It isn’t fair.
I was served one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten – certainly the best in many years. And the restaurant is some 400 miles from where I live. I’m sure my cardiologist would say that’s about the right distance. But it just isn’t fair.
We were in Winters for a short day trip while visiting family in Sacramento. It’s a lovely ride through farm country – red tail hawks on the fence posts and utility poles; long, straight plowed rows waiting the next planting.
Buckhorn Steakhouse was the first restaurant we saw as we drove into the historic downtown area. It’s open only for dinner. The Putah Creek Café, right across the street, is owned by the same couple. It’s opened for breakfast and lunch every day and dinner Thursday through Sundays.
The lunch menu was tantalizing. Up top is a “thinly sliced medium rare Buckhorn char-roasted sirloin tri-tip sandwich with carmelized onions on a rustic French roll.” Fortunately, I didn’t stop reading there. (Nor did I offer to correct the spelling of caramelized.)
Jennifer bounced back and forth between several options on the menu and finally landed on the Santa Fe Mexican Corn Pie, “roasted chiles, cheese and corn baked together and topped with sour cream.”
I kept looking and marveling at how packed the restaurant was at lunch time in the middle of the week. Off season for tourism, so these clearly were locals.
The “open-faced char-roasted sirloin tri-tip over hot grilled sourdough bread with mashed potatoes and gravy” seemed like a good place to stop. And I would have if my eyes hadn’t drifted down to the list of burgers. I went for the most basic burger – no bacon and no cheese in a kind of a nod to my cardiologist.
What hooked me was the description of how they grind their own Angus beef each day, form the 8-ounce beef patties as they are ordered, cook the burgers on a grill top and serve them on a sesame seed bun. With lettuce, tomato and onion, this burger is a home run – nicely charred on both sides and perfectly rare on the inside. The flavors recalled burgers of years gone by.
As a bonus, all deserts are made on the premises, including the apple pie ala mode I had after my burger.
The breakfast menu is every bit as alluring as the lunch offerings. Every restaurant instinct in me says it would be worth an early trip to join the farmers and locals for breakfast. If the burgers give any clue, the homemade country sausages must be off the charts.
I have my favorite burger places in L.A. But Putah Creek Cafe topped all the current ones. But it’s 400 miles from home. Darn. I can hang onto the fact that with family and business bringing me to Sacramento frequently, maybe it isn’t that far afterall.
If you ever spend a few days visiting Sacramento, which is a great idea in itself, take a 40-minute jaunt west to Winters, turn left on Railroad to the intersection of Railroad and Main. And hunker down to some great American comfort food.