Since September 2008, Sef Gonzalez, better known as Burger Beast, has made a name — and a career — out of burgers. A blog about comfort food launched the burger aficionado on a journey that would lead to hosting food truck roundups, opening a museum dedicated to the sandwich, and writing the book All About the Burger: A History of America's Favorite Sandwich. Oddly enough, the only thing Burger Beast didn't do was make and sell burgers — until now.
Later this summer, Gonzalez will open Burger Beast Burger Joint inside Mojo Donuts & Fried Chicken. Gonzalez quips that after his concept opens, the Southwest Miami-Dade spot will become "a supreme minuscule food hall consisting of only two restaurants." The location came about after some friendly conversations with Mojo co-owner Jimmy Piedrahita. A deal for a local ice-cream company to share the shop didn't come to fruition, so the space was available. "Jimmy told me that I should do my burgers here permanently," Gonzalez says.
For a year, Gonzalez had sold his My-T-Fine burgers at pop-ups throughout Miami-Dade and at his museum, where he tinkered with recipes and meat blends. "We spent a lot of time testing the burger and the buns and the cheese until everything was right," Gonzalez says. "I'm a real stickler when it comes to my burger." After months of trials, he was ready to open shop.
Burger Beast Burger Joint's star attraction, the My-T-Fine burger, begins with two beef patties that are smashed on a flat grill. The meat is a beef blend from Sunshine Provisions. The "secret" blend has plenty of fat — something that's needed to keep a smashed burger juicy. The patties, resting in a Martin's potato roll, are topped with cheese, pickles, onions, and a guava-and-sriracha blend known as Beast sauce. Ketchup and mustard are the only available add-ons.
In addition, the initial menu will offer onion rings, fries, and the Westchester milkshake, made with flan from Miami's Creamy Creations — the same used in Mojo's Flantastic doughnut. Ever a perfectionist, Gonzalez is still working on the details of the shake. "This weekend we're testing flan with frozen custard. We were working with soft-serve. Right now, we're using a 10 percent butterfat ice cream with the flan. It's all about the texture. How creamy can we make this?"
By year's end, the restaurant will introduce a deep-fried apple turnover and several other sandwiches. In the works are the El Hijo de la Gran Frita — a sandwich Gonzalez calls "the love child of El Rey de las Fritas and El Mago de las Fritas' iconic fritas"; a Beast-loaf — sliced meatloaf on white untoasted Texas toast with mayo and American cheese; and the Loose-Beast, a loose-meat sandwich on a hoagie roll with grilled onions, American cheese, Beast sauce, mayo, and crushed Munchos potato crisps. In the future, Gonzalez would like to introduce Miami to regional sandwiches he's discovered in his travels.
The burger expert says the idea to open an eatery came organically over time. "For a long time, I didn't want to have a restaurant, but people just assumed my blog, Burger Beast, was a restaurant. This was over a decade ago, and back then I had to explain what blogging was." Eleven years later, Gonzalez says, it's a different world. "Blogging is gone. Now there are influencers."
Though Miami is getting a new burger restaurant, it's losing a critical voice. Gonzalez will step down from reviewing local restaurants because he considers making burgers a conflict of interest. His Burger Beast blog will now focus on Gonzalez's other passion — telling the story of America's history with roadside food stands and its love affair with comfort food — and the Burger Beast Instagram account will continue to be filled with photos of the burgers and other food he enjoys while traveling.
Gonzalez will also no longer host his annual Hamburger House Party. He plans to continue to throw Croquetapalooza and will host his Monday-evening food truck roundups at Arts Park in Hollywood. "I've really grown to love that park and that particular event."
Until his restaurant opens, you can try the My-T-Fine burger ($8) at the Burger Beast museum at Magic City Casino (450 NW 37th Ave., Miami) every Sunday in July from noon to 5 p.m.
Burger Beast Burger Joint. 8870 Bird Rd., Miami; burgerbeast.com. Opening mid-August 2019.
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