Haute Burgers

Posh burgers

Posh burgers can be a bit like a beautiful woman — each delightful in their own way, but with certain charms only appreciated by the beholder. Thin or thick around the middle; dressed impeccably or bare; with pickles or without.
I’m adding two more to the list of fancy-pants patties: K&L Bistro’s Meyer Ranch burger and Stark Steakhouse’s Kobe beef burger (above).
Stark’s Steakhouse
It’s pretty hard to go wrong when steak is your bread and butter. The
lunchtime-only Kobe beef burger is ground fresh daily and will run you
$13 right off the bat. Kobe, in case you’ve been sleeping since the
late 1990s, is a specially raised breed of cattle (Wagyu) known for its
tenderness. I can’t tell you if this American version is actually
massaged daily and fed beer
(doubtful) like its Japanese cousins, but
it definitely has a rich, meaty flavor that will make you swear off
70/30 forever.
Stark’s “Burgers Your Way” is a field day for the adventurous eater. On
top of the beef (though some would call it sacrilege, I won’t) you can
add an array of toppers from smoked cheddar ($1), bacon ($1.50) and
caramelized onions ($1) to sauteed foie gras ($12), a truffled fried
egg ($1.50, so French!), exotic mushrooms ($2) or black truffle aoili
($1).  If you’re feeling unsure of your combo, just try your burger
their way: with smoked bacon, salsa verde and Cambezola; truffled
aoili, fontina and caramelized onions or a lamb burger with Moroccan
BBQ sauce, feta and cucumber raita.
Fries come with the burgers, in addition to a toasted potato bun and
homemade pickles (a necessity!). Extra credit: I like Chef Mark’s yam
fries dusted with chili powder better than the plain old skinny fries.
Building your own burger is an eater’s dream. A definitely 2-napkin
experience. Minus: All those add-ons can get spendy and at a certain
point just detract from the burger itself. So use restraint. Stark’s Steakhouse, 521 Adams, Santa Rosa, 546-5100.
K&L Bistro
It’s been far too long since BiteClub hunkered down at this Sebastopol
institution, but the charming vibe and neighborhood clientele never
fail to delight. Though it feels like a bit of a cop-out to order a
burger when PEI mussels and french onion soup are on the menu
, I’ve
heard from many that their burger is the tops.
It’s a serious patty (about 10oz.) delivered with few frills. A nice,
toasty sesame bun, lettuce, tomato, onion and cornichons. Your choice
of seeded mustard or plain. Grueyere or blue cheese is $1 extra, and
after four days of gooey, cheesy burgers the fact that the waiter
forgot to add it was actually a bit of a relief. Probably the least
messy burger of the bunch,
but also pricey at $13.50 ($14.50 with
cheese). What really seals the deal, however, are the “Awesome” fries
that are the crunchiest, crispiest I’ve had lately.
Leave a little room for dessert if you can. Specials change up
regularly, but a fall black fig tarte tatin was worth every calorie
I’ll be trying to burn off over the next six months
. K&L Bistro, 119 S. Main, Sebastopol, 707.823.6614.


21 thoughts on “Haute Burgers

  1. I agree with Teri, we are Healdsburg locals and were delighted when we heard about the changes when they opened. But to be honest, lately the burgers haven’t been as good and neither have the fries. Maybe somebody is just getting lax but I will tell you, we have seen a lot of businesses come and go at that location for just that reason.

  2. Ok, need to talk about the HBG burger. For some reason it used to be better. Don’t know if they have changed beef or formula, but the prices have gone up and the quality is just not there. Also, fish and chips have NO taste. They actually taste like bad frying oil. Thought they would have better quality seeing it’s part of the Cyrus group. The only thing they have going for them is no corkage. Guess they’ll still be ever popular thru the summer and tourists.

  3. Just ate at K&L again. Haven’t been in a couple of months. The burger was way overdone and the fries, quite honestly were terrible. Don’t know what they’re doing there, but it definitely has gone down hill, but the prices have sky rocketed! If they want to attract more customers, as one of the waiters was crying about, then they really need to lower prices and get a grip on their wine list…it’s off the charts for the area. There are so many local wines that would work at the restaurant at a more reasonable price. Also, the restrooms need a washing and carpets really need to be replaced. Don’t want to go on and on but if anyone there reads this, they know they have had these problems for a while and probably why they were removed from M. Hate to rant…..

  4. SB. Just had the burger at French Garden in Sebastopol. Now that’s a nice bacon cheeseburger cooked to order with all the trimmings and shoestring fries. The music, wine and camaraderie on Saturday night were great, too. We will definitely be back for more!

  5. Right ON Brotha!!!! As a former restauranteur who had to spend way too much time explaining yet again to someone why we charged more for a hamburger than McDonald’s did, I wish I’d had a copy of this post to hand out to the uninformed. Sonoma County has lots of talk about buying local but people don’t always like to put their money where (in this case literally) their mouth is. You get what you pay for, folks. If we don’t spend a little more to support local independent restaurants we’ll soon have nothing but the chains, and only ourselves to blame.

  6. French Garden has a great gourmet Hamburger and it costs $10.00. It comes with fries and is a huge amount of food. Mine had hierloom tomatoes on it! Cheese is $1.00 extra and applewood smoked bacon is $2.00. If you go during happy hour from 5-6 you can get a great deal on a drink and the ambience is nice. They also have free music on the weekends. I like it when I want to celebrate Friday after a long week but don’t want to spend lots on a dinner out.

  7. I’m sorry but the HBG (Healdsburg Bar & Grill) burgers and food in general is average at best… I was hoping that the Cyrus team would be able to make a great escape but it is as bad as the last attempt… Go to Bear Republic! awesome beer, food and the burgers are out of this world.. and under $10 please!

  8. I am writing in reply to the comments regarding prices for burgers people are complaining about. First of all, home-made hand crafted food is not cheap to make. It tastes better, is made from high quality products, and is made by someone who cares about the product entering your body, and is made with love. Do you actually think your $1 and $2 burgers made by machine and flash frozen are a deal? Frozen Fries? How about fresh ground beef, put through the grinder that morning – freshly baked buns that took almost two hours of labor and time to let the yeast leven the dough. Not to mention real peeled fries hand-cut and fried twice for ultimate crispyness.
    Or the house made pickles that took a week cure just so you had 5-6 on your burger to enjoy the balance of sweet, salty and crispy to balance the fat in the burger. How about the local hand picked heirloom tomatoes babied with care from the vine to your plate. Not to mention the beautiful expensive grills that put the unmatched smokyness into your burger. How about the linens, silverware, ambiance, and wonderful service each one of the restaurants strive to achieve with “local” businesses you can’t go wrong. Chain stores have cheap prices = ok service, cheap eats, commodities products-do you know where that stuff comes from? -You dont want to know believe me. And how many times do I have to look at a pin on someones butt – come on people. Support your local business – Santa Rosa will be a better place to live. Do you and your family want to eat fresh quality products or food that was made 2 months ago shipped across 5 states, defrosted and made by a someone with a part time job going through puberty? One more thought for Penny Pinching Posters (your computer= $1000 + internet usage $40 a month + electricity = In one year your computer cost your around $1600. A burger for $12-15 should be no sweat off your sack. Nuff Said

  9. I like your reviews. Recently tried Humble Pie. Actually liked the funky ambience, sort of hippie northern Cal. Apple Ginger pie was way too gingery. will go back, though. Hamburger at Stark’s, this is my complaint, was too much of a good thing…actually 2 meals and I’m not a light eater. I’m with Renie, though. If I want in ‘n out which I like too I’ll go there but I think it’s fun to go to higher end establishments and see what they do with burgers.
    Valerie! How can you say yuk, etc about burgers? I consider burgers to be one of our basic human rights as Americans.

  10. Says a lot about a community’s tastes when the best food you talk about is “burgers”…..ick, yuk, phooey!

  11. There is more to running a restaurant than preparing food. There are the endless regulations they have to follow. All that gets passed onto the customers. Lawsuits hurt everyone. Nothing beats a delicious burger and well worth the high price if it lives up to the price. When you get sick of fast food and want suggestions on where to go for a YUMMY burger, Bite Club is a great resource.

  12. Hey – my kids are raised and so? Unless I’m stuck somewhere in traffic and just plain desperate – Gone are the days of In-N-Out, Burger King and (cringe) McDonald’s.
    I’ve worked my heiny off and when I want a burger, I wanna bite into Quality, preferably in the midst of a little Ambiance.
    And – as to cost – $10-15 is not a big deal if I’m getting a true artisan’s best shot at creatively tintillating my taste buds…
    In short: Thanks, Heather! I’m diggin’ the straight scoop on “Fancy Pants Patties” – keep those reviews comin’!

  13. Heather, I LOVE a good burger as much as the next over-weight guy. But no matter what the situation or event, I could not bring myself to order a burger that is anywhere near $10. A double-double “animal-style” suits me just fine.
    P.S. I earn enough money to eat the expensive burgers, but I refuse to be gouged by the restaurant.

  14. Even at a “family” restaurant like Flipper’s in Petaluma … a burger will set you back almost $10. (and it’s just “OK”) Times are changing people. So are prices.
    Anyone read the paper? Fuel cost? Energy? Meat prices? Basic kitchen staples? Health care for staff? Give me a break. Yes … Great inexpensive burgers at Walnut Park Grill and Burger City AND In~and~Out. I go to those places too! But I don’t see any reason for putting down these establishments that offer great food and atmosphere for what really is a reasonable price. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money … Don’t. I am by no means wealthy. Food IS my passion. Instead of spending my hard earned cash on designer duds and expensive home electronics, I choose to spend it on a really good meal now and then.

  15. I disagree with Patty. Sure my usual burger is made at home or eaten out at someplace cheap. But sometimes I have business meetings, friends in town, or just need to celebrate Friday, and for special occasions like those a swank joint like Starks is well worth the extra expense.
    Unfortunately though, I’ve eaten at Starks 3 times and all three times they have cooked my burger or steak MW when I ask for MR. Perhaps it’s jut my bad luck, but I’m done with them as far as burgers go, though I’ll be back to have their roasted pork sandwich at Monti’s pretty soon.

  16. I do love the K&L burger, but this week I was on the cheap and tried the “Recession Burger” at the Walnut Park Grill in Petaluma. I think it was $1.50 per 1.5 oz slider, three for $5 or something like that. Good for a quick burger fix and won’t break the bank!

  17. Right, this blog increasingly feels like something for people with deep pockets and possibly large bellies. Can we tone down the elite pose a little?

  18. I’m with patty. I got as far as the parking lot of Stark’s before coming to my senses. The $2 In-N-Out burger with (free) grilled onions added is delicious and priced right. Why re-invent that wheel?

  19. Heather-
    You have a great job- tasting whatever you want and it all seems so mouth watering. And on the house.
    However, in these times of trying to keep up with mortage payments, foreclosures,depression,and keeping a job you hate just to make ends meet (let alone gas), your “BITE” makes people cringe. I mean 14.00+ for a hamburger- come on- get real. Also these chefs are in la-la land. Sell a simple burger without all the crap that people can afford. Sonoma County has by far gotten way past reality. Don’t review any more of these ” wonderful” places to please the palate. Instead explore places and talk to the owners what can be done to cure what has gone so wrong that people are willing to pay such high prices and really not what they’re getting.

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