Best Buns in Town

Whether you like ’em grilled, fried, sprinkled with onions, dripping with special sauce, thrown over animal style or pink enough to still be mooing in the middle, hamburgers inspire a fanatical passion usually reserved for sports teams or rock stars.

In other words, beware the fool who stands between me and my favorite patty. (Which is, by the way, the Jesse James at The Chippery. You’ve been warned.)

But hey, you’re entitled to your opinion. What’s your favorite local burger?

There are, of course, the usual suspects: Gayle’s Superburger (1501 4th St, Santa Rosa, 707-546-4016), Mike’s at the Crossroads (7665 Old Redwood Hwy, Cotati, 707-665-9999), which is technically in Cotati, but because it is so delicious, will be included in this list; and In-N-Out (5145 Redwood Dr., Rohnert Park and a new location in Petaluma), again, not in Santa Rosa, but close enough for a midnight run.

It goes without saying, of course, many of us are in stunned silence over the loss of Heavenly Hamburger. After 51 years of service, the Hwy 12 institution recently met a tragic demise, leaving a hole in my heart-and my lunch repertoire.

But where one grease-trap closes, another fry basket opens. Coming up strong as a leading contender for local burger fame is Carmen’s Burger Bar (1612 Terrace, Santa Rosa. 707-579-3663). Located in the former 707 space near Pacific Market, neighbors caught onto Carmen’s charm quickly, packing the shoe-box-sized restaurant with kids and families and ensuring a 10 to 20 minute wait most evenings. Top honors at Carmen’s goes to the Triplets ($10.50): Three small burgers, each with a different flavor–cheddar with bacon, nothin’ at all, and blue-cheese. Though the small patties can sometimes suffer from overcooking on really busy nights, in general the mini burgs are cute as a bug, and quite a bit tastier. Homemade milkshakes (which I think top the ones at Gayle’s) are a required add-on, along with shoe-string fries.

Also in the running, but still under the radar is my hands-down fave, The Chippery (2053 Santa Rosa Plz., Santa Rosa, 707-579-2447). Another recent addition in the regional burger lineup, the restaurant is all-but-hidden at the south end of Montgomery Village, behind Osake restaurant in a former bakery. The Chippery’s main claim to fame is an on-site potato chip factory churning out piles of finger-lickingly good crisps.

If you can tear yourself away from the little brown nuggets of goodness tumbling from the fryer, you’ll discover that they grill up some mean patties, all made to order. The Jesse James is piled high with a patty, mayo, bbq sauce and a thick onion ring ($6.95) and should well-probably be outlawed.

But that’s just the beginning of the burger story. What are your favorite haunts? Who has the best buns, the best fries, the best service-even the best condiments? Have you tried Outback? John Barleycorn? Others?

Tell me. From your answers, BiteClub will put together a list of your favorite local burger joints, from small to large, hole-in-the-wall to corporate behemoth. Speaking of which, yes, McDonald’s counts (cause heaven knows this girl can’t steer clear of a Big Mac once in a while), but try to keep your choices local if possible.

Oh, and creativity counts. One of the strangest burgers I ever had was a foie-gras stuffed chopped steak burger. Seriously. So send me those, too.

Ready, set, eat! Email your picks at