Gott’s Roadside

In the small city of St. Helena, (population 5,947), everybody knows about Gott’s. It’s a name frequently found in conversation, especially around lunchtime in the workplace. Gott’s also stays open until 10pm every night, making it one of the only places available for a late night dinner in the city. It appears to be the undisputed opinion of virtually everyone in St. Helena that Gott’s has the juiciest burgers, the fluffiest fries, and the thickest milkshakes around.

Eating at Gott’s Roadside is like stepping into a magical porthole into the past. The stand is reminiscent of nearly 70 years ago, back when the first McDonald’s walk-up window opened in 1948. Pedestrian burger joints were a more common sight back then.

While American fast food staples are what the roadside establishment is best known for, there is also a more elaborate menu for those looking for other options. People study the oversized menus while waiting in line to order. By perusing the long list of burgers, salads, seafood, and sandwiches, the wait may feel as if it’s flying by, although it’s known to take a fair amount of time. During a typical rush, customers can expect to wait 20 to 30 minutes.

However, in my honest opinion, the line is well worth it. Deciding to keep it simple, I ordered the original hamburger. It was the weighty commitment of choosing a shake to pair it with that brought me great anguish.

Stuck between either black and white or mint confetti, I asked the opinion of the young lady taking my order at the register. She looked directly into my eyes and spoke with confidence. “You want the black and white,” she said.

I trusted her. It took another 10 minutes of waiting for my order to be ready before I could confirm that the girl was an ice cream genius. The frozen drink appeared like a piece of edible art, with fudge drizzling down the sides of the plastic cup.

The burger was monstrous, and the egg bun enveloping the meat even more so. There was an obvious gap between beef and bread, leaving room for toppings, which accompany the more complex burgers. In spite of this, I was more than satisfied by the traditional lettuce, tomato, pickle, and secret sauce decorating my burger.

The food stand itself is surrounded by picnic tables and bright spotlights. Sitting at a barstool near the pick-up window, I felt like I was waiting to return to my seat at a baseball game. The atmosphere at Gott’s carries a strong sensation of summer.

Free refills are available at the soda fountain, located behind the counter at the bar. The bartender replenishes soda and other non-alcoholic beverages with the same expert approach as he does beer and wine.

Matching the food portion in variety, the beverage side of the menu takes up almost an entire page. The wine list is extensive, with most bottles boasting the Napa Valley name. Not to be outdone, the beer choices range from IPAs to amber ales. There are plenty of craft brews available, as well as cider. With such a wide selection, it’s equally as tough to settle on a drink as it is to choose a meal.

The burger and shake I ordered were plenty of food for one person. That being said, if I could do it again, I would convince my indecisive self to order the sweet potato fries as well. Gluttony be damned.