Best Burger 2014 | Burger and Beer Joint | Food & Drink | South Florida

There seems to be a new burger joint opening up every other day. Each has its schtick: from special cooking techniques to famous owners to cheap and easy, something is always supposed to stand out. At this point, it's not even really news when a new place stakes a claim in Burgerland. Unless, of course, you head to Burger and Beer Joint in Pembroke Pines. The Broward outpost of the famed Miami Beach hangout offers suburbanites the same glorious meat-patty sandwiches that can be found at the original digs. Gourmet burgers come with interesting topping combinations. The Hotel California ($13.99) features a half-pound of Angus beef with guacamole, grilled Vidalia onion, jalapeño relish, cilantro sour cream, sharp cheddar, and sunny-side-up fried egg tucked between a brioche bun. The Mustang Sally ($16.99) takes  a brioche bun and stuffs it with eight ounces of Wagyu beef, red onion marmalade, Brie cheese, and sliced prosciutto. Everything is big, but it's not all about the beef here. The Turning Japanese ($19.99) puts five ounces of seared rare ahi tuna, avocado, watercress, jalapeño relish, and spicy garlic mayo on an onion bun, served with tempura onion rings and jalapeño-cheddar sauce. And there's always a perfect beer to pair; the craft brew list could rival some of the best microbrew lists in the area. Good brew, great burgers, and no gimmicks.

Side dishes have been relegated to the less-respected part of the plate since the dawn of time. From sad salads to soggy baked potatoes, these accompaniments are often considered mere afterthoughts. Most of the time, no one seems to mind — or even notice; however, it's a deep sense of injustice when a cold, flaccid French fry turns up on your plate. Such an incident should never become of such a glorious, noble vegetable as the potato. And it will certainly never happen at Best French Fries. The Palm Beach County-based food truck proffers its perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside fried potatoes at roundups and special events around the region. For four to six bucks, guests get to choose from an assortment of "fries," cooking methods (healthy folk can opt for baked), and two dozen dipping sauces (such as aioli, spicy horseradish, wasabi ginger, curry ketchup, and ancho chili lime). Owner Debbie Harris has upgraded the humble French fry (or, really, Belgian frites) to a meal in and of itself.

Scuola Vecchia is Italian for "old school," which is exactly what you'll get. Recipes are straight from Italy, which means this is as close to authentic Neapolitan pizza as South Florida can get. The small restaurant uses only homemade ingredients, from hand-pulled mozzarella using imported Italian curds to seven-grain dough and fresh San Marzano tomatoes. But it's the Acunto wood-fired oven — brought straight from Napoli, Italy — that makes for a truly transcending slice. Inside, volcanic stone allows for temperatures that reach an astounding 1,000 degrees, baking each pizza in as little as 90 seconds. It yields just the right amount of dough, char, and crunch to the signature Regina margherita, a combination of imported buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and basil. Throw in pizza-making trainer Roberto Caporuscio, president of the American chapter for the Associazione Pizzaiouli Napoletani America (a pizza-making association that determines which pies are legit Neapolitan) and you're pretty much guaranteed pizza perfection.

Barbecue might be the only original American cuisine, but the U.S. is a melting pot — Americans like to change things up. Set in the former site of Texas Hold 'Em BBQ, this spot serves a bit of smoked meat — or just sides — for everyone. The latest endeavor from Coconut's, Foxy Brown, and G&B Oyster owner Elliot Wolf, this barbecue restaurant offers an array of animal parts and creative sauces. Texas-born chef Steve Shockey spends days marinating and smoking his high-quality cuts of meat in an attempt to fuse together the juxtaposing 'cue palates that make up South Florida. Looking for Lone Star-style brisket? No problem. Carolina pulled pork? Got it. Kansas City sauce? You're covered. The Eat Meat Combo ($21) comes with two meats and two sides, all of which are served in heaping portions. Selections range from the Stack Beef Ribs (Wagyu beef brushed with pomegranate molasses) to dry-rubbed pork spare ribs. Sides span from healthy-ish cauliflower mash to hush puppies and mac 'n' cheese. And just like any barbecue joint, save room for the corn bread. Red Cow's iron-skillet rendition ($9) is out of this world.

Zachary Fagenson

Convincing a friend to try falafel for the first time is kind of a hard sell: "They're these balls of ground-up chickpeas and tahini — Oh, tahini is sesame seed paste! Yes, like on the buns at McDonald's. Anyway, they take the balls and they fry them, and then you put tzatziki sauce on it — it's a yogurt sauce. No, not like Yoplait. It's good; just eat it!" The best thing to do is just take your pal somewhere that makes really good falafel and get him to take a bite. But don't take him just anywhere — the falafel has to be just right. Falafel Benny and Schwarma in Hallandale Beach serves falafel the way it should be — still warm from the fryer, wrapped in soft pita bread, drizzled with tzatziki sauce, and topped with onions and diced cucumber. It's everything a falafel should be and kosher to boot. Bonus at Benny's is the tall cut of beef — the schwarma turning on its spit all day, just waiting for you to order a slice.

At some point, the banh mi will go mainstream and be offered at Subway. But until then, one must search high and low for the delicious Vietnamese sandwich that is a byproduct of French colonialism. Served in a crispy baguette, it combines French tastes (pâté) with Vietnamese ingredients (cilantro, daikon, pickled carrot). Fortunately one must travel no further than Hollywood Boulevard to find a perfect example. Pho VI has three varieties on the menu: grilled pork, chicken, and Vietnamese ham. The servers will also gladly make you a vegan option with tofu replacing the meat and holding the pâté. The hearty sandwich is priced at $5.95 and in Subway parlance is somewhere between the size of a six-inch and a foot-long. It is packed with so much flavor that if Subway spokesman Jared were to get his hands on the recipe, he might soon be morbidly obese again.

Vegetarians, vegans, look elsewhere. This lip-smacking, glistening, fatty, crunchy deliciousness is not for you, though you may long outlive us decadents and dance, ever-so-slim and healthily, on our graves. At least we will have known the pleasures of this sleek and cozy Delray Beach Asian boîte's Spicy Crispy Duck Salad, a modest portion (with mighty impact) of mixed greens, red onion, and scallions tossed with chunks of the above-mentioned lip-smacking mallard in a "Thai dressing" that tastes suspiciously like little more than a splash of srihacha. It doesn't take any more than that to make this dish a bracing experience in nuance and complexity, deeply layered in flavor and texture. Wash it down (or first cleanse the palate) with Lemongrass' take on wonton soup, delicate of broth, dotted with dumplings, rich in flavor. Want veggies? Grab a seaweed salad with sesame dressing. But for indulgence, it's all about the duck.

Courtesy Photo

The cheese steak was born in South Philadelphia, circa 1930, at Pat's King of Steaks. Decades later, you can find a version of this famous steak sandwich in nearly every city nationwide, but not every spot dishes out the real deal. But at the Philly Cheesesteak Experience in Fort Lauderdale, you'll get both Northern natives and a true Philly sandwich, all in one shot. The Strauss family — who together have more than 20 years' experience in the restaurant industry — began serving Broward County their authentic Philly cheese steaks six years ago, when they relocated to South Florida from New Jersey, opening a humble outpost at the Pompano Festival Flea Market Mall food court. Today, though, you'll find this masterpiece of meat at their new eatery off Commercial Boulevard, where more than 100 sandwiches — and more than 200 pounds of beef — are ordered daily. It starts with the grill, where paper-thin slices of sirloin are chopped and seared alongside piles of tender grilled onions. All that juicy goodness is layered into a soft, chewy roll, shipped straight from Philly's Amoroso bakery. It's topped with a good dousing of hot, melty Cheez Whiz (although provolone, American, and mozzarella are also options). Try ordering yours "whiz wit' " — official Philly street slang for "with Cheez Whiz and onions."


Do not pity the chicken. Sure, at first glance, its life may seem somewhat bleak. To be raised in captivity with the sole intent of being turned into a nugget may not strike one as a desirable existence. But rest assured, some chickens will go on to fulfill a greater fate. The lucky ones get sent over to the Mason Jar Café in Fort Lauderdale. It is there that they are elevated from simple cutlet to an orgasm-inducing fried piece of tongue candy. Every fried chicken that leaves the Mason Jar's kitchen has been given no less than 30 minutes of intimate compliments. After all, each is rubbed with a seasoned batter that is rumored to come from Julia Child's secret time capsule. Then every one is fried to crunchy perfection and smothered in a gravy so creamy and delicious that it must be kept in a box labeled "booger juice" to prevent sneaky busboys from stealing a taste. Any nincompoop can just drop a breast into a deep fryer and come back in five minutes. But it takes skill — nay, love — to make the best fried chicken.

There's nothing more American than cheap beer, football, and chicken wings. And in the great old US of A, we like options. Seriously, do you know of any other country that dedicates an entire aisle in the supermarket to hundreds of choices of bread? Doubt it. It's called democracy, baby. This local Miami Dolphins-themed sports bar (it was founded by former player Bob "Bru" Brudzinski) takes a cue from the country it represents with multiple options for chicken wing accoutrements — and plenty of inexpensive beer to pair, of course. Wings are available in ten ($9.95), 16 ($14.50), 25 ($23.95), and 50-piece ($41.95) options — screw the half-dozen and dozen selections. Sauces run the gamut, with choices ranging from mild, medium, hot, X-hot, and XX-hot to Triple Threat, a combination BBQ, sweet 'n' tangy, and hot sauce grilled with minced garlic. (Hint: Try the Triple Threat.) Here, it's all about choices. It's like the football fanatic's slice of the American Dream.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of