It’s coming up Saturday, and we’ve got 22 local places from North Fort Myers to Naples, Marco Island and Sanibel where we’d be thrilled to celebrate.
Twisted Sheep Pizza & Brew
A burger from a pizza place? If it’s Twisted Sheep, then that’s a resounding yes. The creation of Naples native Calvin Joiner, the former owner of Red’s Pizzeria, and Chef Michael Voorhis, this isn’t just some slice shop. Twisted Sheep crafts its Black Sheep Burger with Kobe beef, roasted-garlic-thyme aioli and a blend of cheeses on a brioche bun. Can’t decide between burger or pizza? Get both with the restaurant’s Smash Burger Pie.
(3802 Tamiami Trail E., Naples; 239-919-3287; twistedsheeppizza.com)
Using its own blend of beef, this waterfront Marco Island joint crafts ½-pound and ¾-pound burgers that may be topped with pulled pork and fried pickles (ala the Prohibition Burger) or stuffed, juicy-Lucy-style, with bacon and cheese (that’s the Roaring 20’s Burger). Either way, grab some napkins. You’re in for a messy treat.
(1106 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island; 239-970-2929; speakeasymarco.com)
Smokin’ Oyster Brewery
For more than two decades, this open-air restaurant has served food that tastes good on the beach: grilled oysters, coconut shrimp, mesquite grouper — and some of the thickest, juiciest, cheesiest burgers on Estero Island.
(340 Old San Carlos Blvd., Fort Myers Beach; 239-463-3474; sob4fun.com)
Smoke’n Pit Barbeque
While this North Fort Myers mainstay is renowned for its pulled pork and Southern-style sides, don’t sleep on Smoke’n Pit’s burgers. The mushroom burger, a fan favorite, features a thick patty, bacon, white American cheese and loads of sizzling mushrooms — all for less than $10.
(1641 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers; 239-997-7982; smokenpitbbq.com)
There’s no better bang for your burger buck on Sanibel than there is at Schnapper’s. Pounded thin and griddled crisp, these are old-school, drive-in style patties. Tack on a gooey layer of cheese, some leafy lettuce and a buttery-soft bun, and you get an outstanding burger made even better by its beautiful island setting.
(1528 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel; 239-472-8686; schnappershots.com)
I wasn’t going to include Nevermind on this list, but I found it impossible not to. The restaurant that redefined dining in south Cape Coral lost its legendary chef-owner, Shannon Yates, last month. I haven’t been back since Yates’ death. But close friends have, and they say his classic pressed cheeseburger is as good as ever. That gives me hope for this restaurant — and for the best of Yates’ legacy to continue.
(927 Cape Coral Parkway E., Cape Coral; 239-994-3062; nevermindcapecoral.com)
Matt’s Red Hots
Another quick-service spot, Matt’s serves griddle-smashed burgers that can be piled with as many patties as you can handle. Matt’s also offers snappy, natural-casing Sahlen’s hot dogs. Add some hand-cut fries to the equation, and you can see how this place has become a San Carlos Park landmark in only four short (but tasty) years.
(18911 S. Tamiami Trail, San Carlos Park; 239-791-8036; mattsredhots.com)
Lucky Dawgs 2
If this banana-yellow building reminds you of the Vienna Beef hot dog logo, then Lucky Dawgs 2 has done its job. This takeout-only spot is a bite of Chicago in Golden Gate. Go for the Chicago dogs smothered in classic neon-green relish. Stay for a $7 double cheeseburger that’s worth every penny.
(12435 Collier Blvd., Golden Gate; 239-300-0367; facebook.com/luckydawg2)
Life: The Vegan Drive Thru
Burgers don’t have to be beefy to be good. Just ask Ryann Urban, Life’s owner and head cook. She makes her own vegan burger patties from an umami-rich blend of chopped mushrooms, black beans and quinoa. Her chewy-crisp bacon is fashioned from cured strips of coconut. Her cheese involves no dairy. And yet this burger is undoubtedly a burger; a delicious one, too.
(3310 Del Prado Blvd. S., Cape Coral; 239-599-2291; thevegandrivethru.com)
It’s been fun to watch this place expand, from Fort Myers Beach to a larger home base in Cape Coral and then on to Estero. It’s been even more fun to eat more Lehne Burger burgers with each new spot. These thick burgers with their array of customizable toppings get better and better.
(locations in Cape Coral and Estero; lehneburger.com)
MORE FROM JLB:In Estero, three new restaurants find room for growth
Keg & Cow
Tucked into a corner unit of a strip plaza way the heck out in west Cape Coral, Keg & Cow is easy to miss. But with juicy, ⅓-pound burgers loaded with just about anything you like (including a bourbon mayo that’s mmmmm), this is a place worth finding.
(2384 Surfside Blvd., Cape Coral; 239-558-5001; kegandcow.com)
Jimmy P’s Charred
These are burgers the way a family of butchers make them: crafted with ½ pound patties formed from their own thoroughly marbled blend of Wagyu beef that’s ground fresh, onsite every day. Jimmy P’s tops its lovingly made patties with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle; or with house-cured bacon, cheddar and a thick onion ring; or with caramelized onions and Swiss. That’s all to say: These are great burgers.
Hoosiers in Paradise
It’s been a minute since I’ve had a burger from Hoosiers, so I’ll hand this one off to Mark Travis, the Hoosier transplant who opened this popular Fort Myers Beach restaurant in 2013. “(W)e are known to have the best burger on FMB,” Travis wrote via email. “We use ½ pound of 100% Angus beef, a hand spanked and fresh, never frozen burger.” Toppings include a choice of cheeses, plus lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. To take this burger over the top, try Hoosiers’ homemade chips or onion rings as a side.
(1901 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach; 239-314-5601; find Hoosiers on Facebook)
The High Life Eatery
This simple takeout window serves the kind of burgers that require a stack of napkins and a shirt you don’t mind possibly ruining. Owner and head cook Chakita Taylor piles her patties high and does not skimp with the cheese. The result is a beautiful burger mess that I can’t get enough of.
(2957 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers; 239-208-7100; facebook.com/thehighlifeeatery)
Ask Neapolitans about their favorite burger joint, and this chickee bar is bound to enter the group chat. Harold’s char-grills its thick, all-Angus burgers with its own secret blend of seasonings then serves them on buttery, toasted buns. Tack on an icy pint of beer and the pool-front views of the Gulfcoast Inn, and you have a burger delight.
(2555 Tamiami Trail N., Naples; 239-263-7254; naplesharoldsplace.com)
Fat Katz Sports Bistro
When Fat Katz opened in a former Starbucks drive-thru in 2013, I fell in love with its burgers. Chef-owner Gregg Buell grinds his own blend of beef and bakes his own buns. He’s created things like the Bistro Burger (piled with his slow-braised short ribs and crumbled blue cheese) and the Wine”oh” (cabernet-infused mushrooms, fig jam, Manchego, bacon, spinach). There’s the Crazy Larry, the Buffalo Chicken, the Western, the Pastrami. Choosing is hard. Eating is all too easy.
(10080 Daniels Interstate Court, south Fort Myers; 239-768-3541; fatkatzsportsbistro.com)
This Puerto Rican food truck doesn’t merely serve burgers, it serves hamburguesas that can be piled single, double or triple, then layered with bacon or queso or all of the above. Not in the mood for a burger? Cheche’s tripletas are delicious, too.
(3 Homestead Road N., Lehigh Acres; 239-265-2416; facebook.com/chechesburgers)
Cabbage Key Inn
Legend has it, this is where Jimmy Buffet found his inspiration for “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” You can order that cheeseburger for yourself, with lettuce, tomato and Heinz 57 — just not the french-fried potatoes. The restaurant doesn’t have a fryer, though fans swear by its potato salad.
(accessible only by boat; water taxi departs from 13921 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia; 239-283-2278; cabbagekey.com)
In 2018, Brooks Burgers claimed the No. 2 spot on Tripadvisor’s list of the 10 best restaurants for burgers in the U.S. From a burger dressed with pulled pork, cheddar and a fried egg, to the sweet and savory doughnut burger with American cheese and bacon all lovingly crammed between two glazed doughnuts — I say that spot was well earned.
(multiple locations in Naples; brooksburgers.com)
Blue Dog Bar & Grill
This charming Matlacha restaurant is better known for its mullet and shrimp, but chef and co-owner Jesse Tincher is no slouch when it comes to burgers. I’ll let his menu do the talking: “A half pound of hand-pattied, flame grilled, Wagyu beef served on a buttered, toasted brioche bun; served with lettuce, beefsteak tomato … coleslaw and sea salt fries.” Mmmm.
(4597 Pine Island Road, Matlacha; 239-558-4970; bluedogmatlacha.com)
Fast casual yet thoroughly chef-driven, this place is aptly named. The chef driving it is Tim Yoa, whose classical training shines in everything he cooks — burger included. There’s just one beef-based burger on Artisan’s menu. It starts with Jackman Ranch Wagyu, then keeps going and going with Yoa’s tomato compote, his slowly caramelized onions, melting Gruyere, leafy arugula. It stops when you wolf down that last juicy bite. Unless you order another.
(8951 Daniels Parkway, south Fort Myers; 239-887-4844; artisaneatery.com)
10 Twenty Five
This place makes great burgers. Lots of great burgers. The PB&J, a thick patty smeared in Thai-peanut sauce and Melba jam, is a personal favorite. As is the Firecracker with its ghost-pepper cheese, fried egg and spicy aioli. Diners can customize their burgers with macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, guacamole. These burgers are your playground, and the results are always deliciously fun.
(locations in Cape Coral and downtown Fort Myers; cape10twentyfive.com)