Pretty Patties

In the beginning, there was the hamburger, a simple round of chopped beef slipped into a soft white bun. And the hamburger begat the cheeseburger, which begat the double cheeseburger with large fries, which begat the turkey burger and the tuna burger, the mushroom burger and the veggie burger.

And God looked down and saw they were good. Well, maybe not the veggie burger. And what's with this "ham" business, anyway? Everybody knows real burgers are made with beef.

Curiously, though, a millennia of burger-begatting never begat much in the way of burger joints. Except, of course, those thousands of outposts of nationally franchised grease merchants — loud, garish, uncomfortable food zoos designed to assault your senses and your intestinal tract.



267 Alhambra Cir, Coral Gables; 305-529-5555

Open Monday through Wednesday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight. Closed Sunday.

Until now.

Now the humble hamburger has begat Oneburger. And though the two-month-old Coral Gables eatery leaves a lot to be desired in the comfort department — its cramped, harshly lit, stark-white confines resemble a hospital waiting room — when it comes to begatting burgers of virtually every protein and variety imaginable, Oneburger has it nailed.

It is all about the burgers, as the minimalist interior speaks for every other facet of the restaurant's operation. Okay, "restaurant" might be overdoing it — five high tables and a narrow counter are all there is for eating in. Service is limited to delivering your food after you order it at another counter. Glasses, plates, and utensils are plastic. You dispense your own ice and soft drinks from a machine; there's no beer or wine. And when you're finished? Bus your own table. If you get the feeling Oneburger would prefer you to grab your burger and go, you're probably right.

Still, there are those burgers. Thirty of them, to be exact. They're not the half-pound slabs of rare-grilled cholesterol of upscale restaurants and expense-account meateries, but they get the job done. Particularly good is the chicken cobb burger, a cobb salad on a bun — chicken patty, baby greens, blue cheese, avocado, hard-boiled egg, tomato, and applewood-smoked bacon.

The spicy tuna burger would be good were it not cooked to the texture of fish-flavor cardboard. It comes with an array of sushi-esque accompaniments and a decently piquant soy-wasabi dressing. A hearty Portobello "burger" was tender and juicy where its fishy counterpart was not, and was made even better by a crown of mild, creamy, walnut-encrusted goat cheese.

Then there are those beef burgers, from a Cuban-style patty garnished with shoestring fries, chopped onion, and tomato salsa, to a pita burger pimped out with feta, "couscous-tabouille salad," lettuce, and tomato. Simplest is the Black Castle, a play on the White Castle burgers beloved of antiquity: just burger, onion, American cheese, and ketchup. It was the one cooked closest to medium-rare and my favorite. The Kobe beef burger doesn't quite eat up to its pedigree, mainly because its sweetish soy-hoisin glaze overwhelms the flavor of this trendy haute beef.

Naturally no burger is complete without fries, and Oneburger offers an assortment — French, sweet potato, and yuca, along with onion rings. The Frenchies and rings are surprisingly well done — crisp, not greasy, and altogether quite tasty. There are soups and wings, wraps and salads, too, many of the last bulked up with chicken or fish or even a burger. The One salad is pure white-tablecloth fare — blemish-free greens, lots of blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and green apple chunks in a tangy sherry vinaigrette.

Desserts are limited to carrot cake and soft ice cream. We tried the dulce de leche, named presumably for the meager swirls of caramel running through it. God looked down and saw it was ... well, not worth the effort. But those burgers? She thinks they're pretty good.


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