I'd spent a good part of the day reading National Burger Month press releases. One chef's topping burgers with caviar, another with truffles. Others are serving pork burgers, veggie burgers and even a carbonara burger.
So when the question of what's for dinner came up at about 5 o'clock, all I wanted was a simple, old-fashioned hamburger. I didn't want to order at a counter. I wanted to have a cold beer. And the burger had to be outstanding.
If you've ever had the 13-ounce sirloin burger ($11) at Le Tub, you'll know why this dive on the Intracoastal in Hollywood went to the top of my list. Next year, Le Tub will celebrate its 40th anniversary, and the Le Tub burger — served on a Styrofoam plate with a slice of onion, a slice of tomato and romaine leaves — is among the best burgers in South Florida. It's an inch-thick sirloin patty that tastes of lightly seasoned beef and charcoal. It's not unlike some of the best burgers I've had the pleasure of eating in the back yards of friends and family.
Fries ($3.50 small/$5 large) are deliciously thick and fried in peanut oil until golden. When we asked our waitress if there was anything else on the menu we should try, she recommended mozzarella sticks ($9), which are served with marinara sauce. I don't understand why anyone would eat deep-fried cheese.
Over the years, I've tried to branch away from burgers at Le Tub. The chili ($4 cup/$5 bowl) isn't bad, but it's a bit too beefy for my tastes. I've liked the barbecue pork on a roll ($9), but I definitely don't go to Le Tub for salads ($7-$17) or tuna fish sandwiches ($8.50).
Don't come here for anything but burgers. Or maybe a slice of Key lime pie ($4), which is of the tart variety.
Over the years, I've watched Le Tub explode in popularity after GQ magazine wrote that it served the best burger in the country. Oprah Winfrey threw it some love. George Motz included it in his 2011 "Hamburger America: A State-by-State Guide to 150 Great Burger Joints."
A few years ago, I waited more than an hour for a simple hamburger. When we brought the long wait to our waitress' attention, we were told that the grill could only handle so many burgers. It took a walk back to the open kitchen and, sure enough, the grill looked to be 2-by-3-feet. Last week, we had our burgers in 15 minutes.
Le Tub started life as a gas station in 1959. Russell T. Kohuth, who died in 2010, got rid of the gas before opening the restaurant in 1975, but kept many of the commodes and bathtubs he found inside the building. Thus, Le Tub. The plumbing fixtures are still there.
The restaurant sits on a primo sliver of land between A1A and the Intracoastal. Inside and out, it looks like a weathered wharf with uneven floors, bench seats and tables that might have been made over a couple of weekends and several cases of beer. I don't recall it having air conditioning. If you find charm in decay, Le Tub is for you.
The whole place could use a thorough pressure cleaning. The well-worn menus are photocopied on white paper. Condiments are kept inside dirty Red Stripe boxes on every table. Diners get their own water from yellow coolers. Waitresses seem to be hired for their ability to sass. The other day, green mosquito coils were placed around the restaurant to ward off what a waitress said were no-see-ums.
I don't want Le Tub to change a thing.
1100 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood
Cuisine: Burgers, ribs, seafood
Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sun.-Thurs.; noon-2 a.m. Fri. and Sat.
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: With assistance
Parking: Free, but tight lot