Proof that how you cook a hot dog matters just as much as what goes inside the casing, Webber’s powers its ultra-hot grills with hardwood charcoal, which imparts a smoky note that you’ll never get from gas. That wood improves everything Webber’s cooks, but we’re most impressed with its log-thick kosher-style dog ($4.59), seared until the skin is crispy and black then tossed inside a basic bun. Hot dogs do not get any better.
A pool hall situated across Old Main from the Manatee County courthouse, amid a flurry of ampersand-heavy law firms and cheekily named bail bondsmen, Council’s is best known for its cheeseburgers, which run $4.25 to $5.50. They are flawless—simple, thin, well-done patties outfitted with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and a toasted bun—and they hop off the Council’s grill in no time. Served on a small spread of white napkins, these burgers are juicy, fatty, crusty, salty. They are everything.
Surely one of the most iconic eateries on Anna Maria Island, the Holmes Beach restaurant attracts a crew of old island regulars and out-of-towners with island roots who stop in to catch up on the latest gossip and trade harangues about island politics. Oh, and they come for those burgers ($5), straightforward beef bonanzas that nowadays even include outré toppings like brie and caramelized onions or crumbled blue cheese. They taste even better when washed down with a pitcher of Bud.
Located in an unremarkable Sarasota strip mall next to a Save a Lot and a Family Dollar, Silver Star Restaurant is a perfectly preserved example of a dwindling species: the family diner. Breakfast here is filling and inexpensive, with all your favorites well represented. There are pancakes and omelets, biscuits and muffins, and some of the city’s most splendiferous breakfast sandwiches—super-gooey concoctions built out of eggs, bacon, cheese and croissants. Don’t miss the hash browns, which give those at the Waffle House a run for their money.
This two-location Venice burger business sizzles up meat for locals and blister-skinned tourists alike. The long, polished-wood bar at the original location, an old Waffle House, provides direct views of the deep fryers, the flattop and good-natured staffers who know how to cook a burger medium rare. Whether decked out with basics like lettuce, tomato and onion or with fancier ingredients like barbecue sauce and blue cheese, the restaurant’s beef starts at just $7.75 and packs a punch. Feeling thirsty? BrewBurger’s also serves a solid selection of local beers.
Tony’s is really only partly a restaurant. It’s also a shrine (Chi-Rine?) to all things Chi-Town, with a menu carrying a long list of beef and sausage sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs and Polish sausages, plus burgers, a pork chop sandwich and some “salads," whatever those are. An Italian beef sandwich, decked out with sausage and a 55-cent giardiniera upgrade, is doused with gravy, turning the bread into almost-mush and turning the wax paper underneath completely clear. Inside that moist bread, you find piles of thin beef laid atop a thick sausage. The spiced-up carrots, celery, cauliflower and peppers of the giardiniera gild the lily. Yum.