Badass Ladies of the Burgerverse

Usually, when you hear about a burger restaurant’s ownership, the wife or female business partner is portrayed to have a secondary role. I also find that media (print, TV, online) hasn’t done a good job highlighting female or fronted businesses without making it all gimmicky.

Yet, these four badass ladies of the burgerverse make your favorite burgers in the way only a driven burger architect can: delicious. So let me introduce you to them!


Steph Vitori of Cheeseburger Baby
Cheeseburger Baby‘s Steph Vitori

Steph Vitori is the force of nature behind South Beach’s Cheeseburger Baby. For over 20 years, The Baby has been South Florida folks’ go-to burger joint on Miami Beach.

I met Steph in 2011 and was taken aback by how passionate she was about Cheeseburger Baby‘s place in Miami’s then-burgeoning food scene. After that, she made a believer out of me.

Right around that time, Five Guys Burgers tried to buy out their business, and when she turned them away, they decided to open right across the street from her. However, she didn’t sweat their “threat” and turned it into a marketing opportunity by selling “It Shouldn’t Take 5 Guys To Make A Cheeseburger Baby!” t-shirts.


Baby Cheeseburger from Cheeseburger Baby in Miami Beach, Florida
Baby Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger Baby First-timers must eat the bacon cheeseburger with applewood-smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. It’s a great start, and from there, you might want to graduate to Baby’s Favorite, which adds a fried egg to the equation.

Cheeseburger Baby
1505 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida

MERCY GONZALEZEl Rey de las Fritas

Mercy Gonzalez of El Rey de las Fritas
El Rey de las Fritas‘ Mercy Gonzalez

Mercy’s father, Benito Gonzalez, founded El Rey de las Fritas in the late 1970s. However, he was no Frita Cubana newbie, a Fritero (frita cart proprietor) in Placetas, Cuba (the Frita motherland).

Since her dad’s untimely passing in 2005, Mercy has taken the reigns of the family business. El Rey de las Fritas mini-burger chain (Hialeah, Little Havana, Sweetwater & Westchester restaurant locations) continues to operate with the same hard-working values that her pop instilled.

You will find her mostly at their Flagler location in Sweetwater, where, if you’re lucky enough, she will make you a Frita Original with lots of love.

La Frita Cubana from El Rey de las Fritas
La Frita Cubana Original con Queso from El Rey de las Fritas

El Rey de las Fritas first-timers must get their bearings by eating La Frita Original, a classic Frita Cubana with onions and julienne potatoes on a Cuban roll. Once you know what you’re in for, then try a Doble (double), an A Caballo (with a fried egg), or if you’re feeling frisky, a Doble A Caballo con Queso (with cheese).

El Rey de las Fritas
1821 SW 8th Street
Little Havana, Florida

BETH and LENORE GILBERTGilbert’s 17th Street Grill

Beth & Lenore Gilbert celebrating Burger Beast's Birthday
Beth & Lenore Gilbert celebrating Burger Beast’s Birthday

My ears perked up when the Sun-Sentinel named Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill the Best Burger in South Florida. It had been a few weeks since my first visit, and their reader’s poll online ensured a second visit in short order.

Lenore Gilbert greets you when you approach the counter to gander at the menu. She’s a warm and unintentionally funny mom; you will love your interactions with her.

At the same time, Beth (Lenore’s daughter) is floating near the open kitchen area, ensuring everyone’s meals are perfect before delivery to your table by one of their friendly runners. Like her mom, she’s conscientious, likable, and unintentionally funny sometimes; it’s part of their charm.

Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill is known for its thick, juicy steakhouse-style burgers. Their classic burger is a good choice if you’re not adventurous; never be ashamed to stick to the basics.

But if you’re feeling a little frisky, the half-pound Havarti Burger with bacon, Havarti cheese, and garlic butter on an English muffin will rock your burger world.

Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill
1821 Cordova Road
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

AUTUMN WESTONWeston’s Kewpee

Weston's Kewpee + La Señora Beast & Burger Beast
Weston’s Kewpee (Autumn-Abbey-Jessica-Traci) + La Señora Beast & Burger Beast at breakfast in Miami

One of the obsessions that came out of my Burger Museum was Kewpee Hamburgers and its history. The Kewpee burger chain (founded in 1923 & second oldest only to White Castle) has fractured into four parts: Halo Burger (Flint, Michigan), Kewpee Hamburgers (Lima, Ohio), Kewpee Sandwich Shop (Racine, Wisconsin) & Weston’s Kewpee Hamburgers (Lansing, Michigan).

Autumn Weston is the third-generation owner of Weston’s Kewpee; her grandparents founded the Lansing, Michigan, landmark in 1923. During my 2019 book signing tour, I finally met Autumn right after the Kewpee lunch rush.

After enjoying their signature Olive Burger, we had a long conversation about her family and the traditions that come along with an almost 100-year-old business. Then she dropped a bomb on me. Did you try our Olive Crumble?

Olive Crumble w/Cheese from Weston's Kewpee in Lansing, Michigan
Weston Kewpee‘s Olive Crumble with Cheese

The Olive Crumble is the love child of an Iowa Loose Meat and a Michigan Olive Burger. I just added a new love to my Kewpee obsession.

A few months later, I suggested to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash folks that Weston’s Kewpee should have a spot at the following year’s extravaganza. Lee Schrager (festival founder) agreed, and Autumn said to count on us.

On February 23, 2020, Weston’s Kewpee came to Miami Beach and won the Judge’s Choice trophy. What a special moment for burger history & this family-run business run by the hard-working and affable Autumn Weston.

SoBe Burger Bash 2020 Judge's Champs Weston's Kewpee
SoBe Burger Bash 2020 Judge’s Champs Weston’s Kewpee

Weston’s Kewpee
118 S Washington Square
Lansing, Michigan

Now that you know a little about these badass ladies of the burgerverse, it’s time to do some homework. Is there a lady of the burgerverse in your town who deserves a profile? Let me know!

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