The winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula is also the only one with a perfect season on his resume. Shula’s Miami Dolphins won Superbowl VII in 1972 and went 17-0 on the year. This was the highlight of perhaps the greatest coaching career ever, one that began after a lengthy stint as an NFL player for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Washington Redskins before switching to management and winning two Superbowls with the Dolphins en route to 347 career wins, a record that still stands today.
Shula retired from the Dolphins in 1995 but hardly retired, trading the pigskin for cowhide and opening the successful Shula’s Steakhouse chain, a carnivore’s paradise that competes directly with the likes of the Palm, Ruth’s Chris, and Morton’s in the high-end red meat national arena.
The coach has enjoyed the same kind of success in the restaurant business that he did in the NFL. There are now 16 Shula’s Steakhouses nationwide, plus another 16 under the Shula’s 2 Steak & Sports, Shula’s On the Beach, Shula’s Bar & Grill, and Shula’s Grill 347 (get it?) labels.
Despite all the teams he played for, and all the teams he coached with, Shula is inseparable from Florida, where he is and will always be football royalty, so it is only fitting that his newest concept is debuting in the Sunshine State. Next week (December 12) will see the opening of the first Shula Burger on Islamorada in the Florida Keys. As Shula notes, “South Florida has been the backdrop for much of my career on and off the football field, and this location captures why so many of us call it home.”
The new restaurant is part of the new Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina at Holiday Isle. This hotel is a sister spinoff to the historic Postcard Inn at St. Pete Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, a historic icon more than half a century old, and was created by an $11 million facelift of an existing hotel. Islamorada is a world-renowned sportfishing destination, and one of the things that makes the marina here appealing. The hotel is trying to maintain a low key and laid back Florida Keys feel while offering modern technology, amenities and luxury rooms – in other words, your iPad will get WiFi but you can go to Shula’s Burger in flipflops.
The burgers will be made from a proprietary beef blend including ground short ribs and brisket, and clearly a fan of the pun, one of Shula’s signature ingredients is “perfect seasoning.” The menu’s highlight reel includes The Don, combining two American classics, a burger and a hot dog, on one bun with pickles, onion sauce, American cheese, ketchup and yellow mustard. More stylish and esoteric is the Wine Country, topped with roasted peppers and tomatoes, fresh goat cheese and balsamic greens. The burger offerings range from standard to surprisingly inventive, the appetizers reflect the flavors of the tropics and Caribbean basin, and it’s cheap, with burgers from just $6.99.
For now the only place to try the burgers is at the Postcard Inn, and for his legions of Miami area fans, that is not a tough road trip. If successful – and who would bet against the combination of a famous and beloved sports figure with a proven track record in beef-centric dining teaming up with America’s favorite food? – Shula’s Burger will be franchised and rolled out across the country. So if you can’t get to Islamorada anytime soon don’t fret – I have a feeling Coach Shula plans to bring his burgers to you.
BY LARRY OLMSTED