Juicy details about South Florida's best burgers

Lifestyle and LeisureCookingRestaurant and Catering IndustryDining and DrinkingRestaurants

Food is a lot like fashion. Trends start at the top, filter downward and get reinterpreted for the masses.

Take hamburgers. A few years ago, chefs started serving them gourmet-style, topped with ingredients like foie gras and shaved truffles.

Those swanky creations changed the hamburger landscape, and if you look across South

Florida, you'll see the result: new kinds of burgers, new ways of ordering them and more sophisticated settings in which to eat them.

At The Counter in Royal Palm Beach, the first East Coast branch of a small California chain, guests receive a clipboard and step-by-step instructions for building your own burger. Turkey, beef or veggie? One-third, two-thirds or one pound?

At One Burger in Coral Gables, diners order such creations as The Black Black and Blue: a blackened

burger topped with roasted black bean spread and aged blue cheese. Eat it sitting in the sliver of a dining room on Philippe Starck smoke-gray plastic chairs.

In these uncertain economic times, hamburger joints are becoming destination restaurants. From Palm Beach to Miami-Dade County, we are in the midst of a burger revolution.

Come along on a Quick 6 hamburger tour. We concentrated on places that stake their reputations on burgers day after day.

The Counter: 11071 Southern Blvd., Southern Palm Crossing Shopping Center, Royal Palm Beach, 561-792-7577, thecounterburger.com.

Open since the end of October, co-owner Lexi Viens says the biggest draw is the more than 300,000 different combinations. The choices include: 10 kinds of cheese, 27 toppings, 17 sauces and three buns. The beef is antibiotic- and hormone-free Angus. The burger of the month could be anything from a halibut bloody mary burger to an ahi tuna burger with daikon radish slaw and wasabi aioli. The Counter calls its decor "urban edgy," with metal chairs and stools, black-and-white photographs on the lightest of gray-blue walls. The hippest burger joint we visited, service was as snappy as the burger selection.

Five Guys Famous

Burgers and Fries: 1818 Cordova Road, Harbor Shops, Fort Lauderdale, 954-358-5862; 7268 W. Atlantic Blvd., Margate, 954-975- 4818; 11320 Legacy Ave., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-625-3888; 3401 N. Miami Ave., The Shoppes at Midtown Miami, 305-571-8345. Other locations opening soon in Tamarac, Kendall. Fiveguys.com.

The Murrell brothers opened the first Five Guys in 1986 in Arlington, Va., where many folks have an almost fanatical obsession with their burgers. Six years ago, the five Murrells started franchising and there are now 240 locations. Each burger contains two 3.4-ounce patties made from a never-frozen ground chuck and sirloin mixture that is hand-formed and cooked to order in an open kitchen. A basic hamburger is $4.39 and ready in seven minutes, says Toral Roy, operations manager for Broward County locations. Fresh-cut fries are just as big a part of Five Guys' success. Food is served very simply in brown paper bags that you rip open. The decor is as basic as the menu with bags of Idaho potatoes as the main decoration.

Char-Hut: 12221 Taft St., Pembroke Pines, 954-438- 1954; 9000 W. State Road 84, Davie, 954-474-9312; 2601 N. University Drive, Sunrise, 954-749-0671; 10000 W. McNab Road, Tamarac, 954-720-5566, charhut .com.

While Joe Cammisa has been making his burgers in South Florida for more than three decades, they fit right into the current trend. The 5 1/3-ounce ground chuck patties are never frozen and char-broiled to order. A basic burger is $4.99. The patties are thin but have wonderful flavor. Diners interact with the employee who "dresses" each burger. Be sure to try the dill pickle. The decor is fast-food, but the burgers are a big notch above.

Twenty One Toppings: 14480 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach, 305-947-3433, 21toppings.com.

Federica Schael, a Johnson & Wales culinary arts grad, worked with chefs Mark Militello and Tim Andriola before opening with her brother Christian six months ago. She not only recognized the burger surge but knew from her fine-dining experience that diners want more control over what they eat, with requests that ingredients be omitted or served on the side. The fresh 6 ½-ounce beef patties are the basis of the classic burger ($7), but one of the best burgers on the tour was the white bean patty, which Schael says is her riff on falafel. Don't miss the onion rings. Set in a small former sub shop space, takeout may be the way to go.

One Burger:

367 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, 305-529- 5555, oneburger.com.

Founder Danny Guiteras describes himself as a frustrated architect and it shows every step of the way, from the all-black exterior to the stark white interior. "Our whole idea with One Burger is let's take some of the recipes or gourmet sensibilities and translate them to the burger," says Guiteras. So there is a Caprese burger ($6.95) with tomato, mozzarella di bufala and pesto right next to a bacon and cheddar burger ($6.75) made with Italian pancetta and sharp Vermont cheddar. Meantime, the dining room here could be a bit bigger and service could be friendlier. Best idea is to order inside and grab a table next door on the sidewalk in front of the Globe Cafe, which his family has owned for the past 12 years.

Cheeseburger in

Paradise: 5701 Sunset Drive, Shops at Sunset Place, South Miami, 305-665-4386, cheeseburgerinparadise .com.

Jimmy Buffett licensed the name of his song to this chain of 44 restaurants that got its start in 2002. This casual dining spot, with an island/nautical decor and live music, feels a lot like other "mall restaurants." But its selection of burgers is hardly run of the mill. The pressed burger with Velveeta and mayo ($8.39, includes one side) is a specialty, as are the six mini cheeseburgers. ($8.99).

John Tanasychuk can be reached at jtanasychuk@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4632.

Don't forget South Florida has lots of hamburger spots. Here are some of our other favorites:

Lindburger's: This South Florida-based chain opened in 1983. There are six locations in Palm Beach County, plus one in Naples and another in Penfield, N.Y. The menu has 50 burger variations. Lindburgers.com.

Cheeburger Cheeburger: The milk shake flavors (Snickers, watermelon, cookie dough) are just as impressive as The Pounder. Eat this 20-ounce burger and you get your photo on the wall. Multiple locations. Cheeburger.com.

Le Tub: Packed almost all the time since GQ magazine and Oprah Winfrey gave the charcoal-grilled burgers at this dock-side veteran the thumbs up. 1100 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, 954-921-9425.

Jack's Old Fashion

Hamburger House: Relive your childhood drive-in memories here. Open since 1972, the burgers taste decidedly home-made. 4201 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 965-565-9960 and 591 S. Cypress Road, Pompano Beach, 954-942-2844.

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