When James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz opened Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami in 2007, he brought traditional American comfort food to a city often associated with Cuban and Caribbean cuisine. The Philadelphia native is blooming in Florida, asserting his influence over the local, seasonal ingredients often passed over by other Sunshine State chefs and using them to create inspiring, accessible food. His Raleigh burger is a reinvented classic: served on a wood board, the tender meat is encased in a buttered and toasted brioche bun, garnished simply with butter lettuce and a generous slice of ripe, juicy tomato. But despite his all-American approach, Michael appreciates the melting pot of cuisine that lends Miami its signature heat.
Here are Michael's top five Miami burgers:
1. Two words: Danny Meyer. I'm going with Shake Shack's Shack Burger almost every time. You can't beat the quality for the price, and because it's burgers Mr. Meyer's way, it's always a sure thing. I wanna be THAT guy! Just watch out for those Concretes!
1660 Lenox Avenue, Miami Beach FL 33139 (map); 305-434-7787; shakeshack.com
2. The Frita Burger at El Mago de las Fritas is the Cuban-style burger you need to eat. Accept no imitations. They grind chorizo right into the patty, and it's piled high with "papitas" and a fried egg to bring it all together inside the best Cuban bread bun you'll find. And if smoky rendered sausage, fried potato sticks, and a fried egg isn't enough, you can also go "caballero" or cowboy-style and get it with cheese.
5828 Southwest 8th Street, Miami FL 33144 (map); 305-266-8486; elmagodelasfritas.com
3. Whisk Gourmet is a get-your-hands-dirty burger. It's big and juicy, and really tasty! They were just recognized at this year's South Beach Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash as the judge's choice for best burger. I'm so proud of our hometown brother-sister owners Kristin and Brendan Connor. Those guys work hard to put out a product they believe in, and they deserve it! If only more folks followed their lead down here.
7382 Southwest 56th Avenue, South Miami FL (map); 786-268-8350; whiskgourmet.com
4. The Federal is a collaboration between three young partners who experimented for a while—with much success—at a pop-up concept, turning out great Vietnamese food in downtown Miami. They are as serious about putting out great food as they are about moving the needle, doing new things and having a little fun while they're at it. Now they've opened up The Federal in an unassuming strip mall and are doing a great Lamb burger, which is topped with a duck egg. As far as I'm concerned, that makes anything better!
5132 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami FL 33137 (map); 305-758-9559; thefederalmiami.com
5. The McBelly at Pubbelly: the word alone conjures some pretty graphic images. This little sandwich isn't one to be underestimated because it's contained in the modest, yet no less delicious Martin's potato roll. It is a little decadent and maybe even too greasy at times, but because chef Mendin makes sure there are plenty of pickles and kick from the kimchi to cut it all, you may even venture for seconds. I order a Hitachino Red Rice Ale with mine!
1418 20th Street, Miami Beach FL 33139 (map); 305-532-7555; pubbelly.com