If you go to Napa like I did, to celebrate one of my best friend’s recent engagements, you have no plans of making use of the spit cup and will be in need of some serious food to break up the wine tastings – look no further than Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, which is controversially now known as Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet.
The place is a little slice of upscale Americana – set right in the heart of Napa Valley on Main Street St. Helena. It was first opened by Lloyd Taylor in 1949 but was leased by the Gott brothers in 1999, who have since opened several more locations in San Francisco and changed the name on the building, which consequently triggered a lawsuit with the original owners.
It’s Napa’s own interpretation of a diner – patrons stand in line and place orders at a sliding glass window, and wait for their name to be called when their order is ready, but can enjoy their diner style meal with a glass of the country’s best wine from their reasonably priced wine menu. That’s just what happens when a winery owner also owns a burger stand. What makes this diner fit to be in downtown St. Helena is its food, which has won it an America’s Classics James Beard award and a spot on Bon Appetit’s list of Best Picks for American Eats. The beef is all local, vegetarian, grass-fed, and ground fresh daily on-site. The menu is full of American classics like burgers and fries but also has a distinct California flare with items like their ahi burger and their fish tacos.
The NYT definitely got it right when they said that Californians really ‘get’ fastfood and that it’s better in California than anywhere else and in my opinion, Gott’s is the best that California has to offer. You expect to pay a premium for everything in Napa, but you really get what you pay for at Gotts. I had the Wisconsin Sourdough burger which was a mound of grass-fed beef topped with BBQ sauce, mayo, mushrooms, bacon, & cheddar cheese sandwiched between 2 slices of crisp sourdough. It was nothing short of amazing. The sweet potato fries were thin and crispy and served with a house-made ranch dressing that we were all fighting over. This is all served on a metal tray, hence the name ‘Tray Gourmet’ and seating is on umbrella clad picnic tables in the perfectly manicured back yard. It seems a little too ideal – but that’s just Napa.
You’ll easily find this place by looking for the line of burger hungry Napa goers that wraps around the picket fenced yard in front of the road side stand…and the smell of delicious greasy food that wafts down Main Street.
I would highly advise popping open a bottle of champagne to go with your burgers since it’s an excellent way to avoid a food coma and pairs surprisingly well with the grease of the burgers!