Sometimes a cheeseburger can lose its soul. Their undying popularity has led them to become a staple on nearly every menu, no matter how highbrow the establishment. Countless chefs have put their own spin on it and made attempts to elevate it from simplicity. Yet in many cases, that’s a move in the wrong direction.
Sure, using higher-quality, varied cuts of meat can make for a juicier patty. But toying with too many buns and condiments erases what makes a cheeseburger great. First, it’s the bread. And no one needs anything more than the classic Martin’s potato roll. They’re spongy, slightly sweet, and can yield fantastic crunch after a few moments on the griddle. There’s also no reason to stray from American cheese. Nothing is more tragic than an overly sharp, chalky slab of cheddar on what could have otherwise been a stellar burger.
Of course, rules are meant to be broken. But it should be done with quality ingredients that mimic those in the classic while highlighting savory, juicy patties. Here are ten places in Miami-Dade that got it right.
10. Half-Pound Burger at Keg South of Kendall
Ah, the beloved sports bar — the place to get drunk and pretend to be John Madden and a pool shark all in the same afternoon. Three Keg Souths (with three different owners) are spread across South Dade, but the Kendall location's half-pounder ($7.49) offers all the charred juiciness you could ever want. Just ask for it with a slice of American cheese, and you’re good to go.
9. Patty Melt at Burger Bob’s
This longstanding, cash-only spot adjacent to the Granada Golf Course is Coral Gables' quintessential greasy spoon. Here you can find a reliable cheeseburger for less than $5. Yet it’s the patty melt ($7.75) you order if you know what’s good for you. Oozing Swiss cheese mimics the creaminess of classic American, while the fragrant caraway seeds nestled into rye bread help amplify the juicy patty. Get it while you can — Bob’s resides in a city-owned building, and rumors of its impending doom have been whispered for years.
8. Cheeseburger at Cheeseburger Baby
This casual Miami Beach spot has long been the best part of the ever-seedy Washington Avenue. A favorite among locals and celebrities including Jay Z, Anthony Bourdain, and David Beckham, the place makes a damn good burger without frills. The half-pounder ($7.50) is juicy as can be, and the bun is a blend of the ideal potato roll with a touch of brioche fluffiness. Oh, and Cheeseburger Baby is also open until 6 a.m., so it’s the perfect place to eat away your sorrows or a forthcoming hangover.
7. Outside Is In at JR’s Gourmet Burgers
The patty pumped full of cheese is believed to have originated in Minneapolis. You can also find it at this specialty burger spot in the heart of Miami Springs. The third-pound patty ($7.50) encases a molten core of cheddar cheese that is saved by a healthy dose of fatty bacon. This is a messy one, so prepare to deal with some angry glares if you choose to go at it with fork and knife. Also note the kitchen’s skill in not cooking the thin patty to a crisp. That’s special.
6. Dry-Aged Cheeseburger at Blue Collar
It takes some serious cojones to stray away from the perfect squish that a potato roll brings to a burger. Many places are rife with dry brioche that crumbles the moment you pick it up. So a few eyebrows lifted when Blue Collar offered its cheeseburger ($16) on a Portuguese muffin. Chef/owner Danny Serfer deploys them in an array of sandwiches, and as luck would have it, the amped-up English muffin works perfectly here. Request American cheese, sit back, and let the ground New York strip patty do the rest.
5. The Cypress Burger at the Cypress Room
There’s an unwritten rule somewhere that the classier the joint, the harder you should look for an opportunity to eat with your hands. Usually, that means you’re the savage gnawing on the bone of your $80 tomahawk rib eye. But at Michael Schwartz’s Cypress Room, you get to clutch a towering burger ($24) anchored by a thick, juicy patty of chuck beef and dry-aged trimmings. Velvety Jasper Hill Landaff cheese dribbles down the patty's sides, and an onion marmalade adds a pop of sweet tang. Get one quick — Cypress chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia recently departed, and according to Schwartz, changes are in the offing. This might be your last opportunity.
4. Mo’ Betta Burger at Gastropod
Sometimes Jeremiah Bullfrog serves his Mo’ Betta Burger ($8) on the famed Martin’s roll. When he can't get to Publix, it’s on a moist bun dotted with sesame seeds. Either way, you want your short-rib-and-sirloin patty "bloody as hell" à la Pulp Fiction. Also be sure to make it dirty with American cheese, pickles, and the tangy
3. Frita Cubana with American Cheese at El Rey de las Fritas
Slapping American cheese on a fragrant
2. Vagabond Cheeseburger at the Vagabond Restaurant & Bar
Alex Chang’s cheeseburger was part of what helped him build his reputation when he was running an underground restaurant with roommates at the University of Southern California. Though he’s since been on a whirlwind world tour and today runs one of Miami's most exciting restaurants, the cheeseburger ($15) remains a solid classic. Twin dry-aged patties are draped in melty American cheese. Pickles, lettuce, and a creamy rémoulade accent each bite and are really all you need.
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1. Toston Burger at Pincho Factory
This is the only burger more Miami than the iconic frita cubana. We like to think Pincho Factory owner Nedal Ahmad was simply looking to satisfy his own fat-kid tendencies when he first slapped a jack-cheese-topped patty between two salty, crisp tostones. Yet Miami would never be the same. Ahmad has gone on to put patties betwixt pasteles and arepas, yet the taxicab-yellow slabs cuddling a burger have yet to be surpassed. It’s two bites — one of a burger and another like salty French fries — in one. That’s magic.