An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 27, 2014
05:36 AMThe Connecticut Table
(Even More) Best Burgers in Connecticut for National Burger Day May 28
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We've been updating this story with more great Connecticut burgers since it was first published at the end of April, with the updates getting tacked onto the end. As National Burger Month hits its juicy midpoint this week, we're pushing the new updates to the top (but read the whole story cause some of the best burgers around show up at th end.) Once burger month wraps, we'll reformat the story and pin it to our dining section as a fairly definitive guide to great burgers all over the state. Enjoy!
OK, we know National Burger Month is over. But one last link and shout out before we dig in and reformat this story as an ongoing resource for finding the best burgers all over Connecticut. Our friends at Ctbites just posted their annual CTbites' Best Restaurant Burgers in Fairfield County: 2014 Edition and it's yet another delicious addition to the conversation. For the second year in a row, the winner is The Whelk in Westport, whose burger is shown at right. The official month of burgers may have passed, but not our appetite for great burgers. Stay tuned.
In honor of the upcoming SoNo Restaurant Week in South Norwalk, from June 8 to 13, we're devoting some of our last bites before National Hamburger Day May 28 to the great Match restaurant in the heart of happening SoNo, which posted this oh-so-tempting photo (left) on its Facebook page last week, offering sweet, juicy solace on a rainy Thursday evening. Here's how the menu describes The Match Burger:
Match Burger, 7oz’s of Craft Butchery’s finest, char-grilled,
caramelized onion-sesame brioche, bacon-cheddar ‘dip’, bacon,
sweet & sour onions, fries & NYC pickles (red, pink, or gray)
Amen to that.
We just got a tip on Facebook to check out Flipside Burger & Bar in Fairfield, and while we haven't had a chance to try it yet, one look at the photos on the Flipside website make us think that the intel on this being another hotspot for great Connecticut burgers is on target. Here's how Flipside, which won a Moffly Media Best of the Gold Coast award in 2013, describes itself:
Flipside Burger & Bar is the place to go for delicious food, fun times and great atmosphere in the heart of Fairfield, CT. Our bar closes once the last man drops! Flipside is a rare find, but not easily found, as it is nestled in an alley just off the Post Road in Fairfield. The restaurant was visualized while owner Mike Baffa was enjoying his role as the owner of an upscale restaurant in Wilton. Baffa wanted to take the concepts of freshness and creativity and make great food available to everyone at affordable prices. In September of 2009, he created Flipside, a casual restaurant and bar where the goal is to provide great, fresh food with first-rate tableside service at reasonable prices.
And, as you can see from photos, planning a visit is in order ASAP. Flipside is located at 1125 Post Road in Fairfield. The phone number is (203) 292-8233.
"The White Horse is the best pub I have been to in America," says Sir Sean Connery, who was not the first but the most classy and classic James Bond in films. Great burgers are one reason The White Horse, located in a picturesque riverside spot in lovely Washington, Conn., is so good and beloved. (There are tons of other reasons to discover the classic British country tavern and pub, all cited on its website—and when you go for the burgers and other delicious food make sure to take time to look at the memorabilia, which includes not only the restored Indian motorcycle behind the bar but a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones and many other intriguiguing and authentic pieces of history.) With spring finally here, now is the perfect time to seek out The White Horse. (White Horse burgers above and right; photos by Wendy Carlson.)
Our friends and content sharing partners at CTbites.com are digging into National Burger Month in a big way. Last week they offered Best Burgers in Stamford CT: Celebrate National Burger Month, and this week they followed that up with Best Bar Burgers in
Kudos to our colleague, photographer Mara Lavitt, for focusing the lens of her great New Haven Eats blog on the Cask Republic location on Crown Street in New Haven, "which was opened in January 2010 by Christian Burns, who owned the Gingerman restaurants in three states that focused on high-end beers. Burns expanded the restaurant group to include Cask Republic, first in New Haven and more recently in Stamford."
"The restaurant offers two menus – one food, the other beer," Lavitt writes in her May 21 post. "The beer menu changes up to five times a week, the food menu a little less often. Lagers, pilsners, bocks, pale ales, India pale ales, whites, wheats, Belgians, ambers, browns, barley wines, porters and stouts. Bottles or on draft, they have a dizzying selection. There are 53 draft lines alone, including nitro beers (think Guinness, with its thick, creamy head), and at least one cask-conditioned ale at a time."
Later, of the food, she says: "Asked to describe the food, [culinary director Carl] Carrion says, “We do a mix. It’s kind of gastropub, world cuisine mix fusion. It’s not limited to anything really. We use a lot of beers. Where the norm would be to use wine and stocks and sauces, we use beer. It is very technique-oriented. We’ve used beer in marinades, sauces and stocks where you think beer would not go, and it works.”
And, you guessed it, that gastropub approach includes delicious burgers (above left)! Read the full New Haven Eats post on Cask Republic.
It had also struck us after publishing a story May 12 in honor of American Craft Beer Week that the Connecticut hotspots we were highlighting, Cask Republic and The Ginger Man, surely offered (among many other delicious things) terrific burgers. Poking around for a photo of a plump burger from them, we found this one in an inner sanctum within the website of The Ginger Man in Norwalk. Whoa!
Make sure to read Connecticut Hotspots Shine for American Craft Beer Week; Great Food Too at Cask Republic, Ginger Man and get in on the greate beer, which flows forth event after the lineup of beer week events has concluded.
Why didn't it dawn on us earlier that there would be great burgers at the spot that took first place for best "road food" in our Best Restaurants 2014: Readers' Choice? That top road food venue, the atmospherically named Dew Drop Inn in Derby, just reminded us about its burgers, and sent photos to make the point that, while known for its staggering variety of great wings, the Drop also offers smashing burgers to go with its impressive selection of craft beers.
A new location of Ted’s Montana Grill, the classic American grill co-founded by entrepreneur, environmentalist and philanthropist Ted Turner and award-winning restaurateur George McKerrow Jr., opened May 12 in the new Front Street District in Hartford. Connecticut’s first Ted’s is located at The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor. Both have extensive offerings of great burgers on the menu, which can be done as beef or bison burgers. (Shown at left, the Canyon Creek burger.)
Now back to the story as originally published:
In honor of May being National Burger Month and May 28 being national Hamburger Day, we decided to bite into our archives (mostly recent) and highlight some of Connecticut’s best burgers—from “roadfood” to gourmet—so you can “chew on” the state’s offerings before taking some big bites of your own.
(If you don’t see a favorite great place mentioned, let us know on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or in a comment at the end of the story and we’ll incorporate your suggestion into this story or consider it for our next great burgers story. And make sure to go to the end of the story because that's where we keep adding more great burgers that come to our attention—a handful of new places and counting at this point.)
See our new burger story, Bobby Flay’s New Menu Offers Outrageously Good Burgers at Mohegan Sun
When Plan B made our Best of Connecticut in 2008, it also made the cover (right). Here’s what we said back then:
Plan B specializes in fresh, hand-formed, juicy burgers, many types of beer (with an emphasis on American craft brews) and a lively neighborhood feel. Among the favorites are the West Coast (fried egg, avocado, black olive mayo), the Pretzel Burger (served on a pretzel bun with spicy mustard and cheddar cheese) and a sampler tray of three miniburgers.
Among its other accolades from us, or via us in this case, Plan B was also named #1 statewide for best gourmet burgers in our 2014 Readers' Choice Restaurant Awards.
Taking the #2 spot in that survey was The Chelsea in Fairfield, for a burger that’s also beloved by our friends and content sharing partners at CTbites.
Meanwhile, our Best of Connecticut 2012: Food & Drink, took a big, deep bite into the state’s mouth-watering burger riches, which looked like this:
Manchester, (860) 649-4245
Anyone can put together a burger and cheese, but it’s the unique way they go about it at the Shady Glen that makes it so special—and tasty! Each cheeseburger starts off on the grill with four slices of cheese, but instead of stacked, each slice is laid with a portion on the burger and the rest on the grill. As the burger cooks and the cheese melts, it is folded up around the burger, like a crispy, chewy halo straight from cheeseburger heaven! Then carefully removed from the grill, it’s served with fries, coleslaw and a pickle; add one of the Glen’s heralded milk shakes, and you have the ultimate cheeseburger experience.
Lake Zoar Drive-in
Monroe, (203) 268-8137 (lakezoardrivein.com)
A quarter-pound of ground beef grilled to perfection and topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and pickles, all on a fresh-baked bun—they call it the “Zoar Burger.” But after sampling it, you’ll be saying, “More burger!” For nearly two decades, owner Michael Basso has proudly operated his burger stand on the shore of Lake Zoar in “classic” style, literally so on every Thursday (through October) when local nostalgia lovers gather for cruise night, featuring vintage muscle cars and trucks from the timeless era of the drive-in. Hot burgers and cool cars—always a great combo.
Plan B Burger Bar & Tavern
West Hartford, (860) 231-1199, and other locations (planbburger.com)
Plan B must be doing something right—new locations keep opening up in Connecticut (Milford, most recently), and there are plans to open others in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It only makes sense when you have burgers this terrific, made from 100 percent certified natural beef (no antibiotics, hormones, fillers or chemicals) ground in-house daily and never frozen. Have one in the classic style—lettuce, tomato, onion and special sauce—or try one with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, chili or on a pretzel bun. There are 15 permutations in all, and seven kinds of fries.
New Haven, (203) 562-5507 (louislunch.com)
If you can say that you’re the place of origin for an American icon, then how can we say yours isn’t the best “original” burger? Such is the case at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, where hamburgers are served today in the very same manner they were back in 1895, when Louis Lassen first put his unique blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast for a customer in a hurry—with no condiments, and only cheese, tomato and onion available as toppings. Hey, it’s kept customers flocking back to the same tiny restaurant on Crown Street for over a century, so why mess with perfection?
Prime 16 Tap House & Burgers
New Haven, (203) 782-1616 (prime16.com)
There’s a lot to love about Prime 16 on Temple Street in New Haven, not the least of which are any one of its gourmet beef burgers or the heavenly truffle Parmesan fries. But it’s the salmon burger that won accolades in this year’s quest for Connecticut’s best burgers. An acquired taste for some, perhaps, this specialty of the sea has us drowning in delight. We’re talking a perfectly grilled salmon patty, seasoned with fresh dill, ginger and red onion, and drizzled with lemon confit mayo, served on a brioche roll—with regular, Cajun or sweet-potato fries as a side. (For an extra $1.95, you can get the aforementioned truffle fries.)
burger: steamed cheeseburgers
K. Lamay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers
Meriden, (203) 237-8326 (klamayssteamedcheeseburgers.com)
K. LaMay is the new kid in the land of steamed cheeseburgers and is shaking things up right where the beloved burger was invented. Of course, owner Kevin LaMay honed his skills at the renowned Ted’s before going out on his own to create a bigger one-third-of-a-pounder. Plastic steaming trays, instead of the traditional metal ones, are hand-packed with fresh ground beef, which is steamed to juicy perfection, then topped with a hand-sliced slab of melted sharp Wisconsin cheddar and served on a fresh hard roll. If you’re really hungry, consider the double—it weighs almost a pound.
Multiple locations (woodntap.com)
With locations in Hartford, Farmington, Southington, Rocky Hill, Vernon and Orange, a Wood-n-Tap slider fix is never far away. And friendly places they all are, too, extending a warm welcome to everyone except, as they like to say, “people who say ‘yellow’ when they answer the phone.” The excellent sliders here come in orders of four or eight on a plate. The original is Black Angus beef served with cheese, pickles and a honey Dijon spread; newer to the menu are Bison Bites, lean buffalo-meat sliders topped with avocado aioli.
The Lime Restaurant
Norwalk, (203) 846-9240 (limerestaurant.com)
After a friend said, “I defy any meat eater to try it and not get hooked,” we had to call her on it. The Lime’s veggie-nut burger (it’s served at lunch only) is a concoction of bulgar, carrots, zucchini, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds that’s deep-fried, then stuffed into a whole-wheat pita with garden greens, shredded carrots and cucumbers (avocado, cheese or tofu may also be added). The sandwich comes with a delicious sour-cream-based garlic dressing on the side and is served with a brown rice and veggie salad and a slice of melon. We can’t wait to go back!
In Fairfield County and along the shoreline to the East, CTbites went on a gourmet burger tour last year, producing very tasty results in Ten Best Restaurant Burgers: Greenwich to New Haven 2013. (Left, the burger at The Whelk in Westport; CTbites photo.)
And in The Connecticut Table on our website, burgers have sizzled to the top of the content a lot recently, including the stories below, some of which were written by our staff and some shared from CTbites.
The story by CTbites Another Delicious Burger Find on New Lunch Menu at Olio, Stamford (right) opens with:
In my constant search for great burgers in Fairfield County I found myself heading to Stamford to sample the new lunch menu at Olio that includes the Olio House Burger. And I am glad I did. Olio recently began serving lunch and it is slowly turning into the go-to location for many locals. The lunch menu includes a soup a few salads, and several sandwiches from chicken salad to steak, plus a pasta and sautéed shrimp. But I was there for the burger.
And then there's also:
Recently, in honor of the imminent arrival of National Burger Month, we popped over to Prime 16 in New Haven for lunch—and ordered a Cowboy Burger, The Smoker burger and a simple, classic cheeseburger. All were delicious. (Above, a burger and fries at Harry's of Colchester; photo by Michael Stern of Roadfood.com.)
And we saved one of the best for last (at least it was last before we kept discovering or remembering more top burgers and adding to this story), the terrific burgers at the new Engine Room restaurant in Mystic. (An Engine Room burger, right; photo by Jeff Kaufman.) See our May review:
By our count, all of that adds up to nearly 30 prime burger places in Connecticut to try in May—or almost one for each day. We’re guessing that readers will help us push the count over 31 in short order. (Click onto page two to see all of the awesome burgers we've added since the story first published.)