Works of Art

Sarasota's Best Burgers

From brilliant mash-ups to simple classics, these are the 11 best burgers you can get your hands on right now.

By Cooper Levey-Baker and Lauren Jackson September 18, 2023

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Indigenous' My Uncle's Burger.

My Uncle’s Burger


239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-4740,

Chef Steve Phelps’ revered downtown Sarasota fine dining establishment has little in common with Swensons, an Akron, Ohio, drive-in, except for this burger. As a youngster in the Cleveland restaurant industry, Phelps used to drive to Akron to down Swensons patties, but he never could figure out what made them so special. Until, that is, one night when Phelps’ uncle got drunk with a Swensons insider and convinced him to spill the beans: Swensons cuts its ground beef with frozen butter, a common trick, and it also adds honey. Voilà!

Phelps’ iteration of the Swensons burger swaps out the honey for maple syrup and drops in beef from humanely raised Niman Ranch cattle. A double patty is laced with cheddar cheese, a barbecue-aioli blend and a pepper-forward bacon jam. On the side sits a pile of leftover bits of carrots and onions and the like, which in other restaurants would go in the rubbish bin, but are here transformed into pickled condiment. (Word to the wise: Don’t even think about asking for substitutions. This burger is as thought-through as everything else on Phelps’ menu, and his small kitchen can’t handle variations.)

The result: a studly burger that nods to Phelps’ history in northeast Ohio as well as his ethical commitments. It’s high. It’s low. It’s tasty as hell.

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The Steakhouse Burger at Alpine Steakhouse.

Image: Chad Spencer

Steakhouse Burger

Alpine Steakhouse

4520 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 922-3797,

Bypass the traditional bacon cheeseburger in favor of one stacked with pork jowl at Alpine Steakhouse, which gilds the lily with a couple of onion rings. The thick strips of jowl, what the Italians call guanciale, deliver intense smokiness, and the rich beef is ground in-house and cooked to the exact temperature you request. This bad boy isn’t always listed on the menu, but the staff promises you can order it anytime.

The Meliora Burger.

The Meliora Burger.

Meliora Burger


1920 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 444-7692,

You won't find the burger on Meliora's inspired small-plate menu. That's because the Meliora Burger is only available at the bar and is only served in limited quantities each night. If you're lucky enough to snag one, you'll find a burger topped with a garlicky yogurt sauce, a hot-and-sweet pepper relish and pickled green tomatoes, which cut through the fatty patty and contribute a punch of acidity. The burger is finished with white American cheese and snuggled inside a house-made brioche bun. Most things are shareable at Meliora, but you'll want to keep the burger all to yourself.

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Made's eponymous burger.

Made Burger


1990 Main St., Ste. 112, Sarasota, (941) 953-2900,

No one would accuse Made chef Mark Woodruff of holding back. His dishes are decadent and bold, with a pileup of ingredients that walks the line between just enough and way too much. That goes for his signature burger, which includes (deep breath) high-end Niman Ranch beef, a tangle of barbacoa-style meat, sautéed red peppers and onions, a tart fried green tomato, cheese and lettuce, with a ramekin of the restaurant’s addictive homemade smoked ketchup on the side. You’ll never need to eat again.

The caramelized onion and brie burger at Shakespeare's.

Caramelized Onion and Brie Burger


3550 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 364-5938,

A legend. This burger has been helping locals soak up the beer selection at Shakespeare’s for more than a decade. A nest of slowly cooked-down onions flavored with balsamic vinegar rests atop the meat and below an X of brie slices, and the whole thing is slid into a rosemary-scented bun and accented with lettuce, tomato and onion. The patties here are thick, allowing the cooks to develop thick skins on the outside while keeping the interiors bloody. This beauty will never go out of style.

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State Street's fresh ground burger.

Image: Chad Spencer

State Street Burger

State Street Eating House + Cocktails

1533 State St., Sarasota, (941) 951-1533,

Rather than serving straight-from-the-jar pickles and raw onions, State Street slices cucumbers and red onions into thin ribbons and pickles them in-house before throwing them on top of the meat and cheese. The pickling adds moisture and a hint of sweetness, contrasting with the richness of the fat and protein below. Another hit: the bun. Most times, the sesame seeds on a bun are little more than decoration. Here, that shower of seeds is powerful enough to add their flavor to the overall package.

Basic Cheeseburger

Food + Beer

Sometimes you crave a behemoth burger with gourmet fixings, but sometimes you just want a basic cheeseburger. And while Food + Beer offers burgers that could fall into the former category, it's the simple one that keeps us coming back. This burger is exactly as you would expect, with no surprises. A thin griddled patty (add another if you want it extra-meaty) is topped with American cheese, pickles, lettuce, onions and tomato.

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Duffy's cheeseburger

Image: Chad Spencer


Duffy’s Tavern

Duffy’s has been a Holmes Beach institution since 1958, and its burgers are still pulling in commuters from Sarasota and Tampa, as well as long-time islanders and kids back home from college. The restaurant has added some frou-frou options like blue cheese, caramelized onions and the like, but its calling card remains its standard cheeseburger. The meat is the star, with a peppered exterior that delivers a sting. Ideal fuel for a day on the sand.

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BrewBurgers' cheeseburger and fries.

Image: Chad Spencer



370 Commercial Court, Venice; 545 Tamiami Trail S., Venice; (941) 484-2337,

The grill gurus at BrewBurgers are expert searers, adept at keeping thin patties pink and juicy while scarring their exteriors to blackened beauty. A tender, floury bun hugs the patty and contains the lettuce and tomato and a fistful of shredded lettuce. These burgers are a perfect accompaniment to the restaurant’s excellent selection of local beers. The menu gets adventurous and even a bit odd with toppings like mushrooms, tapenade and Buffalo sauce, but we prefer the straight-up, lactose-heavy classic.

Bacon Cheeseburger

Patrick’s 1481

1481 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-1481,

An institution. For years, Patrick’s hoarded best burger awards from local media outlets, delivering solid, straightforward combos built around patties that would come red in the middle if you so desired. The restaurant moved down the street to its current digs after 25 years in its previous Five Points home but made sure to bring those burgers with it. There may be more creative burgers out there today, but a throwback Patrick’s patty still has the capacity to wow.

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