For as many resorts as we visit, it’s hard to keep track of the things we love the most. Stunning infinity pools, classic white sand beaches, and amazing spas… oh yeah, those spas. But the one thing that never fails to get people talking, from strangers on social media to our closest friends and family, is the food. It doesn’t take long after a return or review for someone to ask, “What was the best thing you ate?”
I’ve always thought that the only thing that would make Guy Fieri’s job better would be if he visited the Caribbean (his Hawaii episodes are basically work research for me at this point). In fact, I often (half) joke that my quest in life is eating my way from the Bahamas to Aruba, which does a number on the beach bod, but, boy, is it worth it.
All jokes aside, restaurants and resorts from the U.S. to Costa Rica have worked so hard over the years to create better culinary experiences for visitors and regulars, and great food goes a long way in how we feel about our vacations. To get a better idea of which joints are serving up the best dishes in our favorite locations, we shined our hamburger spotlight into the night sky. The result is an inspirational appetizer for burgers we can’t wait to eat the next time we visit these popular destinations.
The Restaurant: Johnnie’s Drive In
The Location: Tupelo, Mississippi
Speaking of diners, drive-ins and dives, let’s start with a classic hamburger at a restaurant that makes for a perfect pit stop on the great American road trip. You don’t have to be a geography major to know that Tupelo isn’t an island, but if you’re driving south to escape the cold and enjoy an extended weekend of adventure on Cat Island or Ship Island, then you’ll want to make sure this Mississippi institution is marked on your GPS.
The Doughburger from Johnnie’s Drive In also comes with a great story. A favorite of Elvis Presley, this burger dates back to 1945 and is anything but ordinary, as the patties are made by mixing ground beef with other ingredients like potato flakes and breadcrumbs. The recipe was created from a need to conserve meat, but a funny thing happened: people loved it. And, so, a Magnolia State legend was born.
The Royalton Cheeseburger
The Restaurant: SCORE Sports Bar
The Resort: Royalton Suites Cancun
The Location: Cancun
When it comes to dining at resorts, we’re allowed to be snobby. We’re allowed to expect a little more from traditional menu items, like cheeseburgers, but we also don’t want them to be too crazy. The Royalton Cheese from the SCORE Sports Bar at Royalton Suites Cancun is a perfect example of this concept, because it is still very much a cheeseburger, but with some bonus frills.
For starters, it aces the eyeball test with all the right toppings and a fun red Solo cup full of fries on the side. But it also treats you with herbed goat cheese as an option, and if you haven’t tried that, you need to. Pairs very well with a strawberry margarita on the rocks.
The Umami Truffle
The Restaurant: Umami Burger
The Resort: Baha Mar
The Location: The Bahamas
One of the first travel lessons I ever learned when I was young was you don’t fly halfway around the world just to eat American fast food. Now, Umami Burger should never be compared to the Golden Arches, but when you visit a place like the Bahamas, you’re still not really thinking about eating at a beloved Los Angeles burger joint. That is, unless you know just how good Umami Burger really is.
We’ve highlighted the Umami Truffle because it is as simple as it is extravagant— truffle aioli, truffle cheese and truffle glaze—and you can practically taste this one just by looking at it. But first-timers should probably start with the Umami Classic, which features a burger patty, parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and ketchup. Or, as some resorts and restaurants throughout the Caribbean have realized, beef might not be your preference. Umami Burger’s Original Impossible Burger, with two veggie patties, has gained “cult” status, not just for being a great vegetarian option, but for being an all-around incredible burger that you can take right from Baha Mar’s charming food trucks right to the beach.
Beach House’s Citrus BBQ Burger
The Restaurant: Beach Deck
The Resort: Beach House
The Location: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
We typically expect a few things from Caribbean dining. For starters, a good view. Sunrise, sunset, a gorgeous beach and crystal waters—they all pair well with a meal. Also, we expect freshness and a little dash of creativity. These are things we’ve certainly come to expect from resorts and restaurants on Turks and Caicos.
The citrus BBQ burger at Beach House’s Beach Deck restaurant in Providenciales checks all the boxes, from the wonderful view of Grace Bay (there’s hardly a bad view of Grace Bay in general) to the in-house sauce for which this burger is named. And if you’re in the mood for a little extra Caribbean flavor, the pineapple slaw should do the trick.
Williwood’s Kabritu (Goat) Burger
The Restaurant: Williwood
The Location: St. Willibrordus (AKA Williwood), Curaçao
One of the reasons Curaçao has rocketed to the top of our must-visit list for the Caribbean is the island’s amazing sense of community. Local businesses and restaurants are relying on charm and innovation to turn the C in the ABC islands into an A+ destination. That’s especially the case for the village of St. Willibrordus Curaçao, which is better known these days as Williwood. It even has its own version of the Hollywood sign.
Visitors who flock to the island’s cove beaches will want to plan for lunch at the Williwood Terras, where the food is wild and the Williburgers are next level. Case in point: the Kabritu Burger, or spicy goat burger. Traditionally a stew, the goat meat was combined with a variety of seasonings and topped with creamy goat cheese to become one of the most unique and presumably delicious burgers in the Caribbean.
Morgan’s Veggie Burger
The Restaurant: Guy’s Burger Joint
The Resort: Planet Hollywood Beach Resort
The Location: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
For almost 10 years, tropical travelers have enjoyed Guy Fieri’s signature smash burgers as a staple of Carnival Cruises. Land lovers and beach bums, however, had to wait until 2018 to grab one of his Flavortown specials in a resort setting, when Guy’s Burger Joint opened at Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica. Authentic regional cuisine it might not be, but Fieri’s dishes are typically otherworldly, and that goes triple for Morgan’s Veggie Burger.
Named for his sister, this vegetarian option is a guest favorite and it’s easy to see why. An all-natural vegetable patty is comprised of three types of beans and topped with Siracha mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, all stacked atop a toasted whole-wheat bun. You might want to cut it in half.
The Bomber Burger
The Restaurant: The Bay Restaurant
The Location: Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Tucked away in Florida’s panhandle, surrounded by several beautiful state parks, Santa Rosa Beach is the kind of white-sand spot that locals don’t want people to know about. Well, tough luck. Once people learn about this incredible hamburger from The Bay Restaurant, people will be marking the Hwy. 331 bridge on Google Maps and setting course for Choctawhatchee Bay.
A truly amazing burger can be described like this: “Just look at that thing.” The Bomber Burger has achieved that status. Dripping with sauces of the super and street variety, the 8-oz. patty is topped with roasted tomato, caramelized onions and an asiago cheese crisp. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a new keyboard because this one is covered with drool.
The Restaurant: The Gate House
The Resort: The Grand Hotel
The Location: Mackinac Island, MI
At a place like The Grand Hotel, where visitors to Michigan’s beloved Mackinac Island are kept busy with a wide variety of activities, a really good burger is a necessity, if not for refueling then simply complementing the area’s sophistication and Americana charm. Fortunately, the Gate House restaurant offers a variety of incredible burgers that are perfect for everyone from golfers who just wrapped up 18 holes at The Jewel to dads who love a good beef-fueled mid-afternoon nap.
Burger snobs might prefer the American Wagyu Beef Burger, which is topped with pancetta bacon, Roquefort cheese and truffle mayo, but locals and visitors alike all agree that the signature Trapper Burger does the trick. A classic bacon cheeseburger topped with BBQ sauce, the Trapper is a great choice for celebrating a pickleball victory.
The Restaurant: Charbar Co.
The Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
If you’re the type of burger-loving traveler who has a tough time making decisions, Charbar Co. in Hilton Head Island might make things harder. That’s because this exemplary burger joint’s menu is downright unfair to those of us who want to try it all but only have so many days of vacation time. After all, there are two World Burger Championship Top 20 finishers on this menu, and the Dirty South Burger’s pimento cheese and smoked pork belly have me filling up my gas tank for a southern road trip right now.
So, if you need a starting point, the Goddess Burger should do the trick, despite looking too good to eat. The signature beef patty is topped with Brie cheese, harissa tomato jam, arugula, tomato, crispy prosciutto and the green goddess dressing. Don’t worry, you can have the Wine Jam Wagyu Burger tomorrow.
The Bagger Burger
The Restaurant: The Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course Clubhouse
The Resort: Kiawah Island Golf Resort
The Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Golfers shouldn’t need to be told about Kiawah Island, but it is a barrier island that boasts beautiful beaches and, of course, incredible golf courses. Specifically, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is home to five courses, including the Ocean Course, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991 and will host the 2021 PGA Championship. It was also featured in The Legend of Bagger Vance, and that’s why the Ryder Cup Bar’s signature burger is named the Bagger Burger.
Located inside the Ocean Course Clubhouse, where you’ll undoubtedly want to purchase extra balls before your round, the bar features a menu cultivated by executive chef John Ondo, who, as a native South Carolinian, puts his own spin on local cuisine, like the signature Crispy Shrimp. As for the burger, the black angus patty is topped with smoked cheddar and peppered bacon, and it’s all enough to make you forget about the 95 you just shot.
Baby Back Burger
The Restaurant: One Hot Mama’s
The Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
The great thing about hamburger creativity is that when a burger is so over-the-top that it looks like a piece of culinary art, we don’t feel as bad about it being too much. And since vacations are all about letting go and enjoying everything to the extreme, a meal like the Baby Back Burger at One Hot Mama’s in Hilton Head Island is the epitome of a let loose, undo your belt buckle vacation meal.
A former Food Network Star finalist, Chef Orchid’s menu features a variety of burgers and “super” sandwiches, but this burger combines the best of two worlds. An American cheeseburger by itself is great, but slap a 1/3 rack of boneless baby back ribs, red onion, coleslaw and pickles on the patty, and you will know why this restaurant is part of the Official South Carolina BBQ Trail.
The Carpet Bagger Burger
The Restaurant: B&B Butchers & Restaurant
The Location: Houston, TX
We’re cheating again here, because Houston is clearly not an island, but if you’re road-tripping to Galveston Island and need a quick burger fix, little birdies tell us the Carpet Bagger Burger at B&B Butchers & Restaurant is a mindblower. This burger, which showcases proprietor Benjamin Berg’s ability to blend his New York City culinary style with everything we expect from a Texas meat joint, is a wonderful mess of epic proportions.
The thick patty is part filet mignon and part sirloin and is topped with bacon, which is always a good start. But then come the fried oysters, which are smothered in blue cheese crumbles and the homemade hot sauce. So, even if you’re not planning a road trip to Galveston Island, this might be the inspiration you need.
The Los Ranchos Four-Chile Burger
The Restaurant: Steel Bender Brewyard
The Location: Albuquerque, NM
There’s no island near Albuquerque, so the only thing we have to justify including this burger is how good it looks. After all, when you’re the winner of the 2019 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown People’s Choice Awards, well, that’s as big as the Oscars to us hamburger aficionados. The Los Ranchos Four-Chile Burger at the Steel Bender Brewyard looks and sounds so amazing that we will just let the description speak for itself:
A local house-ground patty made with Native American Tribal Land brisket topped with a heaping portion of chopped Bueno Green Chile and Tucumcari cheddar with a house made aioli featuring Thunderhead Farms Paprika, Padron and Bird Chile peppers, local organic tomato, and locally-sourced arugula tossed in house made truffle-onion vinaigrette made from onions sourced from Loose Leaf Farms. Served on a Pastian’s Bakery bun with a side of hand-cut fries.
Looks like our next Mexico trip might be rerouted through Albuquerque.