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COX: Flipside Bar & Burger has the best burger in Santa Rosa

Haute cuisine, it isn't. But the food at the new Flipside Bar & Burger on Third Street in Santa Rosa is excellent for what it is — down-home American comfort food. And with one swipe of the spatula, they serve the best burger in town. How do they do it?

For the <CF103>Grass Fed </CF>($14.95 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>), the cooks start with 100 percent grass-fed, naturally raised beef, grind it themselves, and serve up a thick, juicy six ounces of meat with a broiled surface to bring up the flavor, sitting on a good commercial bun. Owner Nino Rabbaa, who also owns Rendez Vous Bistro on Fourth Street, has plans for a bakery in the near future and you can expect future buns to be made from scratch, just like most everything at Flipside.

So if you order the plain Grass Fed, it's just the burger and the bun, but you can add lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion — all of them or any combination you like. For $2 more, you can add one of the following: Flipside's remarkably good fries (not overly salted and perfectly cooked in fresh oil), green salad, applewood-smoked bacon, chili, guacamole, cheese or egg. For 75 cents more, choose from mushrooms, jalape?s, extra sauce or caramelized onions. You can only make a really good burger better with these choices.

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Don't let that price for the Grass Fed scare you away. Grass Fed beef is pricey, but it's really good for you, with extra amounts of health-promoting conjugated linoleic acid. You'll find 13 other burgers on the menu, starting at $7.95 for the Classic, served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.

Maybe it's because the place is new and people just want to try it out, or because lots of people in their 20s and 30s don't like the long lines at the In-N-Out on County Center Drive, but the place is a maelstrom of youthful energy .<TH>.<TH>. meaning it's loud in there. Thankfully, there's a comfortable outside seating area facing the 3rd Street Cinema and the Third Street Aleworks where you can hear yourself think, and it has couches to recline on for mega-thinking.

The d?or is American sportsy, with a shadow box containing mementos of a fight between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson and large, HD flat-screen TVs with sports events. The pass-through to the kitchen is framed in pressed-tin plates. Besides booths and tables, a long counter has 20 stools and old-fashioned clips under the counter that used to be used for holding men's hats but nowadays will hold women's purses.

Service is still getting its act together due to the youth of the staff and novelty of the system, but everyone is friendly and wants to help. They wear T-shirts that say either "Flip It," "Eat It," or "Shake It."

Beverages include 10 draft beers and nine by the bottle or can; five white and five red wines on tap plus 16 more by the bottle. And who was the mad mixologist who came up with cocktails (available by the pitcher) like the Five &amp; Rye, made of rye whiskey, Campari, ginger, serrano hot peppers, citrus, and Chinese five-spice blend? In a category called "Bangin' Shakes," The Campfire ($10) consists of vanilla ice cream, graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, chocolate chips and Johnny Walker Red.

The food and beverage director is the talented Patrick Tafoya, and Joshua Dellwo is the chef. His focus is not only on local ingredients, but on everything from scratch as much as possible, and that's rare for a burger joint. For instance, a half-rack of <CF103>Baby Back Ribs</CF> ($17.95 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>) is slathered with house-made, from-scratch barbecue sauce. Eight ribs are baked until the meat is falling off the bones. Fourteen onion rings in a stack encircle a metal spike as a side dish. Many entrees also come with <CF103>Cole Slaw</CF> (<UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>) as a side dish. I'd ask for it if I were you, for this is wonderful slaw — crisp and fresh and crunchy-cold, not too sweet and not too sour, with a light rather than thick and heavy dressing. If you're in the mood for a salad, five are offered. <CF103>The Mediterranean </CF>($7.95 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>) is as fresh as the cole slaw, with feta and olives galore.

Dinner started with an appetizer called <CF103>Miss Muffett</CF> ($6.50 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>), a miniature French-fry basket full of deep-fried, crispy, battered Spring Hill cheese balls. Yes, it's gloppy — but good. The <CF103>Rustic Soup</CF> ($3 cup <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>) was served without spoons — a little hitch in the service — but was a savory mix of bacon, potato and cheddar cheese in a meaty broth.


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