After eating a first-class cheeseburger at the Brickyard Bar and Grill in Daytona Beach, I set out to try to find its equal in Miami-Dade county, where I live. Since the first place I went to has closed, I thought that I should post the most recent seven candidates before another restaurant closes!
In no particular order... TITANIC RESTAURANT AND BREWERY
This is a micro-brewery, sports bar and restaurant next door to the University of Miami. The name is as in the famous steamship Titanic. It is right across the street from Mark Light Stadium, for you college baseball fans. I had heard that they offer more than the standard bar food, and take pride in their kitchen, as well as the beer.
The restaurant is divided in two, with a bar on the left:
…and a dining room on the right:
They really do brew beer here, and here is some of the equipment:
I ordered a house-made Turbine Steamship Ale, and it was very good. Rich, creamy, and great head and a good hops/barley balance.
I ordered a medium-rare cheeseburger with pepper-jack cheese and grilled onions The cheeseburger came on a good onion roll, and was juicy and properly cooked. The grilled onions were under the cheese, which I like. It was very good, but perhaps would have been better done on a char-grill.
I recommend this restaurant, and look forward to trying some of their other offerings. SHORTY’S BBQ
Shorty’s has been a Miami institution since 1941. The building at this, the original location, has burned down twice, but the current one looks a lot like the original.
Air conditioning and plasma televisions have been added, but it still is very rustic, with communal tables for dining.
Although known (of course!) for barbecued meats and chicken, I only recently heard that they served burgers. The more that I thought about it, the more appealing was the idea that they probably cooked them over wood coals. The aroma of hickory smoke was obvious as I pulled in.
Yes, they do cook with real wood:
I ordered the ten ounce cheddar cheeseburger cooked medium.
It came with fries, lettuce, tomato and onion.
Here is a shot of it cut in half:
This was a good cheeseburger. It might have been cooked a little past medium, but it was juicy, with a great “char” on the outside, and a smoky flavor. Definitely wood flame cooked . The cheddar cheese had a rich flavor, and even the roll was better than average, although I would have liked it even more if it had sesame or poppy seeds. The French fries were obviously frozen crinkle-cut, but were a properly prepared example of that type. I saw onion rings on the menu, but the price of $4.95 seemed a bit much at an informal restaurant.
Here is the standard menu: SGT. PEPPER’S CAFÉ
In the back of the photo of Shorty’s you can see some taller buildings. In a triangle bordered by an expressway, elevated train tracks and the Dadeland shopping mall the zoning was changed some years ago to provide for high-density mixed residential/business development. The result is a sort of mini urban core. One of the developments is named Downtown Dadeland, and the name has spread to the whole area. Sgt. Peppers Café is in the ground-floor corner of one of the apartment buildings.
This is a very casual order-at-the-counter type of place, with a lot of subs and sandwiches on the menu. They have another location near to my home that is a bare-bones, mostly take-out pure sub shop that does a fair job, so I thought I’d try the more fancy “café” location. I actually went to try the “pretzel dog” shown on the web site, but they told me that they no longer carried that item.
I saw several burgers on the menu, and ordered a half-pounder with mozzarella and grilled onions. They cooked it on a flat-top grill, and then cut it in half and put it on two haves of a sub roll.
This is how it ended up:
It actually was fairly tasty, but there is way too much bread, and the bread should have been toasted. In retrospect, putting everything into one of the sub roll halves would have worked better. They do make an effort to cook to the doneness (is that a word?) that the customer desires. Betty‘s Best Burgers
This used to be a Fuddrucker’s, but now is independently owned. I drive by it almost daily, and I thought it was worth a try.
Here is the spruced-up outside of the building:
They still seem to bake their own buns and cookies, but there is no glassed-in butcher shop like in Fuddrucker’s twenty years ago. There was a graphic over the ordering area that indicated the various descriptions of doneness available, which was a good omen, I thought. One-third, one-half and three-quarter pound hamburgers are available. I ordered a one-third pounder with provolone.
After ordering, I wandered around and picked up a tray and utensils, and scouted the condiment stations. I edged over and peeked into the kitchen, to see what they were up to. I immediately spotted something distressing. There were piles of what looked to be precooked burgers stacked up next to the flat-top grill. (uh-oh…)
Here is a view of the cavernous interior:
When my order came up, I sat myself down and applied some mustard to one half of the roll. Then, I cut the hamburger in half to have a look at the meat. It was pretty much well-done, not medium like I ordered. Also, the outside of the roll was greasy. I think, from what I observed, that they toast the cut side of the rolls en mass, and brush them with margarine or something, and it drips to the bottom of the pan. Well, time to chow down. Oops! The mustard from the “spicy brown” dispenser was honey mustard. That was NOT what I wanted on a hamburger. Another unpleasantness.
After some thought, I decided that the stacked burgers may be par-cooked ½ and ¾ pounders, ready to be finished to order.
1. Burger doneness off. (Perhaps I should have ordered rare?)
2. Greasy roll. Don’t know what to do about that.
3. Honey mustard. (taste before applying?)
4. Scary ½ and ¾ pound burgers sitting around.
I had really wanted to like this place, so I went back a second time. I tried to second-guess the grill cook by ordering medium rare, and it came out with more pink then the first time:
I got the right mustard this time, however, a new problem had arisen. The burger had a kind of bad grease taste, perhaps from old grill grease? Whatever it was, I found it unpleasant.
All in all, I cannot recommend this place for dining. Your milage may vary. COOPER’S RESTO BAR
This is a newly-opened restaurant housed in a remodeled Ranch House chain building on US-1 in Palmetto Bay.
The décor and some items on the menu seem a little upscale for a road food dining experience, but the lunch cheeseburger special is $7.95 with fries, which is reasonable around here. Noting the fellow in the tee shirt and shorts in the shot of the interior, I guess that they do not have a fancy dress code.
The half-pound “black angus” cheeseburger is available with choice of cheese, and includes the bacon, lettuce and tomato that you can see in the photo below. The fries are fresh-cut, and are available in plain or seasoned versions.
Here is the "meat shot":
This is a very good burger, cooked on a char-broil grill to order, with whatever doneness level you want. I liked it, but for some reason it was not as “beefy” as I would have liked. I can’t figure out why. Incidently, the staff was very solicitous about my satisfaction. I have been there about four times now, and always enjoy it. BLACK POINT OCEAN GRILL
Off in the south Miami-Dade county mangrove preservation area, there is the Black Point Ocean Grill in a marina with a channel leading to the ocean. Lots of nice boats and pelicans to look at there.
There is a bar with reasonable prices and pleasant barmaids:
Here is the main dining area:
They seem to always have on the menu a Black Point Burger, which is the chef’s rotating special. Last week it was a cheeseburger with tobacco
onion rings (meaning finely-shredded onions) with ranch dressing. I wasn’t so sure about the ranch dressing, but I didn’t delete it from the order.
Here it is:
I ordered medium-rare, and that is how it was cooked on the char-grill. This was a very good burger, and the juices soon soaked the bottom of the roll. The onions/ranch combination worked. The last time I had a burger here, the special of the week was a bacon cheeseburger with four cheeses, and it was great, too. The included fries were of the frozen, seasoned variety, but they properly cooked and were tasty.
Here’s “The Meat”: BLUE MARLIN FISH HOUSE
About 35 miles north of Black Point is the Oleta River State Park, with more mangroves and water.
In one of the park buildings next to the water is the food concession known as the Blue Marlin Fish House.
They sell great smoked fish here, and other seafood items (more on that in another review). The concessionaire “DJ” suggested that I try one of his burgers, and I did two days ago.
The best roll by far, very fresh lettuce, onion and and tomato, uncommon (in the restaurants to which I went) waffle fries, and very fresh meat. But, there was no “char” to it. DJ showed me the professional sandwich grills that he cooks most things on, and evidently they are not hot enough to give the burger the touch that I like. I think also that my ordering it medium rare gave less time for a crust to develop (and I think it was more on the rare side of doneness). He told me that he may be able to start using a gas char-grill in the large food catering trailer in the future. The accompanying cole slaw was homemade, and very good.
Here is the contact information for the top six places:
Black Point Ocean Grill 24775 SW 87th
Avenue, Cutler Bay 305-258-3918 (no web site)
Blue Marlin Fish House 2500 NE 163rd
Street, North Miami Beach 305-957-8822 (no web site)
Cooper’s Resto Bar 16701 South Dixie Highway, Palmetto Bay 305-234-1444 (no web site)
Sgt. Pepper’s Café http://www.sgtpepperscafe.com/ Shorty’s BBQ http://www.shortys.com/ Titanic Brewery http://www.titanicbrewery.com/
<message edited by MiamiDon on Sun, 02/8/09 8:22 PM>