Original Superburger

Change is never easy to swallow, but it goes down especially hard when it involves your favorite lunch.

In January Santa Rosa’s classic burger joint, Gayle’s, was sold by owners Gayle and Doug Dowling after nearly thirty years in the biz. Their tried-and-true formula was simple: honest burgers, fries and onion rings served up in red plastic baskets around an old school lunch counter. Pies were homemade, as were the milkshakes. Folks from the neighborhood packed the place and the waitresses greeted regulars by name.

Recently re-opened under new ownership, at first blush, not much appears to have changed. In fact, aside from a fresh coat of paint, new fixtures and the conspicuous absence of the giant menu hanging above the grill, the place feels pretty much like it always has. Milkshakes are still made the old-fashioned way–with ancient looking Hamilton Beach mixers, milk and ice cream. The pie rack still has fresh-made pies (from Mom’s). The burgers are still fried up to order and the King Burger is still a charbroiled half-pounder with all the fixings.

So, now for the changes. Hold on to your napkins, I promise you’ll be okay.

The name has changed slightly from Gayle’s Superburger to The Original Superburger– the “original” having something to do with the current owner’s girlfriend’s family having run the restaurant way back in the day. Works for me. The menu’s also changed up to include several new burger creations including the St. Helena Avenue (a burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar and onion rings, $7.95), the Montecito Avenue (with bacon, Jack and guacamole, ($7.95), the McDonald Avenue (with mushrooms and warm Gorgonzola, $7.95) and, the Town and Country ($8.95), two mini-sized versions of any of the burgers on the menu. Great for indecisive folks. Extra work for new owner/grillmaster Bill, who’s manning the flames solo. That means that when things really get hopping, you may want to grab a paper and settle in.

Also on new to the menu are Schwarz dogs, kosher weenies made in San Francisco, served straight up or with corned beef, cheese and kraut. Kids get top billing, as well, with their own menu of mini burgers, toasted cheese or (and honestly, I want one of these) toasted peanut butter, bananas and jam for $3.

Which is not to say there aren’t a few kinks to work out. BiteClub’s heard from you, and not everyone’s singing the new Superburger’s praises. Doing my own recon well after the lunch crush passed, I waited a good long while for a “medium” burger that was almost raw on the inside. I’m not afraid of pink meat, but I was afraid the thing might start mooing. I’m willing to chalk it up to opening week jitters because the staff was practically falling all over themselves to fix their snafus.

Hey, not everyone can work a grill like Doug and Gayle. But served up with a nice glass of fresh Meyer lemonade and a smile, a little change can be a good thing.

We’ll see how things pan out over the next few months.

The Original Superburger, 1501 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 546-4016. Open 11am to 8pm Monday through Thursday, 11am to 10pm Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday.