Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Friday was National Donut Day, and Arcata’s V&N Burger Bar had a cute little basket of the tasty pastries by the front counter. But the real appeal was the hamburgers, and Mark Myers, a 45-year customer of the iconic burger palace at Samoa Boulevard and I Street, was finishing up one of the last he’ll enjoy there.
“These are the best burgers around,” Myers said. “They’re wholesome, old fashioned and hand pressed. I love hamburgers.”
In a few weeks, Myers and the V&N’s legion of fans will have to find other burgers to love, because after 22 years, owner Linda Roseman is closing up shop. The property on which V&N stands is for sale (list- ed with Ming Tree Realty), and she plans to move to Oregon to be closer to her family.
V&N has been pumping out hearty breakfasts, lunches, dinners and good cheer since 1965. It was founded by Vernon and Norma Berger, then purchased by Sue Duran. It was next purchased by Don Kolshinski, who also founded Don’s Donut Bar. He owned V&N during the 1990s, while also operating his Plaza hot dog cart, but found that he couldn’t do both. “It was just too damn much for me,” he said. Kolshinski sold V&N to Roseman in 1995.
It once coexisted as part of a loosely related burger shop ecosystem that included the Arcata Burger Bar at Seventh and G streets, and Maggie’s Burger’s in McKinleyville.
All that history was revealed beginning Friday on the “Remember in Arcata When...” Facebook page, where news of V&N’s closure provoked many lamentations and memories of burgers past. Greg Gearheart’s was typical:
“I have many great memories eating there from the 1970s as a kid. My dad would take my sister and I to pick up burgers, fries and shakes on our way to dad’s workplace – the City of Arcata corps yards, where he and a bunch of his academic col- leagues, friends and students had built a pilot proj- ect to test the feasibility of using wetlands to treat wastewater and ‘train’ salmon. The food was our pay to help in the lab (a trailer) or in the pilot cells. The burgers were so good we almost forgot what we were working on when we ate them. Thanks for the great memories and great food, V&N.”
Maggie Gainer had her own recollections: “In the 1970s, there were three or four small places similar in size that were run by women. V&N’s was probably the most popular with truck drivers. When I rode shot- gun occasionally on the ACRC recycling collection truck, the morning drivers always had to stop there first. We were the hippies and I found it to be a melting pot for rednecks and hippies. We looked different, but we felt accepted – everybody’s got to have a hot cup of coffee and a donut in the morning.”
Others who sported long hair and beards found acceptance rather lacking back in the 1980s, but the burgers tasty. Some customers fondly remember other V&N cuisine – its donuts, cinnamon rolls, ice cream and hot dogs. Myers recalls the Wednesday spaghetti specials, and Fish Basket Friday.
“A lot of the older people used to come in here,” he said, in the dining area which is festooned with oldtime diner signs and other retro relics. “It’s been this way forever.”
V&N has evolved somewhat. Apparently it used to lack indoor dining, with just a walk-up window and a covered patio. Its staff and customers also no longer look askance at men with beards.
Myers rates V&N’s burgers more highly than any other eatery around – especially the many new upscale restaurants with fancy prices.
“You’ve lost good, inexpensive, wholesome food and you’re not gonna get it back,” he lamented.
“End of an era,” said Siddiq Kilkenny. “A genuinely old fashioned burger joint. I will miss it.”