By Ali Renckens
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all burgers are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator and that they are, above all, American. Americans have become burger connoisseurs. We revel in juicy, flavorful slabs of beef, loaded with condiments and stacked perilously between the two halves of a bun. As a result, thousands of burger joints have popped up across the globe. Here are some local favorites:
Achieving a savory flavor from before the days of cheap fast-food, Jake’s Wayback Burgers offers special burgers and shakes every month. The burger for December was the Brisket Burger, a succulent combination of brisket, American cheese and Wayback Gold Sauce. The featured shake for December was the Eggnog Milkshake. Regular shake flavors include coffee, mint, banana and chocolate strawberry. It is also home of the Triple Triple Burger: Tomato, lettuce and cheese stacked on nine beef patties. Last September, it hosted a national Triple Triple Eating Contest. The winning time was 30 seconds, averaging about three seconds a patty.
One of the largest burger franchises, Five Guys Burgers and Fries first opened in Washington DC in the 1980’s. Its approach is simple: No flashy names or daring burger creations, just the traditional patty and bun in various sizes to allow customers to create their own burger. With the various toppings, customers have over 250,000 different options; diners never have to eat the same one twice.
BurgerMonger has a similar approach. The owner, Jake Hickton, has been overseeing the opening of a new location in the Bloomingdale Plaza, cleaning tables, holding doors and speaking to smiling customers. “We’re very excited to be here and we’re anticipating that it’s going to be great fun getting to know everybody,” said Hickton. “All you have to do is take a walk around our dining area to see and admire the culture that exists here.” Not only do they strive for high quality food (with several gluten-free options), but they offer weekly specials such as $5 BurgerMonger Mondays, Free Fry Fridays and discounts for college students and seniors. Its chocolate, strawberry and vanilla milkshakes are always available with a different flavor featured every month, such as Oreo Cookies and Cream, Raspberry and Orange Dreamsicle, Key Lime, Banana and Mocha.
For a burger experience that is truly unique, the Burger Culture food truck sells gourmet burgers and fries. The distinctive orange and black truck offers quirky options such as the Waffle Burger (goat cheese, blueberry compote and honey drizzle between two waffles), The Goat (goat cheese, lettuce and sundried tomato pesto) and the Mango Burger (cream cheese, sautéed onions and mango chutney). Like them on Facebook (Burger Culture tampa) to keep track of where they are parked.
Red Robin also offers many exciting options. In addition to a variety of chicken burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads, its “fire-grilled burgers” include the Bleu Ribbon, which is smothered in BBQ sauce, chipotle aioli, bleu cheese, tomatoes and onion straws and the Burnin’ Love, which is topped with fried jalapeno coins, salsa, pepper-jack cheese, tomatoes and chipotle aioli on a jalapeno-cornmeal Kaiser bun.
Square 1 Burgers and Bar presents customers with a wide range of choices in meat. Their Buffalo Bob burger is made of ground buffalo with applewood-smoked bacon, onion rings and spicy beer cheese sauce. Their Cajun Salmon burger consists of chopped salmon, sprinkled with cilantro, garlic and spices with caponata aioli and coleslaw. The Greek is a lamb burger topped with feta cheese, beefsteak tomato, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. “Square 1 Burgers is one of my favorite places to eat. It has a unique atmosphere and different, delicious menu. It’s great for a date night, too,” said Valrico resident, Nicole Schoen.
Olive Garden, noticing a decline in sales, initiated a research project that proved customers prefer burger joints. In response, the Italian food franchise launched its Italiano Burger, a six-ounce beef patty covered in arugula, mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, pesto and aioli, accompanied by parmesan fries.