The quest for a great hamburger is a mythical search, a neverending journey with no true destination, a ceaseless wandering from one patty to the next. It's that unrelenting, tireless search that recently brought me to Ford's Garage, the auto-themed burger and beer restaurant that opened earlier this year near the University Town Center mall.
The first Ford's Garage opened in 2012 in Fort Myers, near the home built by Henry and Clara Ford more than a century ago. In the years since, the restaurant has expanded around southwest Florida and Tampa Bay, and up to Indiana and Michigan.
Playing on the car connection, the door handles to the restaurant are designed to look like gas pumps, oil drums dot the premises and vintage Fords are displayed inside and out. In addition to the open dining room, there's a bar with seating both indoors and outdoors, as well as a patio. Not crazy about dining in a restaurant right now? Ordering takeout online is a cinch, and you can enjoy your meal at a picnic table at Nathan Benderson Park, less than a minute away.
Early on a Sunday evening, the restaurant is bonkers—full of people eager to watch some NFL and enjoy the restaurant's calling card: its burger. The meat menu includes two main types of burgers: "prime burgers," with a half pound of meat and a variety of fancy toppings, or "roadsters," with patties that weigh one-third of a pound.
The "Distinguished Gentleman" ($13.99) is one of the "prime" options. It comes draped with melted Swiss cheese from the famous Tillamook dairy in Oregon, smothered in sweet caramelized onions and layered with romaine lettuce, arugula and a slice of tomato. Ordered medium rare, it's impressively pink in the middle, and plenty garlicky, thanks to a tangy aioli smeared on the bun. The "Estate" burger ($14.99) has a similarly impressive beefiness and range of tastes, but also offers a satisfying crunch thanks to the inclusion of fried onion straws.
Sarasota has a crowded burger scene. Is Ford's Garage tasty enough to break into the city's upper ranks? For now, I'm reserving judgment, but I am impressed.
Ford's Garage is located at 295 N. Cattlemen Road, Unit #1, Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more info, call (941) 803-3673 or visit the restaurant's website.