All signs point to YES.
For a long time, the juicy, moist, delicious burger, which occasionally appears on the menu at Bistro Don Giovanni, in Napa, held the crown – Best Burger in Napa Valley. For a while, until the owner got huffy, Angele, in downtown Napa, served a critically acclaimed burger, which we also thought was tops.
And this year and last, we have gone ga-ga, on occasion, over the burger at Press, in St. Helena, which, when it’s good, is a spiritual moment.
But for sheer flavor, moistness, consistency, richness, meatiness, size and sensuality, we have to crown the burger at Martini House, in St. Helena, as Best Burger in the Valley. This month anyway.
What are the secrets of Todd Humphries, the chef co-owner, who patties out the burgers?
For starters, they use American wagyu kobe beef from Oregon, which is more marbled than Darryl Sattui’s new castle, Castello di Amorosa. Then they cook the burger to pink perfection and not a second beyond; they top it with wine-stewed onions, a thin slice of Gruyere cheese, and nap the protein patty with a backhanded, ladleful of house-made Thousand Island dressing. The bun, from Panorama Bakery, is shellacked, shiny, and perfectly baked to a golden hue.
And as if this weren’t enough to secure the title Best Burger in Napa Valley, the chef goes a few extra steps to insure the crown; the burger is served with a stack of crunchy, perfectly fried, onion rings. Breaded with panko flour, flavored with curry, and stacked with larger circumference rings on the bottom, the stack resembles the Michelin Man in all his tire bulging glory. Each thick and crunchy onion ring sports a crispy, textured coat – as though the onion rings were really Gia Pet products – just water and watch the grass grow!
These extraordinary burgers are only served in Martini House’s downstairs bar at dinner; in summer months, they are also served in the upstairs dining room and at outdoor tables, but only during lunch.
If you order the burger and onion rings neat, the total tab is $17. Or for $5 more, it comes with a glass of 2005 Muirfield Cabernet Sauvignon (California origin).
Martini House, 1245 Spring St., St. Helena. 707-963-2233.