By Monique Gonzalez
My first official gig as an #MMTM contributor (sounds fancy, huh?) was nothing short of spectacular. Thanks to my pals, Mitch & Mel, who know me so well, they sent me on a foodie adventure made up of a few of my favorite things – burgers, pizza and cocktails (oh my!). Yes, perfect for that oh-so-hot summer bikini bod, you say? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s never stopped me before. So, I was beyond thrilled to learn I’d be experiencing Pizza & Burger – Michael’s Backyard Kitchen, the new savory summer pop-up from nationally acclaimed star chef Michael Mina.
Recently opened for the summer, Pizza & Burger is nestled within Michael Mina 74 in the Fontainebleau Hotel, and offers the relaxed fun flavors and laid-back ambiance of a midsummer backyard bash. The menu, inspired by Mina’s family summer cookouts, truly embodies all things delicious, consisting of made-from-scratch pizzas, with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and Mina’s ridiculously delectable burgers – an expansion of the offerings that have gained a devoted following at Michael Mina 74.
Upon being seated, my eye immediately wandered to the cocktail menu (what’s new?). It’s like standard operating procedure when kicking off any meal (yes, sometimes even breakfast, people). The Pink Flamingo, made with Caña Brava & Pyrat XO Rums, Amaro Averna, blood orange, and lime, was a nice kick-start cocktail and perfect for this time of year. If you’re feeling thirsty, Pizza & Burger’s cocktail menu is there to quench, offering a variety of handcrafted cocktails, wines by the glass, and a killer selection of local beers. I later down-shifted to the MIA IPA, one of my faves. Important to note that my hubs and I are both IPA lovers (well, he’s more of an IPA snob, really), and Mina’s MIA Brewing beer list is snob approved. Also important to note, their Social Hour is rockin’ – when you order any of the specialty cocktails, you get the second for $1. Yes, $1 – that is NOT a typo.
The Snacks & Shares section of the menu offers some pretty fantastic starters. Following the recommendation of both the hostess and our server (Cesar – lovely guy!), we ordered The Toast. And was that toast g-o-o-d. I’m talking puts-Texas-Toast-to-shame good. Toasted Sourdough bread topped with prosciutto, house-made ricotta cheese (no cutting corners here!), black pepper honey, stone fruit and toasted pecans combined to make the perfect sweet-and- savory party in my mouth.
Next up – salad. Now, normally, I don’t do salads. BUT, I must admit, the Summer Market Salad menu sorta turned me on. This build-your-own style menu allows you to create your own masterpiece (or salad) by selecting up to 10 ingredients for your seasonal ensalada. A variety of greens, including little gem, super greens and wild arugula, tons of fancy veggies, fruits, artisanal cheeses and my personal fave, a section dedicated to Textures & Crunchies. Toasted hazelnuts and quinoa combo? Yes, please! Protein toppings included Gulf prawns, king salmon, tofu steak, and free-range chicken. Our salad du jour was simple and satisfying with little gem lettuce, charred yellow corn, Nardello peppers, avocado, quinoa, olive oil-soaked feta, and gulf prawns.
And now for the real good stuff. The pizza menu was intimidating and glorious all at once. An assortment of classic pies, as well as Grandma’s style pizzas, made with focaccia crust, are yours to have. It was tough to choose just one, but momma had to leave room for her burger. So, we went with The Surf, aka Heaven.On.Earth. Butter-poached lobster, chanterelle charred corn and summer truffle, topped with crispy onions. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be, ‘cause I can almost guarantee there’s a slice of heaven (pun intended) that tastes just like The Surf.
Next up – burgers! I felt compelled to balance my meal with a lighter option (again, because beach bod), so I went for the Turkey Burger. Best decision that night. This burger, dubbed The Bird is a slightly lighter, heart-healthy alternative to a classic burger, made up of fresh ground heritage turkey, avocado, pepper jack cheese, harissa aioli, and pickled veggies. The aioli provides a nice kick, so if you’re not into it, just ask for it on the side. Luckily, our burger chef knows what he’s doing and added the avocado to balance the fire. Burger hack: they add jack cheese to the turkey meat to keep it moist and juicy. #Winning.
Why stop at one burger when you can have two, right? And, why order a plain ol’ burger when you can have a Frita. See, I can spot (or taste) a damn good frita a mile away. And The Cuban Frita at Pizza & Burger immediately transported me back to my childhood days when my Uncle Rey would make them just for me. The perfect blend of beef and chorizo, topped with smoked paprika aioli and crispy potatoes. Now, if I’m being honest, I could’ve done without the lettuce and tomato, which you wouldn’t typically find in an authentic frita. Just sayin’. Oh, and overachievers, listen up: all burgers can be piled even higher with add-ons ranging from fresh mozzarella and crispy bacon to foie gras and butter-poached lobster.
So, that’s how it all went down. Unfortunately, I did NOT order dessert. Not my proudest moment, trust me. However, I’ve got my eye on the Rocky Road Profiteroles for my next visit, which will hopefully be soon.
Monique’s take: All in all, it was a darn good first #MMTM experience. Prices are affordable, menu offerings aplenty, and the vibe is backyard bash-chic. Did I mention some of my favorite 90s hip-hop tunes – from A Tribe Called Quest to Fugees – made it that much more inviting? As cliché as it sounds, Pizza & Burger offers something for every palate. So, design your own salad, graze on an array of yummy snacks and bites, or indulge in some mouthwatering pizzas and burgers, but just do it before the summer is over, peeps. Pizza & Burger – Michael’s Backyard Kitchen will remain open through Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 5th). Hurry on over before it’s too late.
Standout dishes: So, if and when you go, The Surf is a must. Followed by The Bird. And, of course, if you’re a frita aficionado, The Cuban Frita is the obvious choice.