As my friend and I headed toward Wine Country Inn & Cottages, our hotel for the night in St. Helena, Calif., we passed by a throng of folks flocking a low, red-and-white, ’50s-style building.
We were in a rush at the time, and though the fleeting scene had piqued our interest, we drove on.
“Probably some restaurant,” I shrugged, a conclusion deduced from the implausibility of a Nike Air Jordans sneaker launch (no mall in sight) or the debut of a new “Harry Potter” film (the series had ended, and it wasn’t a movie theater, either).
But the next day, the same spectacle flashed by again as we headed toward another destination, and our previous nonchalance vanished in favor of almost rabid curiosity. It wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet — what could possibly be that good?
A quick search on Yelp revealed the establishment’s identity: Gott’s Roadside, a restaurant with four stars and 1,614 reviews (and counting) that told readers about “a burger I’ll have dreams about” and warned “not to miss this place.” Clicking through to Gott’s website, we discovered that the eatery calls itself a “different type of burger joint,” as ingredients are sourced from local purveyors, such as pasture-raised, 100 percent Angus beef from Niman Ranch in Alameda, Calif., and seafood from Napa, Calif.-based Osprey Seafood.
Looking wistfully into my car’s right side mirror, Gott’s St. Helena site (and original location) became nothing more than a small dot in the distance.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a sob story; regret of missing my chance to dine at Gott’s did not consume me. Instead, I consumed one of Gott’s renowned burgers: A couple days after that first mystifying encounter, my friend and I had finally come face to face with what had caused so much intrigue, pain and yearning.
At Gott’s Napa location (on First Street next to Oxbow Public Market), we lurked around the corner as employees set up shop, then flung open the doors right when it opened: 10 a.m. on the dot. On order was a less than traditional breakfast to share: the Kimchi Burger with a fried egg, kimchi, American cheese, bacon and spicy gochujang mayo, all sitting pretty on a toasted egg bun; three ahi poke crispy tacos; chili-spice-dusted sweet potato fries to dunk in house-made ranch; and, perhaps best of all, a dairy-free horchata shake special that made my lactose-intolerant heart sing.
If it isn’t obvious by this rambling confession of adoration, eat at Gott’s. The hype is so real.