“Sacred cows make the best hamburger.” — Mark Twain
For years, my favorite burger in Mendocino County is Mina's Burgers in Covelo. Worth the awesome drive, which is saying a lot for someone who prefers to cook at home, and thinks my own burger is the best. Now what I'm about to share, some of you may disagree, and some may not appreciate because I understand that when you have a special place you really don't want everyone to know about it because you're already phoning your order in as to not wait in a long line. Also, there is such a thing as too much success, and it could be that Sea Pal Cove Restaurant, 32390 North Harbor Drive, (707) 964-1300, is going to experience too much success this year. Why?
Not for their hamburgers because they don't sell hamburgers. They sell cheeseburgers; The best cheeseburger in Fort Bragg if not the Mendocino Coast. Sea Pal Cove Restaurant uses today's sacred cow for the patty, with a soft bun, red leaf lettuce, thick ripe juicy slabs of tomato, slices of red onion, a perfect secret sauce, and comes with a pile of crispy hot shoestring fries for $5.95. Double it for $8.50
Most folks do not go to Sea Pal Cove Restaurant for the cheeseburgers no matter how good because the cheeseburgers take longer to cook than three minutes for a basket of fresh fish and chips $11.95, or 5 jumbo shrimp and chips $15.95, accompanied with ample amounts of homemade cocktail and tartar sauces. And now a word about what they call, Clam Chowder; If clams produced pearls, they could call it, “Liquid Pearls”.
A more appropriate name could be “Clam Gravy”, or “Clams in Bechamel.” I've never seen so many clams in a cup of chowder. The chowder is so think with clams the spoon stands, and I believe, sincerely, Sea Pal Cove makes the best clam chowder because I've had what I can now assume are copies (former employees who know a golden recipe when they make it a lot). The only thing missing from the other similar chowder recipes is half the clams Sea Pal Cove uses and sells for $5.80 a 8 oz cup.
Fry houses, which is what I think of places like Sea Pal Cove, can go downhill fast when fries taste fishy. I'm satisfied they completely agree, as they offer fried desserts: Snickers, Milky Ways and Twinkies, $3.95. Indoor seating is limited to 5 chairs, two tables, beautiful redwood slabs in-bedded with abalone shell for bar dinning with 14 stools, lots of napkins and condiments, a small refrigerator offering the most expensive smoked salmon on the Mendocino Coast made from a 40 year old family recipe, and another self serve refrigerator filled with a short selection of soda's, lemonade, tea, wine and bottled beer. If you love beer, Sea Pal Cove has your name somewhere among the 18 crafted drafts on tap, including Boonville's Bourbon Barrel Stout 6.9%.
Rain or shine, open for lunch and dinner, Sea Pal Cove offers outdoor seating on the dock along the Northern side of the Noyo Harbor, where you can watch fishing boats come and go, seals playing, sea birds diving and flying under the Noyo Bridge so high above, it's nearly invisible. Across the Noyo, known as the working side of the harbor, you can see Caito's Fisheries Inc., standing as one of California's last canneries. There's plenty of parking available. Don't be put off by a long line of locals as the company and atmosphere are so nice, I didn't regret not calling in my order, at least the first time. And now Dear Reader, I leave you with my recipe for how to make sacred cow patties: Sacred Cow Patties (makes 3)
Shopping list: 1 pound fresh sacred cow (ground beef) 20% fat, salt.
Method: Gently pull ground beef apart into three equal pieces, careful not to press hard. If possible, and many times it is, peal the ground beef from the spiral shape, like scooping the ground beef into the palm of your hand. Please don't press hard, or squeeze, or smash the ground beef. It's important that the meat remain “fluffy”. BBQ to your taste and finish with a pinch of salt. Maybe I'm making it complicated, because it's the easiest way to make a burger, just peal one third of a pound of the ground meat into your palm and put on the BBQ. You may have heard of the, make a hole or indention in the middle? This is way better because the burger does not shrink, becomes very crispy on the outside due to the rendering of fat and remains very moist and juicy on the inside, melts in your mouth. Oh gosh, I'm talking myself into making burgers. Tell me about yours. Who makes the best burger in Mendocino? I want to know.
On March 21, 2016, the U. S. Library of Congress recognized Louis' Lunch Wagon, of New Haven Conn., for creating the hamburger. The hamburger is perhaps one of the most powerful and popular foods in the world, exported globally through fast food chains and gourmets alike. For over a century the origins of the hamburger have been nationally disputed. No doubt some states will challenge the Library of Congress recognition of Louis' Lunch Wagon; For example, the members of the Wisconsin legislature that named their City of Seymore, “The Home of the Hamburger”, on May 9, 2007; Or Akron, Ohio, that claimed May 28, 2005, the “120th Anniversary of the Invention of the Hamburger”; Or the governor of Oklahoma who declared, “Tulsa Oklahoma the Real Birthplace of the Hamburger”, April 12, 1995.
Goodness knows how many reinventions the hamburger has made this past century from a ground round patty between two slices of white bread, even abandoning the cow altogether for dozens of varieties of veggie burgers, or redefining sacred cow to mean no antibiotics, no GMOs, grass fed, grain finished, and worth more than gold when Mr. Twain was observing sacred cows. From the educated, trained, licensed, certified, highly awarded international super star TV food show chefs, to the creative young food explorers manning the BBQ for the first time, the titles of burger championships continue. Even Mendocino is no stranger to the hamburger championships. Several make the claim to be the best. I'd like to find out who really makes the best. To be fair, it might help to know that I've never been much of a meat eater. A little goes a long way for me, yet, I admit right here and now, from time to time, I want, no make that crave, a hamburger. For years I've asked, “Where can I get a good burger?” I've had lots of answers, and I've checked them all out, which is not a fair evaluation as some really good burger places have closed. Also, in my quest for the best burger I found a recipe I believe is the best, so that makes everyone else second to start. I'll share my recipe giving you the opportunity to make your own comparisons.