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September 20-26, 2006

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Heavenly Reflection

By Jeff Latta

In the vast galactic history of Heavenly Hamburgers, my time as chief grill master--OK, so I made that title up--was but a speck of dust. Though my impact on the place may not have been mighty, the place certainly had an effect on me. After watching my brother slave away there every weekend of his high school days at the fiery grill of Heavenly under the simultaneously kindhearted and hip boss known only as Mick (no need for that Mr. Powner crap), I was nonetheless wary of taking over such responsibility. But with plenty of patience and positive reinforcement, Mick molded me into a top-notch burger baron who takes pride in his grilling skills to this very day.

Even when flipped by my less-than-experienced hands, the burgers were always top-notch at Heavenly. Crispy fries, thick shakes, fresh veggies--these might seem like cliché expectations to any burger-loving layman, but when you get right down to it, there just wasn't a better burger joint within driving distance of Santa Rosa. But now those craving a quality piece of meat slathered in delicious secret sauce will have to seek elsewhere, because after 51 years at the same location, a redesign of the building will force the little hamburger stand that could to close its doors on Sept. 30.

Mick is truly a gentleman among burger men; he is there bright and early every single morning, getting the place ready for the day's steady stream of regulars and first-time customers. For years he could even be seen personally manning the grill with a smile and a greeting for all every weekday until 4pm, when punks like me took over for the night. And when the secret sauce shelves started to empty, Mick is there with his jovial grin. He could spend all night with his giant, hollowed-out, washing-machine-sized bowl on top of the grill, cooking up the sauce recipe that no one but the most privileged of privileged few were privy to.

But enough of the "was" and "did" of the past. There's still almost two weeks left before Heavenly closes its door at its Sonoma Highway outpost, and there's even a possibility that the secret sauce may boil over again one day in a different location. (Mick says, "All options are being considered.") But there are no guarantees in this life, so head on down to Heavenly while you still can for a burger that really is sent down from the angels above.

Heavenly Hamburgers, 4910 Sonoma Hwy., Santa Rosa. Open 11am to 8pm daily--through Saturday, Sept. 30. 707.539.9791.

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