The History of Burger King and its First 10 Miami Locations

If you live in Miami and drive frequently to the Airport or Miami Beach, I assume you’ve seen the Burger King company building located right off the Dolphin Expressway (SR836) on the NW 57th Street exit.

I would also like to assume that you know that Burger King has been headquartered in Miami since 1959 and that it was initially called Insta-Burger King when it was founded in Jacksonville, FL, in 1953.

Burger King #2 in Miami, now La Palma restaurant
Burger King #2 in Miami, now Las Viñas BBQ restaurant

But maybe you don’t?

*You will enjoy my visit to Burger King Store #17

Burger King is a global fast-food restaurant chain that has become one of the most recognizable names in the industry. The company’s history dates back to the mid-1950s when it was founded in Miami, Florida, United States….kinda.

The original Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida
The original Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida

In 1953, Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns opened a fast-food restaurant called Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a small-scale operation that served basic hamburgers and milkshakes. The restaurant’s concept was inspired by the success of the McDonald’s franchise, which had gained popularity during that time.

Burger King Logo from 1955 - 1968
Burger King Logo from 1955 – 1968

However, by 1959, the original owners were facing financial difficulties, so they sold the company to a Miami-based franchisee duo: James McLamore and David R. Edgerton. This marked a turning point for the company, as McLamore and Edgerton revamped the concept and renamed it Burger King.

Whopper Fast Fact

Under McLamore and Edgerton’s leadership, Burger King began to expand rapidly through franchising. They introduced the “Whopper” in 1957, a signature hamburger that would go on to become the company’s most iconic menu item. The Whopper‘s popularity contributed to Burger King‘s success and helped establish its unique identity in the fast food industry.

In 1963, the company introduced its signature logo—a bun with the word “Burger King” in the center, which is still used today with minor modifications. The following year, the first international Burger King restaurant opened its doors in Puerto Rico, marking the beginning of its global expansion.

Burger King Come As You Are Poster
The 1960s Come As You Are poster

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Burger King continued to grow both domestically and internationally. It introduced new menu items and innovative marketing campaigns to compete with its main rival, McDonald’s. The company’s marketing efforts included the introduction of the “Have it your way” slogan in 1974, which emphasized Burger King‘s commitment to customization and customer preferences.

In 1989, Pillsbury, the parent company of Burger King at the time, decided to sell the chain to the British multinational conglomerate Grand Metropolitan (later renamed Diageo). Subsequent ownership changes followed, including a 2014 merger with the Canadian company Tim Hortons, forming the holding company Restaurant Brands International (RBI).

Current Burger King

In recent years, Burger King has focused on menu innovation and adapting to changing consumer preferences. It has introduced vegetarian and plant-based options, such as the Impossible Whopper, to cater to a growing demand for more sustainable and healthier choices.

Burger King has expanded its presence to over 18,000 locations worldwide, making it one of the largest fast-food chains globally. It continues to compete fiercely with other industry giants, maintaining its unique brand identity and commitment to providing flame-grilled burgers and a variety of menu options to its customers.

The First 10 Burger Kings in Miami

Burger King Number 2 in Miami
Burger King Number 2 in Miami

The first Insta-Burger King location in Miami, FL, opened on December 4th, 1954, at 3090 NW 36th Street. It’s no longer there at that exact spot; the #1 was moved down the street to 3601 NW 27th Avenue.

Six of the original 10 Burger King locations in Miami are still operational in the same spot where they opened in the 1950s. The building’s structures, however, are not the same.

If you’d like to see a 1950s Burger King structure that is pretty much intact, you would need to visit the former La Palma (now Las Viñas BBQ) restaurant.

13090 NW 36th Street MiamiCladd Motors
26091 SW 8th StreetWest MiamiLas Viñas BBQ
38995 NW 7th AvenueMiamiSnapper’s
430390 S Dixie HwyHomesteadBurger King
57975 NW 27th AvenueMiamiBurger King
69201 South Federal HighwayPinecrestBurger King
73051 Coral WayCoral GablesBurger King
818240 South Dixie HighwayPerrineempty Burger King
9891 W. 49th StreetHialeahBurger King
10600 E 9 StHialeahBurger King

Vintage Burger King Articles and Ads

Panama City News Herald Sun 9-27-53
Panama City News Herald Sun 9-27-53
The Miami Herald 10-3-54
The Miami Herald 10-3-54
Knoxville News Sentinel Sun 7-3-55
Knoxville News Sentinel Sun 7-3-55
The Tampa Tribune 9-19-56
The Tampa Tribune 9-19-56
The Orlando Sentinel 1-9-57
The Orlando Sentinel 1-9-57
The Palm Beach Post 8-3-58
The Palm Beach Post 8-3-58
The Orlando Evening Star 7-12-60
The Orlando Evening Star 7-12-60
The Daily Herald 6-18-64
The Daily Herald 6-18-64

One last fast fact that might interest you: the Whopper was not always on the menu.

The Whopper was created by David Edgerton & James McLamore in 1957. It sold for 37 cents. They brought Insta-Burger King to Miami in 1954 and eventually became the co-founders of the rebranded Burger King brand years later.

Who created the Whopper Jr?

So, back in 1963, Luis Arenas-Pérez, also known as Luis Arenas, accidentally stumbled upon something fantastic. He was the big shot at Burger King in Puerto Rico, and he did something that landed him a spot in the Burger King Hall of Fame – the only Latino to do so.

The first Burger King restaurant opens up in Carolina, Puerto Rico. But guess what? They didn’t have the regular buns for the Whopper, because the delivery got messed up.

Luis wasn’t about to let that stop them, though. Instead of delaying the grand opening, he decided to get crafty. He used the smaller hamburger buns they had on hand, slapped the usual Whopper fixings on there, and voilà!; the Whopper Jr. was born.

And you know what? People loved it! It was such a hit that Burger King decided to roll it out worldwide. So, next time you chow down on a Whopper Jr., remember it all started with a little mix-up and a whole lot of ingenuity from Luis Arenas.

Quirky Burger King Trademark Issues

Burger King Drive Inn of Alberta, Canada

Burger King Drive Inn was a mini-chain of restaurants founded in 1956 in Alberta, Canada. It featured Kentucky Fried Chicken until about 1979, when its licensing agreement expired. The restaurants were sold in 1990, but founders William R. Jarvis and James Duncan Rae kept the “Burger King” trademark.

The “Burger King” name was sold to the Burger King company by Jarvis and Rae in 1985 for one million dollars. The company wasted no time in announcing that there would soon be Burger King restaurants in Alberta.

Burger King of Mattoon, Illinois

When Edgerton and McLamore’s Burger King decided to open their first location in the state of Illinois in 1961, little did they know the can of worms that they were opening. Since 1952, Gene and Betty Hoots had owned Frigid Queen.

In 1954, they expanded their menu to include hamburgers and fries, among other foods. The name of the restaurant was changed to Burger King in 1957. In 1959, the name was registered as a state trademark in Illinois.

By 1967, the number of corporate Burger King locations was hovering around fifty, and the couple decided to take a stand. They brought a lawsuit against Burger King of Florida in 1968, believing that their state trademark gave them exclusive rights to the name of Burger King in the state of Illinois. BK of Florida argued that their federal trademark superseded the couple’s state trademark.

The court decision gave the Hoots exclusive rights to an area within a twenty-mile radius from the location of their restaurant and Burger King of Florida the rights everywhere else. Gene and Betty Hoots are now retired. Cory Sanders bought the Burger King of Mattoon from them.

Thirty years later, the closest corporate Burger King location is in Tuscola, Illinois, twenty-five miles away.

Hungry Jack’s of Australia

There is only one country in the world where Burger King does not operate under its name, and that is Australia. In 1971, when Burger King established itself down under, they learned that their name had already been trademarked.

They gave their Australian franchisee Jack Cowin a list of possible new names from Burger King and Pillsbury’s already registered trademarks. He chose the name used by Pillsbury’s US pancake mix, Hungry Jack. The only change he made was to add an apostrophe “s.”

Whopper Burger in San Antonio, Texas

In 1955, Frank Bates founded Whopper Burger in San Antonio, Texas. He was the owner of the rights to the name Whopper, which effectively kept Burger King from using the name there.

Burger King opened a store in the area for a brief time and renamed its signature sandwich the Deluxe. The store did not survive. Fast-forward to 1983, when Bates passed away, and his wife sold the restaurant chain to a couple of Burger King franchisees a year later.

They, in turn, sold it to the Burger King company. In 1985, all of the Whopper Burger locations became Burger King restaurants. Finally, the people of San Antonio could enjoy a real Whopper.

What Was Your Favorite Burger King Sandwich As A Kid?

Burger King Double Cheeseburger
My favorite is still the Double Cheeseburger

SOURCE INFO: All about the Burger: A History of America’s Favorite Sandwich

30 thoughts on “The History of Burger King and its First 10 Miami Locations”

  1. I loved the YUMBO. I even loved the cantaloupe-colored styrofoam box it came in. That sandwich came out HOT! If you weren’t careful, you’d lose the skin on the roof of your mouth. The closest thing for me now is Arby’s. My favorite Burger King sandwich (because I am a McDonald’s person—IMO burgers are better fried) is the Italian Chicken sandwich. I wish it was a regular menu item.

  2. I believe you are mistaken about Burger King #9. It was actually at 1301 NW 27th Avenue in Miami. It was opened by my mom and dad, Edward and Ida Prager in 1958. I worked there for $1 per hour at that time.

  3. I’ve already noted elsewhere here I used to frequent the SW 8st in West Miami as a kid, but I later moved to what is now Pinecrest, and we’d frequent the story on 6091 SW 72 Ct, the 6th store to open. When they added the “Whaler”, the fish Whopper, we’d always go there on Friday nights because we were a Catholic family. It’s still there.

  4. I was born in Miami and grew up in West Miami in the 50s & 60s. My brother and I would bicycle to the 8th street location to get our Whoppers, fries and chocolate shakes. It was always a treat. I knew that store was one of the first Burger Kings, but didn’t know it was the second one. Good memories.

  5. I know I am late to this burger party:) I just watched the History Channel show about the battles between BK and McDonalds, it brought back a lot of memories. I always liked BK better than the “other one”. I came to Miami in 1960 and we first lived in South Miami. I remember very distinctly the BK on S Dixie Hwy right by Ponce De Leon Jr High. That had to be one of the fairly early ones, right? I remember that I would get a Whopper, fries and a chocolate shake and get change back from a dollar!

    • It’s a shame there a bunch of factual inaccuracies on that program. They were more preoccupied with pushing their narrative then with actual facts.

    • Juan, the addresses were taken from James McLamore’s book the Burger King. I went back and checked through some newspaper archives and found that you were correct. Thanks, I updated the address.

  6. The one we could ride our bikes to near our house in South Miami was on the east side of South Dixie at about 84th Street. My brother and I didn’t go there because we preferred the Royal Castle a few blocks up the road.

  7. My mother always said she went to high school (Edison) with the guy who founded Burger King. Our local BK was #8 on South Dixie in Perrine (not Palmetto Bay).

  8. The 9201 S. Federal/Dixie/US1 location was my neighborhood location. When it was the original building for a while it had a sliding screen window on the north side where you could order from your car (the dining room was on the south side of the building)-sort of a proto-drive thru.

  9. Once I had a car during my senior year at Miami Edison High School (1962-63), my friends and I got away often during lunch break to the Burger King at NW 54th St. and 7th Avenue.

  10. My father in law was Mr Mclamore’s attorney and prepared the incorporation papers for Burger King here in Miami.

    He also felt the Whaler was a better sandwich than the Filet-o- Fish , but he may have been biased.

  11. I was born and spent the first 13 years of my life on 34St. and 32 ave NW Miami. Our Elementary school was called Melrose. It was 2 blocks behind Store #1. I had my 13th birthday party there. I was telling my wife that we lived down the street from the first Burger King, she called me a liar, so glad this article was written.

  12. I believe the first was in West Palm Beach on Dixie Highway. Originally called The Burger King, It even had the Burger King character, and existed before Insta Burger.

  13. I believe La Palma was also a Royal Castle at one point. Never knew it was a BK. I grew up in that neighborhood.


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