Big or small, smothered with cheddar or bleu, crowned with bacon or slathered in peanut butter, burgers are an American favorite. There’s a burger for every taste, whether you’re grabbing a quick bite or seeking a more gourmet experience. These classic sandwich favorites have been around for more than a century, and from what we tasted around town, practice really does make perfect.
The local burger experience is more than just a meat patty. When eating out, the atmosphere has to be inviting. Buns have to be tasty, and also sturdy enough to handle such a huge hunk of meat. Toppings have to go well together, and complement the burger. The cheese — well, let’s face it, cheese is hard to hate. Side dishes are also crucial; no one likes limp, insipid French fries. Tallahassee’s burger scene is eclectic, juicy and, of course, delectable. To find your preferred patty, make sure you read up on the 14 eateries we’ve reviewed before you chow down.
Marie Livingston’s Steakhouse
2705 Apalachee Parkway
Burger Marie Livingston’s is known for its steaks, and the stuff that’s trimmed off that quality beef gets ground into the restaurant’s Texas Burger. Seasoned and cooked over an open flame, it makes for a superb patty.
Bun The toasted, seeded bun has a hard time holding up to the juiciness of the burger.
Toppings Lettuce, tomato, onion. $1 upcharge for cheese.
Fries and Sides Meal comes with one side. Your choice of Trail Taters (fresh-cut, with-skin French fries), cole slaw, barbecue beans or camp stew.
You Gotta Try Go bunless and order the 10-ounce Chopped Sirloin meal. It’s served like the steaks, swimming in Marie’s “secret sauce,” that’s oh-so-tasty but not for the low-sodium crowd.
Ambience No doubt, this is the nicest atmosphere you’ll ever find for burger meal that’s less than 10 bucks. The bar has pretty banquette seating and the main dining rooms are elegantly decorated in shades of black and tan. That said, it’s not stuffy and the servers are quite friendly and helpful.
Cost $5.95 (lunch), $7.99 (dinner)
Commentary There really is a Marie Livingston. Chances are very good that she or one of her two daughters will be there when you visit.
Photo by Daniel Vitter
805 S. Macomb St.
Burger Voodoo’s burgers are all Angus, but for a 50-cent upcharge you can enjoy a house-made veggie burger. You get your money’s worth here, with very generous portion sizes.
Bun Burgers come on a tall, fresh toasted Italian roll.
Toppings All burgers come with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and onions. Toppings vary from there, and include classic options like bacon, sausage and various cheeses, in addition to some more offbeat options like peanut butter, grilled pineapple and guacamole.
Fries and Sides Fries come with the burger, but there are many other sides available, including cheese and chili cheese fries, Zapp’s chips, baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, and (of course) coleslaw.
You Gotta Try Be brave and give the PB+B a try … see what you think of peanut butter and bacon together on an Angus burger!
Ambience Voodoo Dog is very retro, with ’80s-inspired memorabilia on the walls and a stand-up arcade game. They feature local artists’ work periodically, bringing in more local flavor.
Cost $9 (includes fries)
Commentary Yum … go get one now!
Offbeat Burgers Most of your options are offbeat. Pick the offbeat that sounds best to you!
215 W. College Ave.
Burger All burgers are 100 percent ground Angus. The 101 Burger was cooked medium, and while it looked unimpressive and dry at first, it was perfectly cooked and packed with flavor.
Bun The subtly sweet brioche bun has a sturdy, light texture and comes lightly toasted.
Toppings All burgers come with lettuce, tomato and onion. The 101 Burger has a spinach, artichoke and onion sauce that is creamy, hot and delicious!
Fries and Sides The burgers come with chips, and you have the option to upgrade to other sides, like sweet potato fries, for $1.
You Gotta Try The Bleu Bacon Burger — bleu cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, tomato — is delish!
Ambience The restaurant itself is clean, open, well lit and had a happy crowd. The music, however, was a bit dated — sappy R&B, Whitney Houston and Brian Adams. There could have been more pop.
Cost $10–$11, $8.99 lunch special for all burgers
Commentary The service was great and prompt, water was served with a slice of cucumber, and while there were a lot of downtown suits, the atmosphere was not dry. Still stuffed at 4 p.m. after lunch!
Vertigo Burgers and Fries
1395 E. Lafayette St.
Burger Beef is the primary option and burgers are thick and juicy, cooked medium well unless otherwise specified. If beef isn’t your bag, Vertigo has alternatives, including a shrimp patty, pulled pork, lamb and chicken.
Bun The bun is just enough bread to hold these monster burgers together and tasty enough to complement the meat and toppings.
Toppings You can go traditional with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion. Or, get more exotic with applewood bacon, SGD green hill cheese, griddled jalapeños or smoked pepper sauce.
Fries and sides Since the burger is the showstopper (no matter which one you choose), the sides don’t provide much to write home about. The fries are crispy, the onion rings tasty, but they’re only meant to complement the burger of your choosing.
You Gotta Try The Tremor. The beef burger is made so much tastier by the addition of the truffle tremor cheese and the crispy applewood bacon; it’s a virtual explosion of different flavors in each bite. The garlic dijonaisse adds some kick to this burger, taking it up a notch on the spicy side.
Ambience This is a very casual burger joint, and it stays fairly crowded during lunchtime and on the weekends.
Cost It’s a bit on the pricey side; chances are, if you’re ordering for two and both get burgers, sides and drinks, you are likely to spend at least $25. However, you get what you pay for and since this is no wimpy fast food burger, it’s well worth the added cost.
109 E. Jackson St., Thomasville, Ga.
Burger Called the Big Burger, this whopping char-grilled patty weighs in at a half pound of absolute yum.
Bun The ciabatta bun was grilled to just the right color and texture.
Toppings Choose between swiss, cheddar and blue cheese melted or spread on bun … Our server recommended the blue cheese, which turned out to be an inspired choice.
Fries and Sides Opt for the truffle parmesan fries, which are delicious. A side salad is available as well, for those who are not huge fry fans.
Ambience The space has rough concrete and brick walls with barn wood siding and a turquoise color bead board ceiling, and features bookshelves with cookbooks and food themes. Antiques and photos of Liam’s son add a homey, personal touch. The open kitchen lets guests have fun taking an occasional peek at the chefs while eagerly awaiting their food.
Commentary This place is well worth the drive and has the added bonus of the historic Thomasville downtown for shopping and looking around at lots of local, one-of-a-kind businesses. Enjoy the friendly atmosphere as you wait for the burger to digest.
Five Tallahassee Locations
Burger The basic Whataburger is a thin, but sizeable patty of never-frozen “100 percent pure American beef.” You can double or triple the patty — or downsize to the smaller Whataburger Jr.
Bun The toasted bun is 5 inches wide, but the Whataburger is big enough to reach the edges. You should get burger in every bite.
Toppings Comes with chopped lettuce and onions (which tend to fall out when you’re eating), tomato, ketchup and pickles. Jalapeños, cheese and bacon are also available. The chain boasts its own ketchup recipe.
Fries and Sides Fries are hot, crisp and skinny. There are also onion rings and apple slices.
Ambience The orange-roofed restaurant is everything you’d expect a 24-hour-a-day fast food joint to be. That said, the staff brings your order to your table along with a tray full of condiments, and they do a pretty good job of keeping the place tidy.
Cost $3.14 ($5.54 for a meal)
Commentary Service can be slow, but the counter helpers are nice and should be awarded medals for dealing with late-night drunks in search of Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits, which are only served after 11 p.m. And there’s a fairly extensive menu of meals coming in at under 550 calories.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Two Tallahassee Locations:
1872 Thomasville Road (Midtown)
and 3499 Thomasville Road (Northeast)
Burger The regular hamburger is two 3.5-ounce patties of 100 percent fresh beef, but for many people, the single-patty “Little Hamburger” is plenty. The burgers are juicy and tasty, but the two patties can slide around and get messy. Have napkins handy.
Bun Standard sesame seed bun. It’s toasted, but when coupled with multiple toppings, burger juice and foil wrapping, the bun can get mushed.
Toppings There are 15 toppings on the menu; the standards (lettuce, pickles, tomato, ketchup, mustard, etc.) and some nice additions such as grilled mushrooms and onions and jalapeño peppers. Add any or all of them to your burger for free.
Fries and Sides Fries are the only side offered — regular or Cajun syle, for a kick. You get plenty, and always get an extra scoop of fries tossed in the bag for good measure.
Ambience The square, white tiles make the restaurant bright and “bathroomy,” but it’s also a very clean look. You can watch as your burger is cooked and assembled. Or, grab a table and a cupful of complimentary peanuts to enjoy until your order is called.
Cost $4.99 ($3.89 for a single Little Hamburger)
Commentary It’s fast food, but the quality and abundance have gotten Five Guys voted by the readers of Tallahassee Magazine as the Best Hamburger three years in a row.
1921 W. Tennessee St.
Burger Burgers are handmade from Angus Beef ground on-site. The restaurant also offers burgers made from lamb, black beans and a half-and-half mix of ground beef and bacon.
Bun Pick from brioche or an asiago cheese and crispy onion artisan bun. Both are fresh-baked and are able to absorb the burger’s juiciness.
Toppings The standard “Joe Blow” comes topped with your choice of sharp cheddar, romaine lettuce, purple onion, tomato and thick-sliced pickles. They also have a couple of interesting flavored mayos — balsamic and roasted garlic.
Fries and Sides The burger comes with a generous serving of fries — either regular or sweet potato. Upgrade to any other side on the menu for $2, a list that includes mac and cheese, white truffle asparagus, eggplant fries or cheddar grits.
You Gotta Try The After Hours. It’s their 50-50 burger (the patty is half-beef and half bacon) topped with even more bacon, sharp cheddar and a fried egg.
Ambience Opened in November, Prime Time has an odd atmosphere that seems to work. There are two large bars — including a “frost” bar — banquette seating and lots of bar food, but there are also plenty of tables and other, more sophisticated entrees and six fresh-from-scratch desserts on the menu. The location, drink specials and late-night hours would peg it as a college place, but it’s attractive to an older crowd too. Families? Not so much.
Ted’s Montana Grill
1954 Village Green Way (Capital Circle)
Burger Choose any burger prepared with bison or beef, and all burgers are ground fresh in-house throughout the day, handcrafted and seasoned to perfection. They have 17 different burgers on the menu.
Bun Burgers are served on your choice of a toasted ciabatta roll, oatie wheat bun, Kaiser roll or onion bun.
Toppings Toppings vary from bacon to caramelized onions to avocado, each burger paired with the right topping to make for a unique and satisfying taste. There are eight various cheeses paired to perfection with your specialty burger.
Fries and Sides The burgers come with a generous serving of fries, prepared and cut from potatoes fresh every day; or choose from several other sides including onion rings, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and so much more.
You Gotta Try The Avalon is yumm-o! It starts with toasted onion bun, melted Gruyère with a hint of bleu cheese, crumbled bacon and sweet caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli and baby arugula — culinary perfection!
Ambience There is definitely an authentic way-out-West saloon feel, as a buffalo peers high above the dining room and the walls are lined with Western art. Yet the hardwood floors, wood-paneled booths, cloth-covered tables and silverware served in linen create the ambience of a proper dining room.
Commentary With a full bar and restaurant seating, this is always a great pick with something to please everyone. Plus, how can you go wrong with food that is prepared and served fresh daily?
316 W. Tennessee St.
(in The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel)
Burger These burgers are half-pounders, made to order.
Bun Very unique. Shaped like a bun but made like a croissant. Ooh la la!
Toppings Your Juicy burger can be topped with your choice of mushrooms, onions, lettuce and tomato. There is also a wide selection of cheeses: cheddar, American, blue, Swiss and provolone.
Fries and Sides The standard side here is nice, crisp waffle-cut French fries. You can also up your game and order the sweet chips — sliced sweet potato chips drizzled with cinnamon butter.
You Gotta Try The bocadillo sliders, found under the Tapas portion of the menu. These puppies will give you a whole new perspective on veggie burgers.
Ambience The space has very upscale coffee shop vibe, with pool views depending upon where you sit.
Commentary The staff here is very friendly!
Wells Brothers Bar and Grill
1710 W. Tharpe St.
Burger All of Wells Brothers’ burgers are nine ounces of beef cooked over an open flame. Build your own burger, or choose from their selection of 10 specialties. You can substitute a vegan burger or chicken breast for any burger on the menu.
Bun The standard is a tasty Kaiser roll, or choose rye, sourdough or wheatberry sandwich breads that are toasted to perfection.
Toppings This place takes “have it your way” to the stratosphere. Choose from a menu of 10 cheeses, 20 regular toppings, 10 premium toppings and 27 sauces.
Fries and Sides The burgers come with a generous serving of fries — or choose several other sides including onion rings and sweet potato fries (for an upcharge), and more healthful options such as pasta salad, fresh fruit, chips and salsa, or carrots and celery.
You Gotta Try The Ad Burger ($8.95). It starts with toasted sourdough bread smeared with Cajun mayonnaise and black bean mix, stacked with a burger, pepper jack cheese, lettuce and tomato. And all that’s topped with a fried egg.
Ambience It definitely has a super-casual college vibe. Because the kitchen is semi-open, you may end up leaving smelling like a char-broiled burger. But is that such a bad thing?
Commentary Folks in the know call this joint “Monk’s,” but because of trademark issues, they’re not allowed to call themselves by the more popular name.
Shula’s 347 Grill
415 N. Monroe St.
Burger The patty is an 8-ounce blend of fresh premium black angus chuck, short rib and brisket. Ours was cooked perfectly, with a flavorful, pink center and crispy edges. It was juicy and packed with flavor but not greasy.
Bun The brioche style bun had a great, fluffy texture but was also sturdy enough to hold the burger. The slightly eggy, sweet flavor complemented the savory taste of the burger very well.
Toppings The standard Shula Burger comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle and American cheese.
Fries and Sides Choose between steak fries, smashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. There are also sweet potato fries, which is a superb choice. The heat from the chipotle ranch dipping sauce perfectly offsets the fries’ sweetness.
You Gotta Try The House of Blue burger is a can’t-miss. Caramelized red onions bring sweetness and a bit of crunch to the burger, while crisp balsamic greens provide the acid to cut through the creamy, decadent blue cheese.
Ambience Shula’s 347 is elegant but comfortable with striking lighting as thousands of clear, glowing wine bottles hang from the ceiling of the central walkway. Tall booths provide some privacy in the main dining room. Jazz plays softly in the background, and the televisions are always tuned to sports.
Cost $12 for the Shula burger, $14 for the House of Blue.
Commentary Our reviewer says it’s the best burger she’s eaten in her life.
Cody’s Original Roadhouse
1926 Capital Circle N.E.
Burger A half-pound burger, made from Choice steak trimmings that are ground fresh daily.
Bun A cross between a Kaiser roll and ciabatta bread, Cody’s rolls are good, and they hold up well to a juicy burger.
Toppings For the same price, you can have double cheese, or not. Other toppings are standard: lettuce, tomato, red onion or pickle. Grilled onions or onion straws can be had for a 49-cent upcharge.
Fries and Sides Road Fries are the default side, but you’re welcome to sub in any of the restaurant’s other side dishes, such as baked (Idaho or sweet) or mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli and a vegetable medley. Even if you do order a burger, the meal starts out with heavenly sweet yeast rolls.
You Gotta Try The Black and Bleu Burger — a blackened burger topped with bleu cheese and grilled onions.
Ambience In true roadhouse style, Cody’s offers up complimentary peanuts and a mind-boggling array of vintage signs, garage memorabilia and pithy advice painted on the walls.
Cost $7.98 with a side
Commentary Service can be hit or miss. We’ve had friendly, attentive servers and others who screwed up orders and/or went MIA mid-meal.
Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
325 N. Bronough St.
Burger Chow down on a 10-ounce burger, or take a stab at a colossal 20-ounce monster, but be warned; even the menu cautions, “The bigger ones are really just for show … You don’t want none of this.” Additional patties can be added for $3 each for serious carnivores. Once you’ve decided just how ambitious you’re feeling, choose how you would like your burger spiced, with options such as lemon pepper, blackened, Bird’s special, mojo or jerk.
Bun Bird’s burgers and sandwiches are all served on Kaiser rolls.
Toppings There are 22 toppings, ranging from standard lettuce, tomato and onion to an egg, coleslaw or crabmeat. Get adventurous! Special toppings are a 50-cent upcharge.
Fries and Sides Choose between fries, coleslaw, and onion rings (which were delicious!).
You Gotta Try While there are no pre-set or recommended burgers on the menu, we’d suggest a burger spiced with Bird’s special seasoning or blackened, with grilled onions, garlic, cheddar and bacon.
Ambience This place is a fun, laid-back, hole-in-the-wall gem, with posters for Tarantino films and cult-classic movies plastered on the walls and ceiling. Rock music plays in background, and at 7 p.m. on Tuesday they have trivia! Every night is a different event.
Cost $8 for a 10-ounce, $11 for a 20-ounce.
Make Your Burgers Like a Pro
We’ve Scoured the ’net (and Our Mothers’ Recipe Books) for Words of Beefy Wisdom.
- Don’t use ground beef (too much fat) or ground sirloin (too little). Opt for ground chuck with a “just right” fat content. For extra flavor, experiment by adding brisket or tri-tip to the chuck.
- Salt your meat after the patties are formed, within minutes of cooking. Salting too early allows the salt to dissolve the proteins, giving the burger a springy, unpleasant texture. It can also dry out the meat.
- For juicy inside, seared outside burgers, use a “two-zone” method. Pile the charcoal on one side of the grill. Slow cook the patties (covered) on the side without the charcoal. Then uncover, move them over and give them a quick sear without the cover.
- Upgrade your toppings. Drop bacon on that patty; drizzle on some balsamic; use arugula instead of iceberg lettuce or caramelized onions instead of raw.
- Opting for sesame seed buns, or even grabbing some buns from the grocery store bakery, could make a huge difference. Smear some butter on the bun and toast it on the grill for a high-end touch.
- Forget Velveeta and choose a cheese like Swiss, gouda or bleu. Check out the deli and go crazy!
All credit for this delicious list goes to Tallahassee Magazine. https://www.tallahasseemagazine.com/tallahassees-bodacious-burgers/