Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Dick’s quickly silences grumbling bellies with a menu of tasty grilled edibles and a tongue-tingling variety of spicy twists. Fried pickles ($4.29), buffalo shrimp ($7.49), or wings in 365 available flavors ($8.99/10) engage mouths as guests wait for the main attraction—half-pound burgers, whose meatslabs are hand-pressed and grilled to order over the heat of omnipresent flame decals. Bacon, swiss, and lettuce enrobe the Squealin' Cheeser burger ($7.59), whereas sautéed mushrooms sit proudly atop the Shroomer burger ($7.59) and a trio of cheddar, american, and jack adorn the Three Cheeser ($7.59). All burgers come with a choice of steak fries or waffle fries and can be sharpened with any of Dick’s 365 sauce blends ($0.59 additional). Before strolling over to the nearby beach to squash sandcastles, diners can clog their molars with chunks of deep-fried Oreos ($3.99), a chocolate tribute to the hamburger and a smooth ending to a spicy ride.
The kitchen staff at Mixed Skillet cracks eggs into omelets and sizzles sausage for breakfast, then slips meatballs into subs and wraps up burritos to offer a menu of Italian and Mexican lunch fare. Yawning diners wake up with the Atomic omelet’s sausage, jalapeños, and banana peppers ($5.95) or a philly wrap that rolls up steak with red peppers and mushrooms ($4.95). Midday ruminators can also bite into chicken piccata ($6.95) or silence the sobs of a roommate who recently dropped her favorite pickle jar into a wood chipper with a Blue burger ($6.25). Chicken ($6.95) or beef ($5.95) soft tacos position their plates to watch the flat-screen TV before meeting their swallowed destiny.
The Gourmet Grouper was born out of a fruitful business partnership between veteran seafood-market owners John Shuler and Jason Arteaga, along with Christina Monas. The three set out to create a curated supermarket utterly unlike mega-groceries—one that could provide shoppers with a tailored selection of high-quality meats, seafood, and drinks from both distant climes and local markets. "We wanted to build a grocery store that we would like to shop at," John told the Beaches Leader. Along with his childhood friend and business partner, Jason, he procures gourmet goods from his network of local and worldwide farmers, fishers, and food artisans. The result is a smorgasbord of upscale groceries that tempt shoppers with fine cheeses, dry-aged Montana beef, Gulf stone crabs, and Louisiana crawfish. The goods are ideal for planning an elegant dinner party. Seasonal potatoes and vegetables can accompany lobster tails or Chilean sea-bass filets alongside craft beers and fine wines. The market even has artisanal snacking covered with gourmet pickles crafted by local picklesmith Tim Baker, who locks the fresh veggies' flavor into delicious stasis with careful brining and mild witchcraft.
To create their version of New American cuisine, the father-and-son team of Bassam and Nedal Mardini draw inspiration from virtually everywhere except America. At Maza New American Cuisine, their gorgeously plated dishes spotlight flavors from Mexico, Japan, and myriad countries in between. Consider their diverse treatments of a simple ingredient such as duck, which the duo marinates in pomegranate as an entree and loads into tortillas along with pickled celery and balsamic as an appetizer. The rest of their eclectic menu ranges from open-faced pork belly sandwiches crowned with tahini slaw to vegan- and vegetarian-friendly bites, including roasted eggplant purée. These meals, which the Florida Times-Union described as "fine dining quality", unfold in a cozy dining room adorned with fine-art paintings and photos.
The couples eating Valentine's Day dinner at Buddha Thai Bistro would have been flooded with rose pedals, if not for the gauzy tapestries that hung from the ceiling and held them aloft. The eatery's ceiling is a canvas that changes with the seasons, sporting hundreds of folded paper sculptures for the Thai New Year or colorful streamers for other celebrations. Though the decor fluctuates, Buddha Thai Bistro's commitment to flavorful cuisine remains constant. In the kitchen, seven varieties of curry simmer with meat and vegetables, fried rice sizzles alongside eggs and glass noodles, and extra spices lend a sobering kick to drunk-man noodles, served for lunch or dinner. A new vegan menu offers dishes such as soy shrimp and papaya salad and tofu egg rolls, and a robust wine menu helps diners pair reds, whites, and sakes with their meals.