The Loyalist – Chicago, Illinois by ThankfulMonster

I was in Chicago a couple weeks ago.  As always, the list was long and the time short.  On my list were:  Next, Grace, Oriole, Au Cheval (more on this later), and many others.


One of the places that impressed me the most was The Loyalist. A welcome addition to Chicago’s already robust food scene by Chefs John and Karen Shield. Both come from a long line of very respected Chicago kitchens like Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s. This restaurant is different, it is their own. The food is seasonal, unpretentious, expertly executed but casual. The dress code on the website says “come as you are” and they were playing Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at the bar. What more could you ask for?


I ordered three things from the menu, the first was suggested by one of our knowledgeable servers. The other two came enthusiastically recommended from Beth Lang, the highly regarded Chicago-based food connoisseur.

We started with –  Heirloom Tomatoes + Currants, Fresh Cheese, and Fried bread

Juicy tomatoes mixed with fresh creamy cheese, accentuated by the slight sourness of currants. This dish brought an instant smile to my hungry face. Having the crispy fried bread to sop up all of the juices took it over the top. Excellent way to start a meal.

Next up –  Broiled Sea Trout, Kasu, and Charred Cucumber  


This trout was perfectly cooked with a flavor that was delicate yet bold, thanks to the kasu (which is a sake-based marinade).  The skin of the fish was crispy,  reminiscent of a chicharron – Who doesn’t love chicharron?. A clear winner, which had my wife and I fighting for every bite.

Now what you’ve all been waiting for (drumroll) – The Loyalist Cheeseburger + Fries


I was just going to leave it at that, but expected you might want some explanation of what makes this burger such a stand out. It starts with the patty, a delicious blend of fresh ground chuck and bacon. Topped with shaved onions, pickled cucumbers, onion-infused mayonnaise, and housemade American cheese. All this goodness comes packaged in a lightly toasted sesame seed bun. The complexity of the flavors make you feel as if you were eating a well thought out course during a high-end tasting menu. A burger that will give many top-ranked burgers a run for their money, not only in Chicago but across the country.

This is a bucket-list burger, which by the way is probably cooler than you. Not only does it have dedicated Twitter and Instagram pages, it has a bad-ass nickname – “The Dirty Burg”. Once you come to terms with this, go try the burger. Maybe, just maybe some of it’s swag will rub off on you.

A big hand to Chefs John and Karen Shields, and to the passionate and dedicated staff they have surrounded themselves with.

Smyth and The Loyalist

77 N Ada St #101, Chicago, IL 60607


Vote Now For the 2017 Burger Beast Burgie Awards

Burgies Voting

  • If you want to make sure your favorite wins then vote. I take the Burgie Awards very seriously and do not like “fake” votes so there is only 1 vote per IP address.
  • If you try to circumvent the poll by cheating and voting multiple times from the same IP, I will disqualify all of those votes. It doesn’t pay to cheat.
  • Online voting is from Monday October 21st, 2016 – Wednesday January 4th, 2017.
  • The winners will be revealed on Saturday February 4th, 2017.

Take Our Survey

Knaus Berry Farm 2016/2017 Season Opens Tuesday October 25th

Knaus Berry Farm

Knaus Berry Farm season is here (Tuesday October 25th) at last! The last 6 months have been pure torture for some of you without Knaus Berry Farm to comfort you with their Cinnamon Rolls. Remember you’ve only got til Mid-April before they disappear into the Homestead for the “Miami Winter” so make your purchases count.


Cinnamon Roll

One Cinnamon Roll To Rule Them All


Knaus Berry Farm
Date: Tuesday October 25th, 2016 through Mid-April 2017
Time: Open 8:00AM – 5:30 PM Monday – Saturday, Closed on Sunday
Address: 15980 Southwest 248th Street Homestead, FL
Phone: 305-247-0668

Coney Island Grill – St. Petersburg, Florida

Coney Island Grill

Coney Island Grill has been open since 1926. Once you step inside you’ll see that much hasn’t changed except for the booths which were recently upgraded, I can imagine the old ones must have seen better days.

We (John & Chunktronics) were just down the street waiting on my wife as she was dissecting an antique shop. I noticed that it was nearing 3:30PM so I rallied the troops to make sure we would make it.

Coney Island Grill is only open 6 hours a day (10AM-4PM) and closed on Sundays. We were heading back home to South Florida the following morning so this would be my only shot at eating here.

We had an awesome conversation when we arrived with an older gentleman who had been eating there for over 50 years.

Coney Island Grill

Coney Island Grill Menu

Before I even discuss the food I’ve got to mention that they don’t serve French Fries. Why? The founder had an issue with the fryer catching fire so he got rid of it and never sold fries again.

The order of a Chili Dog w/Mustard was never in question and I add a CheeseBurger after the older gentleman insisted on it. Plus, he really didn’t really need to twist my arm much.

The Chili on that Dog is legendary and I can see why it’s available for sale via pints. I regret not taking some back home with me.

When the CheeseBurger was placed before me I just looked at in amazement. I could not get over the crust on the outside of the patty, it’s a thing of beauty. And that first bite… just melted in my mouth.

Coney Dog

Coney Dog



I had one of each and left it at that since I knew that it meant I’d be forced to return at some point in the near future.

Since 1926:

Coney Island Grill
250 Doctor M.L.K. Jr St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

S’macks Burgers & Shakes – Sarasota, Florida

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Whenever I’m on one of my road trips I find that it’s very important to check out the surrounding cities to your destination. There’s always great gems to be found.

S’macks Burgers & Shakes is in Sarasota which happened to be on my path toward a weekend I was spending in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve also been following them on Instagram and checking out the Burgers they’ve been making. They caught my eye & were already on my radar, what can I tell you.

Menu Page 1 (click to enlarge)

Menu Page 1 (click to enlarge)

Menu Page 1 (click to enlarge)

Menu Page 1 (click to enlarge)

First time here which meant I was going the Original route with only Cheese and S’macks Sauce. Now, before I got to that I also had to sample the Double Cheese Cheese Dog…..yes double. Two Dogs split and grilled on the flattop topped with Chili, Cheese Sauce and  diced Onions.

Look I’m embarrassed to admit this but you know I don’t keep anything from you guys, I knife and forked it. I had to, there was no possible way to eat it without making a giant mess all over my shirt. It was messy good but I’ll stick to a single more manageable Dog next time.

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Double Chili Cheese Dog

The Garlic Herb Parmesan and Beer-Battered Onion Rings were both winners. I should put an asterisk next to the Fries as they were probably the most addictive of all the things I tried at S’macks Burgers & Shakes.

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Garlic Herb Parmesan Fries

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

As Grilled Cheeses go, the one I had with Cheddar Cheese, Blue Cheese and Bacon was right on point. If you’re a Blue Cheese kinda person then this is the sammy for you.

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Bacon, Cheddar & Blue Grilled Cheese

You’ve gotta keep it simple on your first time somewhere. I know folks who try these crazy toppings then hate on a place. I like to go the basic route and work my way up to some insanity.

The Original Double was a perfect little ditty. The S’macks Sauce is not overpowering and adds the right condiment element to the nice griddled Burger Patties with melted American Cheese. This is a can’t miss Burger.

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

The Original Double, Cheese & S’macks Sauce only

The special Frozen Custard was Chocolate Orange. The best way to describe it is if Orange Julius had a Chocolate version then this would be it. If you don’t understand what that means think Slushy Orange meets Chocolate flavor. I can at last use an adjective that I’d never think to with Chocolate…..refreshing.

S'macks Burgers - Sarasota, Florida

Double Scoop of the Chocolate Orange Frozen Custard

S’macks Burgers in Sarasota is a great spot and made for a perfect little break on our way to Tampa. Next time it will be our destination.

Where To:

S’macks Burgers & Shakes
2407 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34239

Chuck Wagon – Miami, Florida

Chuck Wagon - Miami, Florida

Chuck Wagon is a mini chain (3 locations) of western themed restaurants located in Miami on the outskirts of Westchester (7355 Bird Rd) in Coral Terrace, Kendall (7628 SW 117 Ave) and West Kendall (11230 SW 137 Ave).

*The original location (Kendall) has been in operation since the early 1970’s and the one I ate (Coral Terrace) at has been around since 1979.

Chuck Wagon is known for their homecooked-style comfort food for Breakfast & Lunch. This is the type of place that specializes in Meatloaf, Patty Melts and Home Fries.

I came in at about 10AM and had a hankerin’ (yes, I really did just use that word) for some Hash Browns. There are no HBs at Chuck Wagon but there are Home Fries. Who’s counting calories here? Not me so I added Onions and Cheddar Cheese.

Now that my appetite was fully awakened I saw the Menu Board Special of “Smoke Sausage Skillet”. I didn’t even ask what it was, I pointed at it like Babe Ruth might have back in the day.

How do you want the Eggs? Surprise me.

Home Fries w/Cheddar Cheese & Onions

Home Fries w/Cheddar Cheese & Onions

Toast or Biscuits with that? Biscuits Mam.



And so this beautiful dish arrived that was an amped up version of what I just started with. I’m not complaining as I really loved the loaded Home Fries.

So you take the Cheezy Onion Home Fries then add Green Peppers & chopped up Smoked Sausage pieces with a couple of Eggs on top. Wow, just wow. Loved it.

I used one of the Biscuits to break open the yolk floodgates on those Eggs. The other one was properly buttered up.

Smoke Sausage Skillet

Smoke Sausage Skillet

It has been a long time since I had stopped in at Chuck Wagon but I’m extremely glad I did. Their Patty Melt is calling me so they can expect me back very soon.

Check It:

Chuck Wagon
7355 Bird Rd Miami, FL 33155

*The West Kendall location opened in 1998.

Mad Love by Latin House Coming To Pinecrest


Mad Love by Latin House? Pinecrest? When? What?

I’m sure you’re asking yourselves those very questions but here’s what I can tell you so far. Latin House, the Souwesera (Westchester/Kendall) phenomenon is opening its first fast casual restaurant in Pinecrest, in the old Hooligan’s strip mall.

This version of Latin House will be called Mad Love after their signature Burger and catchphrase. The menu will be smaller but feature most of your favorites, Burgers duh.

Now for the moment of truth…….when will it be open? 6 to 8 weeks….fingers crossed. If anything changes in the meantime I will keep you posted.

Dog Et Al – Tallahassee, Florida

Dog Et Al - Tallahassee, Florida

When driving around my car seems to know how to track down these little great little spots in town, Dog Et Al was no different.

Before I even tell you about the food I need to mention how friendly the folks were, now onto the grub….

Dog Et Al Menu (click to enlarge)

Dog Et Al Menu (click to enlarge)

There is a large selection of Hot Dogs for you to choose from, it should appease you size queens out there. Since I wanted to play it safe I went with a Big Dog Chili Cheese & Onion Combo which brought a Soft Drink, Fried Apple Pie and housemade Potato Chips (really great). I always pretty much get a Chili Dog everywhere I go, that’s the “safe part“. And it’s not really too safe as I’ve had some Chili abominations in my time.

The Chili at Dog Et Al was right on and I probably would have considered a second fella if I hadn’t also ordered a Corn Dog.

The Fried Apple Pie was a nice throwback to a favorite from my youth and the perfect way to end this meal.

Handmade Potato Chips

Handmade Potato Chips

Coney Dog (Mustard, Onion, Chili Cheese)

Coney Dog (Mustard, Onion, Chili Cheese), Mustard design by me

Hand-dipped Corn Dog

Hand-dipped Corn Dog

Fried Apple Pie

Fried Apple Pie

Dog Et Al is a great little spot so if you’re in the area don’t miss out, I’d be a shame if you did.

Ah Yes, Dogs:

Dog Et Al
1456 S Monroe St Tallahassee, FL 32301

If you’ve got time:

2017 Burger Beast Burgie Awards Nominees

Burgies 2017

My 8th Annual Awards show, The Burger Beast Burgie Awards is happening once again in January 2017.

Location to be announced very soon!

Never been to a Burger Beast Burgie Awards event? Watch the 2015 Burgie Awards vid:

So this is how the Burgie Awards will work this year: I choose the categories and nominees that I think best represent what I’ve eaten throughout the year. Some are the same as previous years, some have changed slightly and some are brand new.

Online voting is from Monday October 24th, 2016 – Wednesday January 4th, 2017.

The winners are announced live at the Burgie Awards Event in late January 2017.

Best Burger

109 Burger Joint
Bull Market
Charm City Burger Company
Jr’s Gourmet Burgers
Latin House
Local, The
Pincho Factory
Pipo Burgers
Rok Brgr
Shake Shack
Swine Southern
Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox
Tuto’s Cuisine

Best Cheesesteak

Alibi, The
Blue Collar
Direct from Philly
Hungry Bear
Little Bit of Philly, A

Best Chicken Tenders

Caporal Chicken
Crackers Casual Dining
John Martin’s
Marakas Pizza

Best Cuban Pizza

Marakas Pizza
P’a Comer Cuban Pizza
Polo Norte
Rey’s Pizza
Tio Colo

Best Dessert

Crackers Casual Dining
HipPOPs Handcrafted Gelato Bars
Night Owl Cookie Co.
Sweetness Bake Shop & Cafe
Tio Colo Bocaditos de Helado

Best Food Truck

King of Racks BBQ
Lobsta Guy, The
Ms. Cheezious
Spring In Roll Out
World Famous

Best Garlic Rolls

Little Louies Italian Kitchen
Magic City Pizza
Manhattan Chicago Pizza
Pizza Johny’s
Son of a Pizza

Best Hot Dog

Monster Burgers
Pincho Factory
Sweet Dogs

Best Local Brewery

Biscayne Bay Brewing Company
Funky Buddha Brewery
J Wakefield Brewing
MIA Brewing Company
Wynwood Brewing Company

Best Restaurant

Blue Collar
Doce Provisions
Ends Meat
The Local

Best Sandwiches

Cuban Guys
Doce Provisions
Miami Smokers
Mr. and Mrs. Bun
Palomilla Grill

Trump’s Favorite Taco Food Truck

BC Tacos
Box of Chacos
Taco Fresh

Previous Burger Beast Burgie Awards

The February 2016 Burgie Awards
The February 2015 Burgie Awards
The February 2014 Burgie Awards
The February 2013 Burgie Awards
The November 2011 Burgie Awards
The September 2010 Burgie Awards
The September 2009 Burgie Awards

Burger Culture – Tampa, Florida

Burger Culture Food Truck

It’s been a little over 4 years since I last checked in to Burger Culture. Last time I saw them, they were part of the Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta in Tampa, Florida. Now, they’ve got a permanent spot for Lunch & Dinner at a Harley Davidson complete with Tables, Chairs and most importantly a roof for those horrible Florida nights.

Burger Culture Food Truck

The Menu has expanded to now include a bunch of Grilled Cheeses.

Burger Culture Menu (click to enlarge)

Burger Culture Menu (click to enlarge)

We arrived about 30 minutes to closing time (around 9:30PM) and while I was aware of the additions I was hyper-focused on enjoying a Cheeseburger. My wife Marcela orders the Cheeseburger with LTO, my bud Colella orders a Grilled Cheese w/Prosciutto, Chunktronics opts to pick at everyone’s dishes.

Me? I do the Double Cheeseburger with the Fresh Cuts and a Bacon Grilled Cheese.

Burger Culture Food Truck

Burger Culture Food Truck

The Burger was just as I remembered, just a perfect little number that didn’t need anything other than Cheese. The seasoning gives it a distinct flavor that I’m still longing for. The fresh cut Fries were great too and the perfect partner to this Burger.

What really caught me off guard was just how excellent the Grilled Cheese was and they didn’t skimp on the ingredients.

Burger Culture really has a great one – two punch here with the Burgers & Grilled Cheeses and if you can fit them into your diet, the Fries.

I’ll be back, this time sooner than 4 years.

Prepare Yourself:

Burger Culture
6920 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa Fl 33614