The secrets to grilling a delectable smash burger are revealed by a Sebastopol chef.

PD The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The long-closed concession stand at Spring Lake will get a new snack shack on Saturday from Chef Bob Simontacchi’s Sonoma Burger.

Both Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa and Wurst in Healdsburg have them on their menus. With three eateries within a mile of one another offering smash burgers on their menus, Sebastopol appears to be the smash burger capital of the world. There are restaurants that specialize in the smash, such as Sonoma Burger, Blue Ridge Kitchen, and Fernbar in The Barlow.

Bob Simontacchi, the chef and co-owner of Sonoma Burger along with Brandon Parkhurst, the general manager, said: “I want to cook a burger I enjoy, and this is what happened.

Like so many other restaurant owners, they were forced by the pandemic to branch out from fine dining, which they still provide at Gravenstein Grill, the sister establishment of Sonoma Burger. The two tested a few pop-ups during the shutdown, according to Parkhurst. One sold pizzas and was called Pleasant Hill Pies. The other one eventually led to the creation of Sonoma Burger.

What’s a Smash burger?

Smash Burger

Chef Bob Simontacchi of Sonoma Burger prepared both a turkey, left, and beef smash burger patty on Monday, May 15, 2023, in the Gravenstein Grill kitchen in Sebastopol. (Erik Castro / For The Press Democrat)

Smash burgers have become increasingly popular, thanks in part to the rise of a Denver-based restaurant chain called Smashburger, founded in 2007. But the concept of smash burgers goes back much further.

Some attribute the dish to Dairy Cheer, a Kentucky fast-food restaurant that produced the burgers in the 1960s. While additional internet research indicates the 1934-founded Steak ‘n Shake chain as the true innovator, other sources claim it is a Great Lakes tradition.

The concept is fairly straightforward: beef patties that have been thinly sliced so that as much of the meat as possible contacts a sizzling hot grill.

Smash burgers are not without their critics. This kind of burger falls short for those who prefer a large, meaty patty. But Simontacchi prefers smash style just fine.

“I prefer to have the option of ordering a smaller burger, a shake, and fries”. 🍟🍟🍟

Making a better burger

Smash Burguer

Chef Bob Simontacchi of Sonoma Burger preparing to smash burgers with melted American cheese on Monday, May 15, 2023, in the Gravenstein Grill kitchen in Sebastopol. (Erik Castro / For The Press Democrat)

“We named it Sonoma Burger because we were able to source everything for the restaurant from Sonoma County,” explained Simontacchi, who became interested in food while stationed in Europe with the United States Air Force.

After serving in Operation Desert Storm, he used the GI Bill to attend culinary school at City College in San Francisco.

That training is what sets Sonoma Burger apart from other burger joints. Sauces and pickles are made from scratch. Then there are the golden, toasty buns with their enticing sheen.

“A great burger starts with a great bun,” Parkhurst said of the Parker House-style buns, which are baked fresh in-house every day.

Putting everything together

Smash Burger

A smash burger with melted American cheese by Chef Bob Simontacchi of Sonoma Burger, Monday, May 15, 2023, in the Gravenstein Grill kitchen in Sebastopol. (Erik Castro / For The Press Democrat)

The new Sebastopol burger joint is a hit. πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”πŸ˜

Cooking the burgers may be the first thing that comes to mind, but according to Simontacchi and Parkhurst, it is the last thing to do.

“Prepare your ingredients by slicing them and having them ready to go. “Separate your cheese,” Simontacchi said. “I prepare everything in front of me and then cook.” When you’re ready to cook, everything comes together quickly.”

They recommend toasting the buns first so you may devote your whole focus to the burgers. πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

Simontacchi tried precut buns and found that they didn’t toast as well. If you don’t want to make your own buns, seek ones that you have to cut open yourself since they’re fresher.

To add another layer of texture to the burger, he butters the sliced buns and sets them cut side down on the frying surface until they’re bubbling and crisp. He softly flattens them with a fork as they cook, but a lightweight baking sheet would suffice.

“Some people say, ‘I’ll do them in the oven under the broiler.'” Boom! “Your buns are toast,” Simontacchi replied. “Don’t walk away from the buns while they’re toasting. Make sure your buns are well-cared for and not burned.”

When the buns are done, Spread sauce on both slices. Then it’s time for the main course.

Smash Burger

A smash burger with melted American cheese by Chef Bob Simontacchi of Sonoma Burger, Monday, May 15, 2023, in the Gravenstein Grill kitchen in Sebastopol. (Erik Castro / For The Press Democrat)

Simontacchi uses a ball of flesh weighing 212 to 3 ounces, or the patty would be too large when squeezed out, he says. He seasons the ball well with salt and pepper, melts some butter in a skillet or grill, places the ball on the grill, and smashes.

5-6 patties Sonoma Burger Smash Burgers

Smash burgers do not require any special ingredients. It’s all about the method.

1 pound ground beef/chuck, cold

seasoned with salt & pepper


Optional sliced cheeseΒ  πŸ§€

6 sliced and toasted buns (see recipe below for homemade)

Nearly Secret Sonoma Burger Sauce (recipe follows)

Pickles with bread and butter (recipe follows)

For more information on the remarkable culinary journey of Chef Bob Simontacchi, you can visit the original article by clicking [πŸ‘‡ πŸ‘‰] (”

“For further reading, explore our in-depth guide on mastering different grilling techniques to enhance your culinary skills and create unforgettable dining experiences.”


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