Montecito burger topped with guacamole, bacon and cheese.
There are fries and onion rings, and shakes that look like they’re really just blended ice cream, all properly prepared and pretty unfancy. I love the fixins tray on the counter, allowing you to lay as many pickle slices as you like on your burger, and the bun is really one of the best burger buns I’ve had in a long time. Not inexpensive, but still a relatively cheap place to stop for a burger and shake after a long day of wine tasting.