The Burger Issue: Creative license

A crowdsourced list of Tampa Bay's 10 most inventive burgers.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license


Last month, we took to social media, asking readers to tell us their favorite innovatively constructed burgers. The crowdsourced suggestions spanned from unexpected mashups to stacks as big as your head, and we selected the most creative offerings of the bunch to spotlight here. While our selection couldn’t highlight everyone’s burger of choice (there were many, and I hope to keep this feature going in the future), here are 10 groundbreaking, or maybe we should say ground-beef-breaking, patties* our readers crave.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

HUCKLEBERRY

the Avenue eat/drink
330 First Ave. S., St. Petersburg, 727-851-9531, theavenuedtsp.com

Between the buns: Homemade blueberry jam, applewood bacon, Brie

Big idea: A birthday tradition led to the creation of Avenue eat/drink’s popular Huckleberry. Owner Stephen Schrutt was born in June, and to celebrate he always asks his chef to develop a special burger for him. Executive Chef Ryan Kelly came up with the idea for a burger with a blueberry component, since Schrutt digs the indigo-colored orbs. “It was definitely a good addition to the awesome collection of burgers we already have,” Schrutt says. Diners can swap the Ave’s signature brioche for a wheat, gluten-free or pretzel bun.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

THE VEGAN FRITA

Bodega on Central
1120 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-623-0942, bodegaoncentral.com

Between the buns: Hominy mushroom patty, pickled onions and chiles, house-made tomatillo ketchup, tortilla chips

Big idea: Were you sad to say goodbye to Bodega on Central’s September Frita of the Month? Mourn no more. The Vegan Frita, dreamed up by chef Kaylie Birdsall, is here to stay — well, through October. Previously, Bodega’s Fritas of the Month (the double all-beef patty in July and August’s house-made chicken sausage patty among them) weren’t even remotely vegetarian, says co-owner George Sayegh, so in trying accommodate veg-heads, Birdsall wound up crafting an all-vegan variation. Recently reeling in a Best of the Bay win for its vegetarian Cuban, the Latin food joint is pleasing the masses with its veg-friendly offerings as much as the meat.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

VEGEFI BURGER

BurgerFi
714 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-440-2283, burgerfi.com

Between the buns: Crispy quinoa and fresh-cut veggie patty, white Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, BurgerFi sauce

Big idea: The veggie patties at BurgerFi, the Flo-grown burger concept out of West Palm Beach, require 14 ingredients, including fontina cheese, Parm and mushrooms. From mandolining zucchini and grating carrots to cooking onions in a thyme-red wine reduction and boiling lentils until al dente, making the burgers is a two-day process. “Once you eat it, you don’t go back,” says Paul Mullino, kitchen manager at the SoHo location. For the VegeFi creator, BurgerFi executive chef Paul Griffin, the recipe just kind of came together. Griffin, who used to sell quinoa burgers like the VegeFi in some of his other restaurants, wanted to test ’em out in the fast-casual market, as well as offer something different. “It’s not your normal black bean burger,” Mullino says.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

GOOBER

Burger Culture
6920 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 813-992-7444, burgerculturetruck.com

Between the buns: Peanut butter, sunny-side-up egg

Big idea: “We just wanted to be different,” says Burger Culture’s Gabe Sandoval, who owns the happily unconventional Tampa burger truck with his wife Ashley. Burgers like the Goober, according to Gabe, are a hit in the Midwest, and Burger Culture’s rendition sold very well at local breweries before the truck decided to plant itself next to a Harley Davidson dealership a year ago. “Now people come to us,” he says. One of five items offered on Burger Culture’s original menu, the Goober, which may also be topped with cheese and bacon, now shares a lineup with 15 other jazzed-up patties, plus a new bill of snazzy breakfast sandwiches.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

MARIE LAVEAU

Engine No. 9
56 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-623-0938, no9burgers.com

Between the buns: Crawfish tails, andouille sausage, Muenster, green onions, Creole sauce

Big idea:
With a name like Marie Laveau, this burger from Engine No. 9 — Jason Esposito’s sports and burger hotspot that’s gained a cult-like following since its opening in 2012 — makes an obvious nod to New Orleans. You’re not eating the Marie Laveau streetside along the French Quarter, but the sausage, crawfish tails and Creole sauce help transport you to the vibrant city anyway. Order a tin of Engine’s crispy, much-loved tater tots to go along with it.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

ST. PETERSBURGER DELUXE

FarmTable Kitchen at Locale Market
179 Second Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-523-6300, localegourmetmarket.com

Between the buns: ’Merican cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms, with fried egg and Florida avocado guacamole add-ons

Big idea: As the older sibling of Locale Market’s signature six-ounce St. Petersburger, the half-pound St. Petersburger Deluxe, which also features a dry-aged beef patty but comes with herbed duck fat fries, is even more luxurious. Together, packed with gourmet flavor punches, the St. Petersburger is the most popular item on the first floor of the market, while the Deluxe is one of the upstairs FarmTable Kitchen’s top-selling eats. “We created a monster with these things,” says Locale chef de cuisine Jeffrey Hileman, the St. Petersburger’s architect. According to him, a well-constructed burger can unite everything that’s great about food — crispiness from bacon, a bun that’s soft and toasty, cool lettuce and the like. “Whenever you take a bite, it will excite the palate,” Hileman says. And make you feel super ’Merican, too.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

MEAN GREEN FLORENTINE BURGER

Green Iguana Bar & Grill
4029 S. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, 813-837-1234, greeniguana.com


Between the buns:
Spinach, cheese and artichoke melt, crumbled bacon, blue cheese

Big idea: “That burger started in Ybor City,” says Green Iguana General Manager TJ Curley, who oversees the restaurant brand’s flagship in South Tampa. “I can’t even remember how long it’s been around.” A bun from Ybor’s La Segunda Central Bakery nestles the eight-ounce, messy-in-the-best-way Mean Green Florentine Burger, with lettuce, sweet onion, vine-ripened tomato, dill pickle and fries as no-frills accompaniments. The restaurant calls its Mean Green, which can be prepared with a veggie burger upon request, “the masterpiece of melts,” while the California Baja and Cheesiest Cheese Overdose burgers are other favorites.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

THE YBOR BURGER

Marlin Darlin
2819 W. Bay Drive, Belleair Bluffs, 727-584-1700, marlindarlinkeywestgrill.com

Between the buns: Guava jelly, melted Gruyère, potato sticks, Nueske’s bacon, tavern sauce

Big idea: Inspired by a Cuban-style burger from an Ybor food truck that he used to frequent 40 years ago, Marlin Darlin owner Frank Chivas decided to offer his own rendition when the Key West grill concept opened in 2007. Before The Ybor Burger — served with fries and house-brined pickles and onions — arrives at a table, it’s pressed down and cut in half; the tasty magic happens just as the burger’s pretzel bun hits your tongue. Chivas also tells CL his new restaurants, Marina Cantina and Salt Cracker, are slated to debut sometime this year.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

VOLCANO BURGER

The Stein & Vine
827 W. Bloomingdale Ave., Brandon, 813-655-4786, thesteinandvine.com

Between the buns:
Two beef patties stuffed with blue cheese, Sriracha and fresh jalapeños, then topped with house buffalo sauce

Big idea: The Stein & Vine’s Volcano Burger — made by packing spicy-tangy ingredients between two four-ounce patty portions — isn’t for the faint of heart, but it suits co-owner and spicy foods fiend Ty Mathis just fine. Modeled after the craft beer haven’s stuffed Juicy Lacey Cheeseburger, a take on a Midwest Juicy Lucy and named after co-owner and Ty’s wife Lacey, the Volcano highlights a hot spice courtesy of Ty’s aunt, who grinds a certain pepper that we can’t tell you the name of into a powder. “This will light you up,” Lacey says. “‘Volcano’ is not a joke, but people love it.” Ty adds: “Those fresh jalapeños are brutal.” You’ll definitely need a draft to pair with this one.

click to enlarge The Burger Issue: Creative license - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The Burger Issue: Creative license

THE BOMB

Tampa Bay Brewing Company
1600 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, 813-247-1422, tampabaybrewingcompany.com


Between the buns:
Beef patty, hickory bacon, Cheddar and tobacco onion strings wrapped in house pizza dough

Big idea: Easily Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s most beloved burger, The Bomb, offered with fries and a horseradish Red Eye ale sauce, really is the bomb. Around 2009 or so, the brewpub chefs wanted to fashion inventive, beer-inflected dishes, according to general manager Todd Dziubek, and The Bomb was one of them. Enveloped in a pizza dough infused with Brew Co. suds, the cooked half-pound burger mingles with the other three ingredients in the oven, baking for about eight minutes before greeting diners as a glorious golden brown round. Dziubek says the steam created inside the dough blesses The Bomb with its juiciness. “It’s a really good burger,” he says. “It’s hard to finish on your own, though.”

*The list is organized alphabetically by restaurant.

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