Napa’s Burger Battle! Taylor’s Gotts Great Burgers! A Mondo Burger Fight!

The Taylors Refresher Bacon Cheeseburger

Behold The Taylor’s Refresher!

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this is one magnificent looking burger! If you’ve never experienced the original “Taylors Refresher” in Napa Valley, you are missing out!

original Taylors Refresher

Taylors Refresher is a roadside hamburger stand in the Napa Valley, just south of St. Helena…it has a fantastic menu of burgers, sandwiches, fries, garlic fries, onion rings, salads – and they sell beer and wine as well!

best cheeseburgers

Lining Up For Taylors!

Taylors Refresher has been voted one of the best burgers in America – and, as you are about to see, word has gotten out – they are ALWAYS packed:

Taylors Refresher Line

Now, you may notice something about the sign on this picture, which I took last month: it ISN’T Taylors Refresher – or is it? Well, one sign says yes and one says no….and therein lies the burger war:

Taylors Refresher

Taylors V. Gotts – A Mondo Burger Battle!

On March 26 2010, this story was published in the Napa Valley Register by Jennifer Huffman, Register Business Writer:

“Taylor’s family furious over eatery’s new name”

The Gotts Burger

A name change at the Taylor’s Automatic Refresher eateries has created a bit of legal wrangling between the former owners and the current operators.

What seemed like a simple name change for a popular local burger joint has become a battle between the founder’s family and the two brothers who transformed the sleepy Upvalley roadside stand into a modern-day culinary hit with three locations.

Taylors Refresher

The family that started Taylor’s Refresher restaurant in St. Helena 60 years ago and owns the rights to the name expressed “outrage” at current owners Joel and Duncan Gott for changing the name of the business.

Taylors Refresher Bacon Cheeseburger

Jean Taylor Nicholson, 83, and Virginia Taylor Toogood, 80, the daughters of Taylor’s Refresher founder Lloyd “Popsy” Taylor, said the name change wipes out the good name of their father’s original drive-in and its place in St. Helena history.

“We are shocked and angered by this announcement and will fight to protect our family name and reputation,” Virginia Toogood said in a prepared statement. “Taylor’s Refresher has a long and cherished history in St. Helena that will be irreparably damaged by this. This is like changing the name of the Martini Winery, the French Laundry or any other historic business in our community without consent. It’s not right. We own the property and the name, not the Gotts.”

Gotts Roadside

The Gotts announced this week they are changing the name of the restaurants to Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet. They cited legal reasons, a reference to a four-year-old trademark infringement case that started after the Gotts expanded the brand. In a prepared statement issued Friday, Joel Gott wrote that the brothers decided to change the name of the restaurants “to avoid any further controversy.”

The U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in 2008 that the sisters are the legal owners of the trade name and mark “Taylor’s Refresher,” and that the Gotts are using the name in St. Helena under a license from the sisters. The Gotts’ appeal of the ruling is pending in San Francisco federal court.

The Taylors Refresher Bacon Cheeseburger

“In the meantime we are moving forward,” Joel Gott wrote in an e-mail.

“At some point soon, we would like to expand to other locations, and while this is being settled by the lawyers, we have decided make the change,” Gott wrote.

Signs at each Taylor’s location have been covered up or changed, and new menu designs distributed. On Thursday and Friday, the newly named Gott’s restaurants hosted parties to announce the name change.

Generations of local residents and travelers have patronized the hamburger stand that Popsy Taylor first opened in St. Helena in 1949. According to a press release, Virginia and her late husband, Charley Toogood, took over the restaurant in 1968 and, with other family members, operated it for the next 30 years.

original Taylors Refresher

In 1999, the sisters leased Taylor’s Refresher to the Gotts, who renovated it before reopening as both Taylor’s Refresher and Taylor’s Automatic Refresher.

A press release from the Taylor sisters said Nicholson and Toogood were “surprised and embarrassed” to learn that the Gotts were opening a new Taylor’s Automatic Refresher at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Three years later, the Gotts opened a third Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.

best cheeseburgers

“While Nicholson and Toogood receive percentage-based lease payments from the original St. Helena restaurant, they have received nothing from the Gotts for the use of the name in San Francisco or Napa. The sisters want to protect their trademark, name and value of the St. Helena restaurant for their families and heirs,” the release said.

Taylors Refresher

So there you have it – a big burger battle that gets in the way of what is a terrific burger…let me show you:

Gotts Bacon Cheeseburger

How about their bacon cheeseburger – stuffed full of meat, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion and a special sauce…and of course, you MUST have the garlic fries…or wait, how about onion rings?

Taylors Onion Rings

Yes, they are as good and fresh as they look – but you can also have sweet potato fries, or even the chili cheese fries….

chili cheese fries

Yes, there are tough decisions to make, so you need to go with a group of people and get them all:

Onion Rings

Now, back to the cheeseburgers…there are many variable – you can add onion rings to the burger, or double patties, or bacon bacon and more bacon…

Taylors Refresher Bacon Cheeseburger

Now, you can also get turkey burgers and veggie burgers AND ahi burgers, plus chicken sandwiches and more…and they all show up looking as good as this:

Taylors Refresher Cheeseburger

Taylors Lives!

One nod to the past: when you go to the original Taylors Refresher location, you will still see the original sign out front, reminding you of the past…

Taylors Refresher

Everything else says Gotts – and there is a new Gotts in Napa at the Ox Bow market, and another in San Francisco as well…an unfortunate legal battle that takes away from what is legendary food…

Gotts Roadside

So whether it’s a “Gotts” or a “Taylors Refresher”, one thing remains the same: it IS one of the best burgers in America…

Taylors Refresher

Categories: BACON, Books / Media, Food, Food Review, Hamburgers, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, wine

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13 replies


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