Showing posts with label burgers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label burgers. Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Night at the Burger Museum

So here was a fun thing: "Night at the Burger Museum," organized and hosted by Burger Beast a/k/a Sef Gonzalez.

Most folks know Burger Beast as a passionate and voracious blogger of burgers and other comfort foods, or maybe as the organizer of record setting food truck events. Not as many may appreciate that he is also a true historian of the fast food universe, with an encyclopedic depth of knowledge about the genre and its origins. (He's got a book coming out, "All About the Burger," in a few months). Sef has also compiled quite the collection of artifacts and memorabilia, which was first kept in a warehouse in Westchester I visited a couple years ago. It now has a home at the Burger Museum in Magic City Casino, where you can find Bob’s Big Boy hobnobbing with Officer Big Mac.

Earlier this week, Sef launched something new there: Night at the Burger Museum, with the space converted into a dining room, and a menu inspired by some of the dishes that were once served at the places whose knick-knacks adorn the walls.

(You can see all my pictures in this Night at the Burger Museum flickr set).

The idea, and some of the original dish suggestions, came from Sef; the re-interpretation and execution were cooked up by Phil Bryant and Veronica Valdivia , who worked together at Norman’s 180, Yardbird and The Local before starting Heirloom Hospitality as a consulting business.

Here’s what was on the menu:

A root beer rum old fashioned, made with Havana Club Clasico rum, sassafras syrup and bitters, courtesy of the always ebullient Gio Gutierrez.

Inspired by the Burger King Yumbo Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwich: ham croquetas with a cheese center, served with "special sauce." I'll confess, I was alive for the original Yumbo (which Burger King originally offered from 1968 to 1974, then brought back for a limited time in 2014), but I have no memory of it. This recreation was a feat of engineering, a crispy globe encasing a core of minced ham and molten cheese magma.

Inspired by the Wendy's Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich and Sizzler's Cheese Toast: a chicken cordon bleu soup topped with crispy, spice-flecked chicken nuggets, with a faithfully recreated tranche of cheese-dusted Texas toast riding sidecar. Here's an ad with Dave Thomas hawking the original version, I'm guessing from the early 1990's.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Frod Burger at Blue Collar

The month of May, according to authoritative source "A Hamburger Today," is "National Burger Month." To celebrate the auspicious occasion, Blue Collar Restaurant has been running burger specials every week inspired by local food writers, including - yes - yours truly. I'll admit: it is difficult to resist the allure of having a menu item named after you.

Blue Collar, by way of quick background, is a casual comfort food kind of place run by Chef Daniel Serfer, a Chef Allen alum. Opened around the beginning of the year, it's tucked into the small nook in the Biscayne Inn that used to house the now-defunct American Noodle Bar. I've not written about it yet but have been in several times.

Blue Collar's burger creations thus far have included the Chowfather Burger, topped with their "Big Ragout," latkes, bacon and a fried egg, the Fat Girl Hedonist Burger with chorizo, fried shallots, smoked gouda and chipotle mayo, and the Food-E Burger (a/k/a the Breakfast Burger), with Canadian bacon, an egg, maple mustard, and a side of cheese grits.

Now, behold the Frod Burger:

Frod Burger

My particular version was loosely inspired by the outstanding burger served at Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.[1] It includes slow-cooked, golden, caramelized onions, sharp cheddar cheese, an iceberg lettuce "slaw," and a smear of a a ruddy piquillo pepper aioli for good measure.

All of Blue Collar's burgers use a patty fashioned from prime dry-aged NY strip, a pretty luxurious grind for a pretty casual place. They also now all come housed in a "Portugese muffin," which may be a close to perfect vehicle for a burger. It's like the love child of an English muffin and brioche, tender but still having enough heft to hold up to a juicy burger, while not taking up nearly as much space as a brioche bun and distracting from the burger itself. Chef Serfer was awfully excited to get these in, and after trying it, I can begin to understand.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Want a Burger and a Shake with that Pork Bun?

Richard Hales, chef/owner of Sakaya Kitchen, was not in pole position when the Miami food truck trend started. But when he unveiled his Dim Ssam a Gogo truck about a year ago, it quickly rolled to among the front of the pack, mobilizing Sakaya's offerings with some street-friendly contemporary Asian dishes and expanding them with some truck-only items. A few months ago Hales added a second truck, initially dubbed, somewhat uninspiredly, the "Sakaya Kitchen" truck. With a menu that was mostly a short-form version of the regular restaurant menu, the second truck primarily enabled Sakaya to be in two places at once (three, if you count the brick-and-mortar location in Midtown).[*]

Now that's all changed. Hales is rolling out not one, but two new trucks: the "Baketress" and "Burger Cheese Bun."

The "Baketress" will offer "a homey American dessert menu with an old southern soul," meaning soft-serve ice cream, fresh baked pies, made to order "hot now" doughnuts, handmade ice cream sandwiches, shakes and "re-created ice cream truck novelties." But while Hales has a sweet tooth, he doesn't claim to be a pastry chef. Instead he's bringing in some big guns to help: Vanessa Paz, formerly the pastry chef for Michelle Bernstein's restaurants. Those of you who were in attendance at our "Cobakayapaz" Cobaya dinner, when Chef Paz tried to kill us with more than a half-dozen gorgeous desserts (after seven savory courses from Chef Hales) will be anticipating good things.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Local Craft Food and Drink - Coral Gables

Miami may only occasionally be a true culinary innovator, but lately it has proven at least to be an increasingly adept early adopter. Small plates, food trucks, contemporary Asian, locavorism, pork obsessiveness; all are trends that Miami quickly embraced. Yet some others seem to have largely passed Miami by. The gastropub is one of them.

The idea of the gastropub originated in London in the 1990's, when some enterprising souls set out to elevate the quality of the "pub grub" served in the city's traditional "public houses." With an approach that presaged both the current farm-to-table and high-end casual trends, the food was often local and seasonal, and brought "real" cooking to humble watering holes. Plus, of course, there was always beer. Good beer.

Though gastropubs are old news in England, they were rather slow in working their way across the pond. When Mario Batali opened the Spotted Pig in New York in 2004, importing April Bloomfield from England as chef, it was routinely touted as the city's first gastropub.[1] The concept was even slower to catch on in Miami. Though there were occasional attempts (i.e., Jake's in South Miami), they weren't done particularly well.[2]

That's all changed with The Local.

The Local

The Local (full name: The Local Craft Food & Drink, "The Local" being both a play on British shorthand for "the local pub" and the focus on locally sourced ingredients) opened a couple months ago in Coral Gables, in the spot on Giralda Avenue formerly occupied by Randazzo's.[3] The room has been turned around, with a large wooden bar (imported from a defunct Irish bar on South Beach) now having pride of place along the east wall, and the remainder of the space filled out with bar-height and regular tables for a total of about 50 diners.

(You can see all my pictures in this The Local flickr set).


Like any good gastropub, the initial focus here is on beer. The chalkboard lists nearly two dozen options on tap, both domestic and imported, in a wide range of styles. The draft offerings are supplemented with a selection of bottles, including large format items like the Brooklyn Brewery Local No. 1 golden ale, or seasonal items like the Cigar City Improvisacion "Oatmeal Rye India Brown Ale" made in nearby Tampa.

What to eat along with that beer? That's where Chef Alberto Cabrera comes in. Cabrera shouldn't be a stranger to Miami diners: he did time at Norman's, Baleen, and the critically lauded but sadly short-lived La Broche before taking the helm at the kitchen of the ambitious and equally ill-fated Karu & Y. Since then he's been something of a culinary mercenary, working brief stints as the chef at STK Steakhouse and Himmarshee Grill.[4] I hope he sticks around The Local longer.

jerky in a jar

A good place to either start a meal or just nosh something along with your beer is the "snacks" section of the menu, and in particular, the "jerky in a jar" ($7). The jerky is house-made and infused with soy and Thai chiles (alternately, Korean kochuchang on another night), served in a jar along with some fried garlic chips and a sprinkle of green onions. It's unabashedly chewy, intensely beefy, not overwhelmingly salty, a touch sweet, a little bit spicy, and all good.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

BGR The Burger Joint - Coral Gables

Some people ask me why there aren't more negative reviews here at Food For Thought. Or, to put it another way, they give me grief because I like most of the places I write about. I think most of my commentary is balanced: I'm not a cheerleader, and even most positive write-ups will offer some criticism too. But it's true that I don't often outright pan restaurants here, even though those kind of rants can be the most fun to write (and read).

Why is that? There are a few reasons. First, I see it as my primary mission to help people find good things to eat. The easiest way to do that is to write about good restaurants. Yes, I could also write about bad restaurants and warn people away from them, but that kind of process of elimination seems rather inefficient.

Equally, if not more important: I like to eat good things. I really hate having a lousy meal. And as a rather dedicated eater, one of the things I've learned to do pretty well is to figure out how to avoid them. Here, there definitely is a process of elimination at work. If I look at a menu online, I can pretty quickly tell if there's nothing that's going to interest me (for instance, yet another generic Italian menu or another uninspired steakhouse will not be a draw). Another tell: if a restaurant just opened their first location and are already trying to market franchise opportunities on their website, that's a good sign that they're more about business than food.

So I've gotten pretty good at "advance scouting," and while some restaurants may not live up to expectations, I'm generally pretty successful at avoiding outright bad meals (unless, as inevitably happens sometimes, I don't get to choose the place).

And finally, I am not a professional critic. Nobody's paying me to do this. I won't typically write up a restaurant unless I've visited multiple times, and if I've had a bad experience, there's usually not much reason for me to go back and repeat it.

All of which is a very long preface for this: I did not like "BGR The Burger Joint."

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shake Shack - South Beach

I'm clearly quite late to the Shake Shack party. Indeed, the hubbub started, well, hubbubbing more than half a year ago with the announcement that New York restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer would be opening his first branch outside of NYC on Lincoln Road in South Beach. "It's the best!" "New Yorkers wait in line an hour for their burgers and shakes!" "It'll make you poop rainbows!" The official opening date was yesterday, June 22,[*] and already no less than 17 citizens of Yelpistan have checked in, plus more in Chowsylvania. Why on earth haven't I been there yet?

OK, OK. One ShackBurger, some Cheese Fries, and a "Shark Attack" Concrete, please.

Fortunately, when I got there around 7pm the line was only - well, one person deep. Like I said, everyone's already been there. But the tables all around were mostly full, and there was a steady flow of customers. I got my order after about 10 minutes, which I spent watching 15 or so people mill busily about the open kitchen.

All of Shake Shack's burgers are made with hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus beef. I'd be curious to know whether the Miami branch is getting its beef from NY butcher legend Pat LaFrieda like the NY ones do; doubt it. The "ShackBurger" ($4.75 for a single) features a modestly sized 4-oz. patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and "ShackSauce." If you don't opt for the "ShackBurger," the burger will come entirely unadorned, or with your choice of lettuce, tomato, pickle or onion. For better or worse, there will be no "Stairway to Heaven" burgers topped with foie gras and truffles or "Rock Lobster" burgers with lobster, watercress and tarragon remoulade here.

How was it? After all the hype, frankly, it would have been a disappointment if this burger didn't do a triple axel with a back flip to arrive on my plate, while simultaneously giving me a handjob under the table, and taste like I was eating the very flesh of Kamadhenu, the divine Hindu cow that can grant all wishes.

(continued ...)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ferran Adria to Open Burger Joint in South Beach

Chef Ferran Adria shook the foundations of the culinary world when he announced in January that his acclaimed restaurant, El Bulli, would be closing for two years after the 2012 season, followed shortly thereafter by the announcement that it would be closing permanently. El Bulli is widely regarded as among the top restaurants in the world, and is legendary for its cutting edge experimentation, regularly pushing the boundaries of the food universe.

The announcements regarding El Bulli were followed by much confusion and speculation as to Adria's future. Chef Adria subsequently explained that El Bulli was not so much closing permanently as it was reinventing itself as something more akin to a culinary foundation, though the nature and mission of that new incarnation remained unclear.

Inside sources have now clarified what to expect next: Chef Adria will be opening the first elBulliBurger in South Beach in the Spring of 2014. It would not be Chef Adria's first foray into fast food: his fascination with the hamburger has been well-known for years, and he's already opened a series of fast-food restaurants in Spain called "Fast Good."

According to Craig "Cootereli" MacShane, a line cook at a local restaurant who did a 1-week stage at El Bulli three years ago, "He's bored with the endless experimentation at El Bulli. I mean, how many different ways can you spherify an olive? Ferran actually told me a  couple years ago that he wanted to open a steakhouse in South Beach, but El Bulli was taking up too much of his time. Then last year he wanted to open a pizza place." Adria's fascination with pizza has also been the subject of much media speculation.

Says MacShane, "Now he's decided that what South Beach really needs is a burger place." After El Bulli closes in 2012, Adria will be applying his vast knowledge of molecular gastronomy to create the perfect hamburger. There's a good chance that his burger creation will be previewed at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash before the South Beach elBulliBurger officially opens for business.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Truck Party! (Part I) Latin Burger & Taco

Sorry for the confusion, Mr. Marbury - not that kind of truck party. No, we're talking mobile food trucks, which of late have been establishing a foothold in Miami. This Friday a couple of the new additions - gastroPod, from Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, and Latin Burger & Taco Truck, from Food Network personality Ingrid Hoffman, set up shop in close proximity to each other, and a food truck tour was in order.

My first visit was to Latin Burger, which was camped out off Miami Avenue and 34th Street near Midtown. I managed to drive by twice before spotting the truck in the back of a parking lot behind a furniture store between 34th & 35th Streets, and I felt a bit like Tommy Vercetti trying to hunt down a target in Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

With truck found, I took a look at the menu, which is short and to the point:

You can get a "Latin Macho" burger, or a selection of tacos - chicken tomatillo, chicken mole or pulled pork. You can also add "Plain Jane" fries if you wish. I went with the "Latin Macho" burger and skipped the fries, knowing I was saving some room for a further stop at gastroPod.

The burger uses a grind of chuck, sirloin and chorizo, and while it doesn't taste specifically like chorizo, it is a meaty, well-salted burger with a subtle backbone of spice that probably comes from the sausage in the mix. They use the double-patty approach like that employed by Five Guys, which starts to make up for the decision to cook all burgers medium-well (though not completely). The burger is topped with melted Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onions and jalapeños, all tucked within a soft sesame-seed studded bun. It is an excellent combination of toppings - creamy melted cheese, a lightly sweet-salty touch from the onions backed up with a little heat from the jalapeños - enough elements to give some flavor variety, not so many as to overwhelm.

Though the menu says the burger comes with either "avocadolicious sauce" or red pepper mayo, it in fact came with neither - though another customer had the good idea to ask for the sauces, which were available in squeeze bottles. I topped the last quarter of my burger with some of the "avocadolicious sauce" - a thick, lightly creamy avocado puree - and it completed the package very nicely.

This was a very good burger - maybe not as good as the one I had recently at Burger & Beer Joint (even if I screwed up by ordering one with too many goofy toppings there), but comparable to - naw, better than - a Five Guys burger; similar in style, but with the added bonus of more exotic and interesting flavors to the burger and the toppings (and at a comparable price).

It is worth hunting down this truck if it's in your neighborhood.

Next - a shiny object beckons - the gastroPod!

Latin Burger & Taco Truck
on twitter: @LatinBurger

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Food Trucks Are Coming!

Just in time for Art Basel, Miami is finally hopping onto the trend du jour, as not one, but two, food trucks are hitting the streets.

First: gastroPOD, a mobile gourmet kitchen from Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog. The one that will be roaming Wynwood this week is actually not the official gastroPOD - a vintage Airstream trailer getting outfitted with a bleeding edge kitchen with all the latest bells and whistles - but rather a backup, the "Shiny Twinkie". But it's still all nice and shiny, and it'll still be putting out good vittles - if you're lucky, some of the banh mi style trotter tacos we sampled at the P.I.G. Fest. You can follow the gastroPOD on twitter at @gastroPODmiami.

Next: Latin Burger and Taco, from Food Network celeb Ingrid Hoffman. You could get the recipe here, but you couldn't have someone serve it to you from a truck - until now. She promises "It'll be like nothing you've ever seen." Which might actually be true, if you've never left Miami. You can find Latin Burger on twitter at @LatinBurger.

Already on the road: Feverish Ice Cream, traveling around in a Scion xb laden with frozen confections, and this week offering strawberry basil popsicles (for Art Basel, naturally). Feverish is also on twitter at @FeverishMiami.

I've heard there's at least one more mobile food vendor heading Miami's way soon. Keep your eyes peeled.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Burger & Beer Joint - South Beach

When I first heard that a new burger and beer joint in South Beach was being touted as a "concept" - nay, three "concepts": burger joint, sports bar, and lounge - I was a bit dubious. And that it was going to be called "Burger & Beer Joint"? Well, nice to keep it simple and direct anyway. Shows what I know: after hearing multiple reports of hour-long waits for tables, clearly they were on to something, and I put Burger & Beer Joint onto the back burner as a place to go to after the fuss had died down. But this weekend I found myself on South Beach in the middle of the afternoon with nothing better to do and an empty feeling in my belly, and the stars aligned themselves for a visit.

The transformation of this little pocket of turf on the periphery of South Beach is really quite remarkable. For years nothing more than a warren of auto repair and body shops, there are now a number of places worth visiting here, between Joe Allen, Sardinia, its sister restaurant Casale, and now B&B. Both Casale and B&B, right across the street from each other, actually have some nice outdoor seating, even if you do sometimes hear the not-so-mellifluous sound of a fender being set back into place from one of the neighborhood's more longstanding residents.

Inside, Burger & Beer Joint is simple, casual and rugged, with a brick wall on one side being the primary form of "decoration." But if "burger" and "beer" are in the name, it's pretty easy to figure out what to evaluate a place by, and it's not the decor. I went in, found myself a seat at the bar, and scoped out a menu and the beer selection.

While the dinner menu offers either "composed" burgers or a lengthy list of DIY options for assembly, the lunch menu sticks only with the pre-ordained burgers, as well as a selection of snacks and sides. Perhaps against my better judgment, I opted for the "Hotel California": 10 oz. burger, salsa, guacamole, grilled onion, cilantro sour cream, cheddar, fried egg. Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle. It was clear just from reading the menu description that this burger suffered from an Amadeus complex ("too many notes"), but I just wasn't hankering for the bacon & bbq sauce combo offered by the "Thunder Road."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Danny Meyer Shaking His Miami Money-Maker

Shake ShackJust got word that Shake Shack, mega-NY restaurateur Danny Meyer's casual burgers 'n' shakes emporium, is going to be opening up its first location outside of New York in none other than Miami Beach, Florida.

Location is going to be in the new 1111 Lincoln Road building going up at the corner of Alton Road, with indoor and outdoor seating. Opening goal? "spring/summer 2010". (Good luck. We know how those things tend to go here in South Florida).

If you want to start planning you order now, you can peruse the menu here. Count me in for a double cheeseburger and a Concrete Jungle.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kingdom - Manliest Restaurant in America?

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but I'm comfortable enough with my manhood to admit that on more than one occasion, folks that have emailed me through the blog or responded to chowhound posts have assumed (erroneously) that I'm female. But I didn't volunteer that fact to the folks at when they asked for my suggestion of a Miami candidate for their "Manliest Restaurant in America" contest.

After finishing a beer or three, scratching myself, and doing a little tribal drumming, my recommendation was Kingdom, the bar and burger joint on Biscayne Boulevard and 67th Street. The burgers are great, the beer is cold and reasonably priced, the TVs are always tuned to whatever sporting event is in season, and your choices are to sit at the dark dank bar, or to sit outside on the sidewalk along Biscayne Boulevard, where if you're there at the right hour you'll still see folks working the oldest profession. The burgers start at 1/2 pound and work their way up to the 2 pound "Doomsday Burger," with the testosterone-driven dare that if you finish one along with an order of fries and rings in 15 minutes, it's free. And there's a great big concrete lion out front.

Que es mas macho than that? (My alternate choice, by the way, was Las Vacas Gordas). The voting is proceeding in regional brackets, so if you want to support Kingdom, here's where to cast your vote on the "Manliest Restaurant in America."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Guys, 8 Oz., 1 Spot

Life is not all Michelin three star dining experiences. Sometimes, all you want is a good cheap meal - a burger, a sandwich, something that satisfies your hunger without draining the wallet. Over the past few weeks I've been to a few such places and thought I'd try to add it all up.

Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries

Somehow I missed out on all the brouhaha over Five Guys. Indeed I was actually more familiar with In-N-Out, a similarly regarded but exclusively West Coast chain, than I was with Five Guys, which originated in the Washington DC area. But good reports started coming to my attention here and there, so when an opportunity presented itself I popped in to the Midtown Miami Five Guys location and tried it. Like In-N-Out, the menu is minimalist in approach though with a slim few more options (but no "secret menu" to my knowledge) - burgers, with cheese and/or bacon (or without); hot dogs (ditto); and fries, "Five Guys style" or Cajun. Burgers are available with a fairly traditional lineup of condiments, along with a couple not-terribly eccentric outlyers like bbq sauce, jalapeños or green peppers. Free peanuts in the shell while you wait in line is a nice touch.

Maybe I'm a fussy little nancy-boy, but I am usually underwhelmed by any burger for which you cannot specifiy your preferred degree of doneness, since I'm not a fan of well-done. But Five Guys makes up for this in a couple of ways: first, they stack two thinner well-done burgers together, giving the illusion of a nice fat burger; and second, what the burger lacks in lightly cooked juiciness, it makes up for in well-cooked greasiness. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. I had a cheeseburger with their routine "with everything" toppings (ex- mustard), which brought a nice combination of ketchup, mayo, fresh crisp iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato that actually tasted like one, grilled onions and mushrooms. The onions and mushrooms were a nice (free) addition that also helped make the burger seem juicier. The patties were nicely scraggly and imperfect, reflecting a burger that has not been overhandled. The bun was toasted on the griddle next to the burgers, which were cooked and assembled to order. This was a darn good burger, especially for $5.

The fries, about $2, not so much. Though it's clear they're using fresh potatoes (indeed they've got the bags piled up right in front of the counter to show you) and provide an over-generous serving, "Five Guys style" apparently means undercooked and undersalted. And unfortunately there are no other options in the way of sides other than said fries. Maybe the Cajun spice works some wonders on these. But it'd be nice to have something to match the satisfaction level of the burger, which was quite high indeed for $5.

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries
3401 N. Miami Avenue, Suite 214
Miami, FL 33127

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries (Design District) on Urbanspoon

8 Oz. Burger Bar

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

In contrast to Five Guys, which takes the mass-production burger chain model and elevates it with some attention to quality, 8 Oz. Burger Bar comes from the opposite direction. 8 Oz. is the brainchild of Chef Govind Armstrong, until recently better known for Table 8, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, and its progeny in South Beach. Like many chefs looking for ways to ride out this economic cycle, in May of last year he closed Table 8 L.A. and reopened it as a burger joint, 8 Oz. Burger Bar. When Table 8 L.A. closed, it was reported that it would be reopening in another location in a few months; I don't think that ever happened, though Armstrong did recently open another Table 8 in New York. In February, Chef Armstrong opened an 8 Oz. in South Beach, on Alton Road. Now another one has gone into the Z Hotel where Table 8 South Beach (just closed this week) is located.

While 8 Oz. tries to come across as somewhat proletariat, this is a burger joint for fussy nancy-boys (like myself), with burgers made from a special in-house grind of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib and chuck which is "cured in a Himalayan salt locker." Or, if that's not fussy enough for you, there's also an Estancia grass-fed beef burger, or lamb or turkey burgers too. The menu has a list of about 5 or so pre-composed burger assemblages, or you can craft your own from a selection of cheeses, sauces and other toppings. And yes, you can specify your preferred degree of doneness.

I chose a "Melrose" burger, a daintier 6 oz. portion of their "house blend" topped with arugula, garlic roasted tomatoes and red onion marmalade, medium-rare, to which I couldn't resist adding some Humboldt Fog, one of my favorite cheeses. (Note, by the way, that the menu I was given was much more limited than the one that is available online. While it offered most of the cheeses, it probably had less than half of the other sauces and toppings listed on the online menu. I also couldn't find any of the snacks or other items listed online other than the sides. And prices "on the ground" are generally a tad higher as well).

This burger was so immaculately formed that it almost appeared to be one of those mysterious Boca Burgers with the grill-marks airbrushed on. I don't know if I have ever seen a patty so perfectly round. Unfortunately, my "medium-rare" request was apparently for naught, as I could barely discern any hint of pink. And the meat, as several people have previously noted, was undersalted and consequently somewhat short on flavor, even though the "house blend" tried valiantly to overcome the stingy seasoning. That Himalayan salt locker just isn't cutting it - need to add more salt.

The "Melrose" toppings were quite nice if just a tad on the sweet side. And while Humboldt Fog on a burger may sound like a great idea (at least it did to me), the actual execution is not quite as exciting. A little wedge barely covered 1/3 of the burger, and the cheese, soft and mushy but not quite melted, didn't hit the right notes texturally (though for this pairing I recognize that I only have myself to blame).

The onion rings had a slightly sweet, not quite crisp batter which I didn't love at first, but found I couldn't stop eating these anyway. The beer selection is a real high point. Not many options on tap (indeed just Shock Top wheat ale, courtesy of Anheuser-Busch), but a plethora of bottled micro-brews made up for it. My Rogue Dry-Hopped Red Ale was a nice medium-weight beer with some hoppy bitterness that would have happily cut through even a much greasier burger.

The place has a nice casual vibe, with sports on the TVs and loud rock-n-roll on the stereo. I'm not sure if the guy next to me at the bar singing along to "Sweet Child of Mine" was getting warmed up for it, but I swiftly and happily made my exit just as Monday Karoake Night was getting started. At $8.50 for the burger, an extra $2 for the Humboldt Fog, $4 for the rings and another $8.50 for the Rogue Ale ($23 total), this turned out to be not quite the cheap meal I expected. Maybe I should have donned a trucker cap and drank PBR instead. But even the abbreviated menu still offered more interesting and varied toppings than you'll find at most conventional burger joints. Now if they could just loosen the grip on the salt shaker and let that "house blend" really shine.

8 Oz. Burger Bar
1080 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

8 OZ Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

The Spot

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

Possibly my favorite of the three places in this list is "The Spot," a newly opened sandwich place in a location along Alton Road which I think previously housed a Colombian place, Primarepa. This is another short and sweet menu with basically a choice of fried shrimp and fish and a few other items, available either on a platter with some sides or as a po'boy. I went with a fried jerk-spiced shrimp po'boy and was not at all disappointed. A slightly crusty long roll was opened up like a book and stuffed with several plump medium-sized shrimp, crispy outside but still distinctly recognizable as shrimp, not battered and coated into oblivion. This was not real Jamaican jerk spice by any means, just sort of mildly spicy, but still nicely flavorful. The shrimp were topped off with fresh shredded lettuce, decent tomato, and the clincher for me, a creamy spicy remoulade sauce, and a goodly dose of it too. The sandwich is generously stuffed and the server advised me of his preferred technique of using a fork to push back in the contents while gently squeezing the bread together a bit to get it ready for noshing. I can't help but say it - this po'boy just really hit the spot for me.

There was a short list of sides available, including a couple typical soul food items. I went with the Cajun fries, which were nice and crisp but the spice mix was overwhelmed by paprika. They actually reminded me in that respect of one of the trio of duck fat fries that come as a gratis appetizer at Bourbon Steak. Po'boy, fries and a bottle of water set me back somewhere around $11 total. One other thing The Spot has going for it is late hours - apparently open till 2am and possibly even later on weekends.

The Spot
1570B Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

The Spot on Urbanspoon