Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

February 28, 2007

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher is a rather well-known burger joint that offers an upgraded version of fast food fare. The original location in St. Helena has been around for at least 50 years, but there is a second location in the posh foodie-haven of the Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The Ferry Building branch of Taylor’s has a quick take-out counter, and a full sit-down area, with both indoor and outdoor seating.There are several burgers on the menu, ranging from a standard cheeseburger to a blue cheese burger. Also offered are a few seafood dishes, including fish tacos, fried calamari, fish and chips, and the famous ahi burger, which we will get to in just a little bit. Of course, there are side dishes (onion rings and several types of fries) and a variety of milk shakes made with Double Rainbow Ice Cream. A collection of chicken entrees, hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, and salads round off the menu.

We got a side order of the sweet potato fries ($3.99),


The menu claimed these were “dusted in chili spice”, which they were, but so slightly they might as well not have been dusted at all, as the chili spice was barely perceptible most of the time. The use of sweet potatoes is a nice twist (they do taste good with ketchup!), but after a few of them we were actually already a little tired of them. A decent side dish, but these are good to share, as they give you quite a lot.

Short Exact and dining companion also shared two burgers; first, the standard cheeseburger ($6.49):


The meat used in the burger was good quality (“all natural, hormone free California beef” as proclaimed on the menu), and the vegetables in the burger (just the standard lettuce, tomato, and pickles) were fresh and crisp. The “secret sauce”, albeit used somewhat excessively, was as tasty as you’d want it to be, and the use of quality ingredients did elevate the experience. This was no doubt a solid burger, but it did not stand out in our mind as being especially amazing or noteworthy. It did sure have a lot of cheese oozing out of it, though!

Possibly the most infamous item on Taylor’s menu — and the item which most sets it apart from other burger joints — is the ahi burger ($13.99), which was the other burger we shared:


The ahi burger features a fresh steak of ahi tuna, seared rare, and is served with cole slaw and ginger wasabi mayo in place of secret sauce. Wasabi and ginger are such stereotypical accompaniments for ahi, and casting it in the form of an aioli suits this preparation of ahi as a burger. The ahi was good, and definitely seared rare, as promised; we enjoyed it, but we would probably not order this sandwich again, or very often. The price of the burger is understandably high, but a seared ahi should be featured in a more subtle preparation. Slathering the ginger/wasabi mayo all over it and sticking it between two pieces of bread is not the best way to show off a good piece of tuna. Taylor’s is really just an upgraded fast food restaurant, so we probably shouldn’t be too picky, but the ahi burger is $14, and — in our opinion — probably not worth this premium. The ahi burger is a curiosity, and it is certainly a tasty and hearty sandwich, but if you are craving seared tuna with a ginger/wasabi preparation, plenty of other restaurants in the Bay Area offer better interpretations that treat the tuna in a way it deserves to be treated.

All in all, Taylor’s is a solid burger joint in a convenient location; certainly a fine place to drop by if you’re in the area, but we wouldn’t recommend going out of your way, since these burgers aren’t really so noteworthy as to be worthy of a trek. You may also want to keep in mind that the prices are fairly expensive, given that we’re talking about burgers here. The cheapest burger on the menu is just the standard burger, at $5.75, and other non-ahi burgers reach as high a price as $8.49 (at the time of this review). So if you get a burger and a shake, or some sort of side dish, you are pretty much guaranteed to spend more than $10, which may very well be more than you want to spend on a burger. If you’re in the area, though, it’s a decent choice, as the fare is tasty and satisfying.



1 Ferry Building #6
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 866.328.3663
Hours: Daily, 10:30 am – 8:00 pm.

Cuisine: American (Traditional)
Neighborhood: Financial District

How to get there: BART and Muni Metro access via Embarcadero Station. Muni lines: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 21, 31, 38, 41, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N, and T.



  1. I’ve never had sweet potato fries, but your pictures make them look incredible. Funny I’ve always avoided Taylor’s Automatic Refresher because I always thought it was one of those overpriced Ferry Building places. However, after your post, I might now give the ahi burger a try when I am in the area.

  2. Well, you’re right in that definitely is an overpriced Ferry Building place. Ahi tuna burger is probably worth at least trying, but I don’t know if I could ever see myself as a regular at Taylor’s.

  3. $13 sounds reasonable judging by the looks of it. I’ll have to search around for something comparable in ny

  4. Doug, perhaps it sounds reasonable just because you’re in NY 🙂

    Actually, considering the fact you get a fairly hefty piece of rare tuna, the $13.99 is reasonable. It’s really just a question of whether you want to spend that money on a burger, or on a more careful preparation of the tuna.

  5. If I was at the overpriced ferry building there are a multitude of other overpriced foods I would put on my eating list before the Taylor’s ahi tuna burger.

  6. Haha, it’s a good point Sam. There’s no shortage of other things to consume at the Ferry Bldg, but assuming the big earthquake doesn’t hit us soon, there will be opportunities to try the other stuff. 🙂 The ahi burger was somewhere on my list of things to try, so when an opportunity came up one day, I thought “why not?”

  7. I don’t blame you – I’ve tried it too and decided never to try it again. It’s not I think its awful – there are just too many things in the near vicinity I’d rather wrap my chops around.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: