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By Captain Jay

OK, here it is. The first of many posts in the new and exciting BurgerBlog. This will be a year long quest for the “best in Key West” cheeseburger. I will explore not only Key West, but will include the Lower Keys as well, looking for the true, undeniable “cheeseburger in paradise”. Jimmy Buffet had it right when he wrote the tune years ago, now I will rate them all. This quest will however be very interesting to all foodies who love this international delicacy, as well as a lot of fun. No fast food here! These tastebuds will touch only privately owned restaurants located from Marathon to Key West. How many “burger joints” are out there you might ask. Hundreds I’m sure. Almost every food slinging establishment in the “Keys” serves a burger, and I plan on rating them all. From beef to bun and everything in between, you’ll never have to ask where to get a great burger again.

Lets start off with the judge/s. I’m a huge foodie. I have a culinary appetite for just about everything, and when it comes it meat, well, I am a true carnivore connoisseur. From steak to BBQ I love it all, but no mater what the cheeseburger I would have to say IS my all-time favorite. The town I was raised in, Englewood, FL, is a quiet town on the southwest side of the state located on the Gulf of Mexico. As a child there was a restaurant we went to on the beach aptly named Barnacle Bill’s. This restaurant wow’d me then with the amazing cheeseburgers they offered. With a fresh hand pressed patty so big I swear it took up most of the plate, and a homemade bud that was toasted how you liked it, this juicy burger was truly the “best burger ever”. Even as I became a teenager, BB’s was awesome. Though moving locations and the economy forced BB’s to close its doors years ago, I can still taste that delicious treat.

Now, since moving to the Keys over a dozen years ago I have searched for that same burger utopia. I have had my favorites over the years, but one thing you can count on is that none are the same as they were when i first tried them. As cooks and kitchen crews come and go very regularly, I have found some burgers aren’t quite what they used to be, and others are definitely better, and others yet are still just as bad as they have always been. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being paid, nor am I getting any freebies out of this, so don’t think for a second that this quest will be influenced in any way other than by burger alone!!

Tiki Bar and Grill burger

Tiki Bar and Grill burger

A Lil History

The origin of the hamburger is one of countless tales and years of folklore. No one “really” knows where or how the burger actually became its mainstay. Some attribute it to the influence of minced meat in the 19th century and recipes brought over to New York by German immigrants from Hamburg. Others offer an explanation of the industrialized era in the beginning of the 20th century bringing forth a need for quicker made meals. Many different stories have evolved over the years as to who truly began the burger craze as well. All we know is this. Wherever it came from, Americans, over the last century, has made the burger what it is today. And that would be THE most popular international food in the world. The cheeseburger is consumed in every major country in the world today. Everyone across the globe loves to sink their teeth into a juicy burger patty.

Widely popularized by fast food chains the burger itself has many faces. From flame grilled or broiled, to fried on a flat grill, in a pan, or skillet can give the burger a different taste. Some are cooked slow and others are kicked out faster than a car can make it around the restaurant. With thousands of choice topping combinations, buns, and condiments, the burger is nothing short of a construction zone on a plate. Millions of fast food burgers are consumed every day in this country alone.

The patty itself is ground beef from any one or number of cuts of the animal. Some are very fatty as others extremely lean. Mostly all are tender and when cooked perfectly release a flavor all its own. This is what makes the burger so special to me.

The Local Flavor

I may be popular, but I am definitely not rating a single patty from any grease slinging burger chain. It’s just, well, just wrong! I have a problem with fast food chains, and at that I will happily keep my opinions to myself. We are talking the real deal. Local restaurants who make a true burger from what we hope are best ingredients available. From fridge to plate we are looking for the best in not only taste but presentation and service. Taste is by far number one and if you have bad service I could really care less, however I will rate service anyway. Presentation is also one of those which will not really affect my rating, but I do have to say, that when you are served a meal and the presentation is nice, it makes you feel that much more apt to dig in. Back to taste though. The taste and rate of all of the burgers will be on a scale of 1 thru 10. Very simple. The breakdown though will be by this:

1. How the burger is made. Is it a pre-made patty, or is it hand pressed into a patty?

2. How it is cooked. Just for a control we will order all burgers to be cooked to “Medium”. This will keep it consistent and rate how close to this the burger will be when served. Many times I have ordered it to be cooked Medium only to have it Well done, or still raw in the middle. Hopefully I won’t have to send it back. Mostly though Medium comes out close. True medium is cooked well on the outsides and pink in the middle.

3. What cut of beef it is. The cut of the burger will determine the flavor. Fatty or lean, juicy or dry will all depend on the cut, and how its cooked.

4. Cooking surface. Whether the patty is fried or grilled or broiled ect. can all affect the burger’s taste.

5. The bun. Not many people think about the bun, but to me it represents the strength of the burger. A good bun should hold together well through the entirety of eating, and should be soft yet not fall apart. A moist bun is also a must as no one wants to have to take a drink to wash down every dry bite.

6. Toppings. Ingredients of the toppings can range from lettuce, to onion, to pickles, tomatoes, and so on. These will be ranked by freshness rather than which toppings are on the burger. Cheese on the other hand will be ranked as a preference by whatever cheese I feel I want on that particular Burger.

7. Condiments will be rated only by what is offered. I will try to keep to a control, and just use Ketchup and Mustard, but from time to time I like others as well, and sometimes none at all. I keep my condiments to a minimum though because I never want to take away from the flavor of the burger itself.

Alonzo's burger

Alonzo’s burger

I am excited all ready. Just writing this I want to go grab a juicy Burger right now! I hope you all enjoy these posts as much as I will enjoy making them!!