Taylor's Refresher Review
Taylor's Refresher (Napa)
610 First Street
Napa, California 94559
Taylor's Refresher (St. Helena)
933 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
Taylor's Refresher is an insanely popular hamburger joint. Better than your typical burger joint, it's still burger food and is a bit on the pricey side. But this doesn't stop it from being one of the most highly trafficked restaurants in the region.
Taylor's Refresher Food
The main calling card for Taylor's are the burgers and sides. The burgers are mostly served on toasted egg buns (I never understood why more burger places don't toast their buns to add some firmness and crunch), and they have a variety of specialty burgers. Blue cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, a texas burger, and so on (see menu). The burgers are overall pretty tasty and have that flame broiled goodness to them. One complaint that I have is that sometimes the flavor of that meat gets lost with all the fixins and maybe they're a bit on the dry side. Some people want to taste the whole mix where the meat is just one component. And Taylor's is that sort of hamburger. It's a load. Others would to have the meat as the main player. For this, I'd recommend the ABC Cafe burger as it's one of the cleanest burger experiences around (even the Caesar salad side helps clears the palate for the next bit of burger goodness). But overall, they are our favorite burgers in the area, particularly with the full suite of sides that they offer.
if you're not into burgers, they have fish tacos, fish and chips, an ahi burger. There's also chicken sandwiches like chicken fingers, chicken sandwiches, etc. Hotdogs, soup & salad. I consider it slightly blasphemous to go to Taylor's and not get a hamburger, but we've had the fish tacos, and they were a lot better than I was expecting from a burger joint. We were expecting a fried Baja fish taco and were pleasantly surprised with nice, big, tender chunks of charbroiled fish instead sitting underneath a bed of lettuce and cabbage, garnished with some salsa.
The sides are also a step above the traditional burger joint. Normal fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries, chili cheese fries, and onion rings. The garlic fries are good, but I wish they'd cook them a different way. They're covered with this garlic butter and parsley sauce which means your fries come out all green looking (great for the kids maybe.) I've heard people praise their sweet potato fries, and we finally got around to trying them. My wife liked them more than I did. Their onion rings were pretty good when we last had them. Nice big cuts with a batter that gives a crunch and doesn't separate easily from the ring like at some other places.
Their shakes are pretty good and pretty heavy (now if you were really worried about this, you wouldn't be at Taylor's right?), but they are also pricey (I think they start at around $5). I've never quite understood how people can have their burger and fries and then drink their shake at the same time as it kills your sense of taste, but I suppose you could argue the same for sodas too. We drink wine because we're townie snobs (no really- skip the soda and go with a good hearty red wine with your next burger. It's a great combo.)
Speaking of which, their wine selection is pretty good for a burger joint. Surprisingly large selection of reds and whites by the glass as well as half-bottles. Thomas Keller's upcoming burger and half-bottle concept supposedly came to him while eating an In-N-Out burger with a glass of wine in his truck during his less famous days in SoCal. However, one can't help but wonder if his decision to open it isn't based in some small part on Taylor's success in St. Helena. Whatever his inspiration, all we want to know is when he's going to get on with it and open his "Burgers and Half-Bottles" joint so we can have one more place to spend our kids' inheritance.
Taylor's Refresher setting and service
The Napa location is an anchor store in the new Oxbow market. It also has an indoor seating area (looks a lot like the San Francisco location) which the St. Helena one doesn't have. You can also wander around the Oxbow stores around the area, the Copia, or the Napa Farmer's Market if you go Saturday morning. The St. Helena has the much nicer outdoor seating area though which gives it more of a picnic feel and after wine touring up and down Highway 29, sometimes, you're in the mood for a burger to help even things out. The St. Helena location is absolutely packed during the warmer months where the line wraps around a few times. We like the food, but don't like it so much that we'd wait 40 minutes in line just to place the order. The Napa location is newer and not as many know about it, but even in Feb, shortly after it opened and in a cold (for Napa) month no less, it was still pretty full.
There isn't much in terms of service. You order your meal, they give you a device to alert you that your order is done, and then you pick it up. If you're going with a group and want a table for yourself, then you might want to designate one person as a table grabber before you order your meal. There are plenty of eating bench space if you're not too hung up on eating at a large communal table, and you might get a chance to make a few friends while you're there.
Price of our meal
2 burgers, 2 sides, 2 glasses of wine, tax + tip = $45
Like I said, it's a little on the pricey side. We could cut out the wine and save us $16, but we like the wine / burger combo. Besides, we need the antioxidants in the red wine to help deal with the burger (well, ok, we'd do it without any health benefits...)