.Rebirth of the Burger: Best Burgers in Santa Cruz

Gabriella burger, Best Burgers in Santa CruzBest burgers in town, plus organic cold-pressed juices and holiday wines
I sense a renaissance of genuine, bona fide, juicy burgers, showing up more and more on menus from the simple and cheap to the higher end and chic. Am I right? On the East Coast in September we found ourselves diving into a few hamburger entrees flavorful enough for Ruth’s Chris. Where once there was a filet mignon on every menu, today I’m seeing a proudly presented house burger, a burger with fries, and salad perhaps, on the side. A burger that makes a complete meal, with soft chewy bun, piled up with condiments and additions like pickles, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and (for me at least) the required layer of melted cheese. Take a look—I’ll bet you’ve noticed the burger explosion yourself. In the Mojave last week, we inhaled a giant Black Angus cheeseburger on a Nicky Minaj-sized bun. We simply removed the top half and consumed it open-faced. There is the glamor house burger at Soif, sided by pommes frites (French for french fries, and yes that is a tongue-in-cheek comment). Then there are the Gabriella burgers wittily served on triangles of focaccia. And, of course there are the myriad, highly consumable burgers at burger., whose popularity underscores my point about the growing cry for burgers. Kelly’s has solved the issue of the too-thick bun by dividing the spoils into a trio of approachable sliders.
If you find yourself taking burgers and fries seriously as the steak and potatoes of the 21st century, then you have a lot of company. Much more affordable than high-end steaks, the hamburger can be just as delicious and definitely just as filling. I’ll go out a bit further on this limb and speculate that the resurgence of hamburgers on menus everywhere might signal the waning of vegetarianism as a food cult/philosophy. Many former vegans now crave the full-bodied flavor and matchless protein fix offered by a char-broiled hamburger, pink inside, topped with melted cheese, slathered with lots of mustard and catsup, chased with a (fill in your fave): beer, iced tea, Coke, champagne, pomegranate probiotic drink. Admit it. You want one right now.

Perfectly Pressed on Portola

Right next to Coffeetopia in Pleasure Point, Monica Berriz-Ocon has opened her latest and fifth palace of cold-pressed organic juice at 3617 Portola Drive. Every day you’ll find 11 intriguing house blends of energizing green ingredients available at the new shop. “I balance out every juice,” Berriz-Ocon says. “Give it a protein like kale, spinach, collards, broccoli rabe, an antioxidant like wheatgrass or pomegranate, and [it has] its own unique feature.” I love the fantastic cold-pressed juice phenom, with intriguing “not your mother’s fruit juice” super flavors—beet, kale, cucumber, lemon, ginger, parsley, coconut—what wonderful possibilities. More info at perfectlypressedjuice.com.

Wines of the Week—and the holidays beyond!

Of course you’ll be needing a brilliant white wine for the holidays and for that there’s Storrs Chardonnay 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains. A double-gold-medal winner at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the Burgundian-style beauty offers crisp structure as well as 14.5 percent alcohol and a long finish. This wine will work beautifully with ham, turkey, chile verde, and buttery cheeses.($24). Equally adept at turkey, duck or salmon is the delightful Pinot Noir 2014 St. George from Birichino ($24), filled with berries, spice and bay leaf earth tones, coming in at a light, crisp 13.5 percent alcohol. The inimitable pink Vin Gris de Cigare 2013 from Bonny Doon Vineyard is dry and pert enough (13 percent) to partner turkey, grilled fish and fiery Szechuan dishes—a beautiful blush color, hints of tangerine and pepper, and super affordable at $14.99. All at New Leaf.

RARE MEDIUM A grass-fed burger at Gabriella Cafe, with caramelized onions, Gorgonzola, bacon, Dijon, and butter lettuce. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER


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