May is National Burger Month and Miami.com’s guest writer, the Burger Beast, is your guide this month to all things burger related.
Miami is known worldwide for being a melting pot of cultures. It only makes sense that we’d have a variety of burgers that embrace the diversity here.
Some of these “Miami burgers” did not originate in South Florida but found their way here through its people. Others were created by taking a flavor profile that was popular in Miami and merging it with the good ol’ American hamburger. Neither one is better than the other, but they all represent us — and it’s important during National Burger Month that you know them.
The chimi (short for chimichurri) could originally only be found at street food stands in the Dominican Republic. The burger is served on a pan de agua (water bread) and topped with chopped cabbage, tomato and a spicy salsa roja (a ketchup-mayo base). In South Florida, it’s predominately available on food trucks who are open into the wee hours of the night.
Best Spots To Get One: True to form, my favorite spots for grabbing a Chimi are from food trucks Chimi El Tigre and Don Mofongo. Chimi El Tigre can found parked in a semi-permanent location in Kendall, Miami Gardens and Pembroke Pines, while Don Mofongo is normally at food truck rallies across South Florida, including every third Saturday at Magic City Casino and Mondays at Arts Park in Hollywood (shameless plugs for two Food Truck events I curate).
My first experience with a Colombian burger was more than 10 years ago when a co-worker suggested I try one. I hit up MAO in Westchester and then realized it was not alone. They were all over the place.
Colombian burgers are garnished with a slab of melted cheese, crushed potato chips or potato sticks, lettuce, tomato and a variety of homemade sauces that include a pink sauce (mayo/ketchup), garlic mayo, and pineapple sauce. You can skip the LT but need to have the sauces to get the full flavor explosion in your mouth.
Originally sold as street food in 1930s Cuba, the frita cubana made its way to South Florida in 1961 when Fritas Domino opened in Little Havana. The seasoned beef and sometimes pork and/or chorizo patty leans heavy on Spanish smoked paprika. It’s cooked on a flat top and covered in julienned potatoes (or potato sticks), onions and ketchup. The frita was Americanized by Ortelio Cardenas (El Mago de las Fritas) when he added American cheese to it the early 1980s. At the time, Ortelio was working for his brother-in-law Benito Gonzalez better known as El Rey de las Fritas. Order it with cheese and risk having old school Cubans look at you with the evil eye, though.
This burger is an ode to the Nicaraguan community in South Florida and was first served at A&G Burger Joint (Sweetwater, now closed) in late 2013.
It’s topped with a chimichurri sauce, fried salty cheese, sweet plantains, vinegar slaw and a housemade jalapeño cream sauce. The chimichurri sauce and sweet plantains aren’t really Nicaraguan staples, but they do compliment the whole package.
Best Spots To Get One: Swensen’s (Coral Gables) and 109 Burger Joint (Sweetwater). Although other restaurants sell variations of this burger, these leans the most towards authenticity or so says my wife who is an expert in this field. She is Nicaraguan, after all.
A tostón burger’s buns are replaced by flattened and deep-fried, savory green plantains. The burger can be topped with pretty much anything, but generally it’s lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, potato sticks and cilantro or pink (ketchup and mayo mix) sauce.
Best Spot To Get One: Tostones as replacement for buns is not a new thing. It’s very common in Venezuela, where these type of sandwiches are known as patacones. The place that popularized the tostón burger in South Florida is Pincho Factory (multiple locations), and it’s still the gold standard for this type of burger.
I needed to sneak in a sixth Miami burger since the “burgers topped with guava” revolution is now in full bloom.
Best Spots To Get One: Boss Burger & Brew (Hialeah/Miami Lakes area), Jr.’s Gourmet Burgers (winner of SoBe’s 2017 Burger Bash, in Miami Springs), LoKal’s Frita by Kush (a guava burger pioneer in Coconut Grove) and Twisted Fork Kitchen (at The Tank Brewing in Doral).