South Beach — the mecca of strange, overpriced cocktails; glittery, drug-fueled dance parties; and pretentiously hip restaurants — has spawned a surprisingly down-to-earth burger spot in Pembroke Pines.
The buzzy Burger and Beer Joint, with South Beach and Brickell restaurants, has opened a location at Hiatus Road and Pines Boulevard, an up-and-coming corner of Pembroke Pines that has recently lured several high-quality, small casual food chains such as VooDoo BBQ and 100 Montaditos.
The vibe here has some of the best aspects of Miami Beach, with a young, upbeat staff, plenty of music, an inviting open kitchen and an interior with the right amount of scarlet paint, metal and polish to make the place look enticing but casual. Besides the main dining room, there is a quieter room to the right side, where half of the large bar resides. There is also plenty of outside seating, made cool by a pair of enormous (and I quote from their labels) "Big Ass Fans," which look like they belong on the wings of a small plane. With at least a dozen large TVs throughout the restaurant, the place is decent for catching a game, though it has a different vibe than, say, Duffy's or the Ale House.
While the prices are a bit on the high side for casual food, the portions are, too. Just because burgers are the prime feature here doesn't mean you should overlook the above-average appetizers.
Start with a plate of beer-battered onion rings ($7), featuring jaw-busting slices of onion so large Xena the Warrior Princess would be as quick to throw them at an enemy as to take a bite. While the rings come with a jalapeno-cheddar sauce, browse the list of 15 sauces for an alternative you may enjoy more, such as chipotle ketchup, cilantro sour cream and bourbon barbecue.
A plate of 10 "Octane" chicken wings ($10) comes barbecued or with three degrees of spiciness. We opted for the barbecue and got deliciously tender wings with a thick, smoky sweet sauce in just the right amounts. Chili fries ($9) with cheddar and sour cream are decent, with a tomatoey chili on a heap of slender fries and a dollop of sour cream.
If there's one appetizer not to miss here, it's the "Mac Daddy" mac and cheese ($7). It impressed me with a simple preparation and an expertly browned bread crumb coating.
As you move farther down the menu, you'll find a sentence that's like balm to burger purists: "All beef served MEDIUM RARE unless otherwise requested." That's right, folks, unlike other spots that make a big deal about their burgers and then won't serve them below medium or even medium well, Burger and Beer Joint actively encourages you to eat a burger with a nice, pink center.
The acid test for me at a new burger spot is to eschew the exotic toppings some restaurants use to differentiate themselves, while often hiding the mediocre meat underneath. So I asked for a simple, unfussy half-pound Angus beef burger on a brioche and Swiss ($10.50, no sides). The result was a juicy, delectable burger. With one bite, Burger and Beer Joint earned a spot among my most beloved burger restaurants.
While the simple burger was delicious, the restaurant finally made me feel some love for the kitchen-sink approach to burgermaking — that is, a burger piled with a slew of strange toppings. Even as trendy burger places go, this one's list of toppings is impressive: roast garlic buds, foie gras, fried eggs, prosciutto, truffle oil, arugula, 15 sauces, six buns (brioche, ciabatta, whole wheat, onion roll, sesame bun and a lettuce wrap) and 12 cheeses (Swiss, goat, jalapeno Jack, sharp cheddar, American, brie, mozzarella, provolone, bleu, smoked Gouda, havarti and feta).
The burger that has challenged my purist burger notions is the Mustang Sally ($16 with fries), 8 ounces of wagyu beef on brioche served with melted brie, prosciutto and the ridiculously delicious, semisweet red onion marmalade that electrified the whole dish.
What the table as a whole was particularly impressed by was the "Freebird " ($11 with fries), an 8-ounce turkey burger with Swiss cheese, grilled onions, sauteed portobello mushrooms on a flavorful onion bun. They must be using burger-fed turkeys back there, because this is surprisingly moist, flavorful ground turkey.
The Hotel California ($14) is a Mexican-American-themed oddball with 10 ounces of Angus beef, guacamole, cheddar, grilled onions, jalapeno relish, cilantro sour cream and a fried egg served on a brioche bun. However, the flavors in this burger lacked harmony.
Fries ($6 an order) include standard, unexceptional skinny french fries; duck-fat fries; sweet-potato fries; delicious zucchini fries; and our favorite, mushroom fries.
Burger and Beer Joint isn’t big on subtlety, and that’s most evident in the ridiculous dessert menu. First up is a line of barely printable “adult milk shakes” ($10 each), featuring offerings such as the Spank the Monkey (rocky road ice cream, banana, UV cake vodka and bols crème de banana) and O Face (chocolate ice cream, Frangelico and hot fudge). My wingman, whom I have mercifully decided not to name, insisted on ordering a Donkey Punch, a vanilla ice cream shake with mashed up Hostess Twinkies, whipped cream and a face-scrunching amount of Pinnacle Cake vodka. Either shake you try, ask your server for a the fat, flexible straws they give to kids, as the skinny ones that come with the drink will have you heaving for small chunks of ice cream. Also, consider swapping out the vodka-based shakes with a rum of your choice, which I think is a better fit.
Shakes aside, you’ll find even more decadent offerings, such as the King ($7) is a goblet of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce half-filled with fried Twinkies, a borderline absurd indulgence of which I ate more than I care to admit. The Maroon 5 ($7) was the hit of the table, featuring fried Oreo cookies in a goblet with chocolate syrup and a choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Surprisingly unimpressive was the Sweet Emotion, a sundaelike concoction made with dry, room-temperature brownies.
With its loud menu and South Beach origins, Burger and Beer defies expectations. It's a contender for Broward's best burger spot, a place with an inviting vibe, top-notch meat and a challenge to my deep love for simple — dare I say boring — cheeseburgers.
11025 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Reservations: Available for more than 10 people during weekdays
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate to loud
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes