Big Boy’s Buns and Burgers

Hospital food, I’m here to tell you, is every bit as awful as you’ve heard. Having just spent four days and nights in the pediatric ward, BiteClub would have traded a bed pan, four grape drinks, a slightly used IV bag and a several luxurious nights on the floor for a real hamburger. The distance between jubilant relief and ungrateful revulsion is only a hospital meal away.

Having recently been sprung (everyone is fine, thank you), it became mission critical to readjust my cholesterol and fat levels to their previous levels. Stat. Enter Big Boy’s Buns and Burgers.

Around since 1963, it’s got a local following that borders on rabid. Larkfield locals frequently line up at the walk-up windows, waiting patiently for their half-pound Big Boys and beer-battered onion rings for as long as it takes.

Worth the wait? Let me lay out the pros and cons. On the plus side are fresh patties, crisp fixins (tomatoes, lettuce and pickles), J-Lo sized buns and, of course, the special sauce. Minuses: An almost mess-free burger in need of a juice transfusion and a poor burger to bun ratio–too much of a good thing (in this case the bun) isn’t always a good thing. Other minor annoyances included a lack of toast on the undersize of aforementioned bun and a serious lack of grilly goodness. Hey, those little crackly, crunchy bits off the spatula are what I’m here for.

The thick-cut fries and onion rings at Buns and Burgers are highly respectable companions, served up with plenty of salt. If you’re going all out, I recommend indulging in a small order of each, or the chili-cheese fries if you really want to get that old heart beating triple time. Also on the menu is the bacon, ham and cheese burger, bbq cheese burger with onion rings, patty melt with swiss and grilled onions, fish and chips, chili cheese dogs, BLT sandwiches and daily specials (today’s was pastrami).

Don’t miss handmade ice cream shakes so thick you’ll get a headache from sucking the straw. Just for good measure, take home a quart of co-owner George Fiori’s minestrone soup, passed down from a special family recipe for generations. People swear by the stuff.

Despite the imperfections, its a hard act to follow, especially for the newcomers at Thumbs-Up Burger down the road in Windsor. Prior to our health fiasco, BiteClub and family stopped in for dinner, along with about half of Windsor. Already a popular spot on weekend nights, the deli-style restaurant serves up a decent burger in a hurry though it lacks serious inspiration. Paper plates and a lack of napkins make for a messy meal. Clearly they’re still in start-up mode, and we’ll give them a lilting thumbs-up for effort.

Overall, I’ve still got a soft spot for the now-defunct Chippery’s Jesse James burger as the ßmeasure against which all burgers are, uh, measured in my all-beef patty world. But who can complain, really, after a week of Jell-O and beef broth?

Big Boy’s Buns and Burgers, 406 Larkfield Shopping Center, Santa Rosa, (707) 546-6835, open daily from 7am to 7pm, Friday and Saturday until 8pm.

Thumbs Up Burger and Deli, 8465 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 300, Windsor, 707.837.7443. Open Monday through Sat., 6:30am to 9:30pm; Sunday 6:30am to 8:30pm.

PS. BiteClub wants to give a special shout-out to the awesome ER and pediatric staff of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, including Rick, Gloria, Penny and all the super cool folks to made our stay comfortable–including bringing me the food that I’ve been so ungrateful for. Regardless, Miss Lucy and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. If you ever find yourself stuck in the hospital, may I recommend take-out from Sushi To Dai and Sea Thai Bistro which my man McNibs mercifully brought me during my incarceration. Thanks McNibs!