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
941-922-7673

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.

Biscuit

Biscuits

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
305-266-4979

*The West Kendall location opened in 1998.

Mad Love by Latin House Coming To Pinecrest

Madlove

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
850-222-4099

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
Ariete
Bull Market
Burbowl
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
PDQ

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

Arbetter’s
HotDogOpolis
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

Ariete
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
Crazydilla
Poblanos
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
813-992-7444

Husk – Nashville, Tennessee by ThankfulMonster

Recently, on the persistent recommendation from my good friend Burger Beast, I spent a weekend in Nashville. Because he knows me well enough to understand that the promise of a good meal is about the only motivation I need to plan a trip, Burger Beast adamantly insisted that Nashville’s famous Hot Chicken is bucket list worthy. He’s never steered me wrong, especially when it comes to food. And let me tell you, his latest recommendation was no exception.

Still, good as it was, the iconic hot chicken isn’t what inspired me to write this post. It was a burger – one that I happened to find purely by chance while visiting Husk Nashville. I went in that night for the Southern specialties that made them famous. But as I was about to place my order, I veered off the script I had run through in my head, and instead opted to hear the waiter’s recommendation for the one thing on the menu that I absolutely shouldn’t miss. His response was immediate: “The burger, it’s amazing!.” I was as surprised by his response as I was with how quickly he came up with one, since I was expecting him to recommend a more traditional southern dish.

Noticing the doubt on my face, he added “Don’t take my word for it” and asked the question to a passing coworker. “If you had to pick one thing off our menu…” he prompted. And without missing a beat, the coworker responded “The burger” with a contagious enthusiasm and look that could only be described as genuine pride. I was sold.

A few minutes later, the parade of hits began and we noshed on country ham, red eye gravy, pickles and biscuit to start. (Insert at least two thumbs up emojis here). Following these hearty starters, we sampled the creamy deviled eggs, which went down so easily and were so delicious they’d be considered dangerous if I lived anywhere nearby. Then came the shrimp and grits, so intense in flavor they could easily make you forget all about any others you’ve ever tasted.

By now, we were feeling good about our meal and had even higher expectations for the much lauded Husk Burger. When the burger arrived, I quickly noticed it was the opposite of how I usually enjoy my burgers – no crisp lettuce, thick cut tomato, raw onion or pickles in sight. I’m a “salad-on-the-burger” kind of guy and almost always order (and have come to expect) my burgers this way.

I will say though, it looked incredibly appetizing just the way it came. With crunchy ends and melted cheese spilling out ever so slightly from the pillowy soft sesame seed bun. Maybe plain is better? I thought to myself. I picked it up and took a big bite to see for myself. Mmmmmhhhhhh, Yes!

Turns out, it can be wonderfully delicious to experience a burger in a simple, pure form. Just freshly ground Bear Creek Farm beef, onions that have been cooked into the patty as it’s smashed down on the griddle, creating crunchy edges while maintaining moisture at the core. Topped only with perfectly melted American cheese and voila- you have what I now believe to be a masterpiece burger. Turns out Husk hadn’t forgotten to stack other toppings on their burger – they purposely didn’t do it. True culinary satisfaction is accomplished when an expertly prepared burger allows you to appreciate the simple, and superb quality ingredients.

Below are just some of the pictures we took while dining at Husk Nashville.

Husk - Nashville, Tennessee

Husk - Nashville, Tennessee

Husk - Nashville, Tennessee

Husk - Nashville, Tennessee

Husk - Nashville, Tennessee

A big hand to Sean Brock (Chef/Partner), Brian Baxter (Chef de Cuisine)

Thankfulmonster

Palomilla Grill, El Rey de las Fritas and Trust & Co Win Big At 2016 Croquetapalooza

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Another Croquetapalooza & Frita Showdown is in the books.

El Rey de las Fritas took home their 4th consecutive Best Frita Award. Trust & Co won the People’s Choice Best Croqueta Award while Palomilla Grill took the big one, the Judge’s Choice Award for Best Croqueta.

Thanks again to our fine sponsors: Miami Lakes Auto Mall, Downstairs Markets, Islas Canarias Restaurants, Hatuey Cuban Style Beer, Sunshine Provisions and of course Magic City Casino.

Shout out to #TeamBB for all of their hard work.

And special thank you to all the restaurants who participated and those of you who attended.

See you at Wiener Bash in November.

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Remembering Pirates Family Entertainment Center aka Los Piratas

Pirate's - December 1983

‘Pirate’ theme center opens in Miami – December 30th, 1983

My world wasn’t the same after December 1983, why you may be asking yourself? That’s because *Pirate’s Theme Center opened up (7090 Coral Way) just a few short miles from my home in Westchester.

Sure, there was Castle Park (later Malibu Grand Prix) right next to Midway Mall (now Mall of the Americas), Chuck E Cheese in Hialeah right on 49th next to the recently opened Toy R Us and the Mark Twain’s Riverboat Playhouse right near Don Carter’s Bowling Alley on Kendall Drive & 137th but Pirates was for us Westchester kids.

Most folks who remember Pirates called it by the name popularized by Abuelitas who brought their grandchildren there, Piratas.

Pirates was filled with the hottest arcade games of the day and a bunch of interactive games where your skill was paid in tickets that could be traded in for a whistle or some other item you just had to have when you were a kid.

Later on they opened a second wing in the back which included if my memory serves me correct one of those ball pits and bumper boats amongst other attractions.

Pirates Miami

Pirates Theater picture courtesy of Marisol Geilin Sosa

My parents brought my sister and I to Pirates regularly and we attended a handful of birthday celebrations which meant hangin’ in the theater, eating & watching the animatronics show. I do remember the Pizza being good but I was just a kid so who knows.

My most vivid memory at Pirates was my first encounter with the animated video game Dragon’s Lair. It probably holds the lifetime record for taking the largest amount of quarters from me, I was absolutely horrible at it (and it was 50 cents a game).

If you’ve got any Pirates or Pirates stories for that matter leave a comment, I’d love to hear them.

And if you’ve you got any pictures me love you long time.

*Prior to its incarnation as a child’s entertainment center, it was Davidson Lumber Yard, it’s now a Pollo Tropical.

Ulele – Tampa, Florida

Ulele - Tampa, Florida

Ulele serves Comfort Food inspired by Tampa’s indigenous people. I gotta tell you that I was a little taken by how massive and beautiful the property is. Once inside it was comfortable and I loved those massive doors/windows that open up to a incredible view which just adds to your meal.

I can count on one finger how many times I’ve eaten Oysters before, and my wife Marcela even less. I think the word “Wow” is the only thing that comes to mind after the first bite/slurp. I’d be down for some more of these anytime and Marcela’s now a believer too.

There’s more to those Alligator Hush Puppies than it appears, there is a great depth of flavor. Now before you turn up your nose at the thought of trying these this is what’s in them: Alligator, Country Ham, Bacon, Jalapeño & fresh Corn. I know. I know. And those two sauces (Honey Datil Pepper and fresh ground Horseradish Aioli) are on the next level, trust me.

My bud John asked for the Crab Mac & Cheese. The four Cheese Mac is topped with Blue Crab and some Panko bread crumbs for some crunch. He ate it as if it was his last meal on earth.

The Ulele Burger (the reason I came to Ulele) did not disappoint. Listen…..can you hear me? OK, Just checking….the Ulele Burger features a Short Rib/Brisket/Chuck Burger patty blend topped with Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Portobello Mushrooms, fire-roasted Red Peppers, fried Leeks and then a healthy drizzling of their house Steak Sauce. After unhinging my jaw I was able to take a full bite that brought all the flavors together, from there it was on. I had to share with Marcela, well I didn’t really have to but I did…..whether I should have is a different question all together.

John orders the other dish on the menu that had my eyes mesmerized, the Water Works Meatloaf. The only thing better than an excellent Meatloaf is one who’s been given some love marks from the char-grill. And another big yes to the White Cheddar Popcorn Mashed Potatoes, the ingredients alone tell you it’s a winner.

I thought we were done til I saw the word “Guava” on the dessert portion of the menu. Fortune Taylor’s Guava Pie with its Shortbread Cookie crust made its way to our table to ensure that there’s no way that a food coma could be averted.

It was a very fresh, filling and tasty meal from start to finish. We also had some great local Craft Beers but their names escape me now. My suggestion when you visit is that you pace yourself or come with a party of 4 so you can divide and conquer.

Charbroiled Oysters

Charbroiled Oysters

Gator Hush Puppies

Gator Hush Puppies

Crab Mac & Cheese

Crab Mac & Cheese

Ulele Burger

Ulele Burger

Meatloaf w/Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Meatloaf w/Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Guava Cake

Guava Cake

Guava Cake Closeup

Guava Cake Closeup

Eat, Relax & Coma:

Ulele
1810 N Highland Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
813-999-4952