The Blue Cactus Grill is a hamburger and sandwich shop off the beaten path in Norwalk, up the street from the Norwalk Hospital. Vic Amereno, the owner, brings 20+ years of experience overseeing kitchens in Connecticut and Arizona to this location where he prepares southwestern influenced fare. Hamburgers, cheesesteaks (beef or chicken), wraps, salads, and other assorted sandwiches complement his house made potato chips, lemonade, iced tea and a delightful “cactus slaw.”
Vic’s hamburger is the star of the menu. Blue Cactus begins with a daily delivery of a 70/30 blend of beef sourced from Omaha Beef Company in Danbury, based on a 50-year old recipe that has changed little in the interim. The nicely sized hamburgers are first seasoned with salt, pepper and a house made seasoning mix and then grilled to the perfect doneness. The customer can choose from several pre-determined combinations from the menu or can custom design the desired toppings.
I recommend either the bacon-cheeseburger or the “Five Napkin Burger.” The bacon cheeseburger includes a few slices of good quality bacon plus a few slices of American cheese and I decided to add some sautéed onions. I really enjoyed this combination. On another visit I ordered the “Five Napkin Burger,” which included a house-made Chipotle BBQ sauce, bacon, melted cheese, and topped with a few onion rings. The BBQ sauce had just a little spice and the onion rings were a nice addition; I also recommend this combination. The flavor of the hamburger meat ranged from a mild on one visit to rich on other visits, and both worked well with the toppings.
On another visit I ordered a Cheesesteak with provolone, grilled onions and peppers. Amereno uses thinly sliced top round steak and, as he does with his hamburgers, seasons the meat with a house-made spice mixture to create a peppery end product. Likewise the use of a milder flavored top round versus a rib-eye steak that is traditionally used in Philadelphia is better served with the addition of the peppery spice mixture. I was a little concerned of whether the top round would be tender enough as well as the depth of its flavor. To create a tender product Amereno thinly sliced the beef but the flavor was milder then I would like. Overall it was a very good sandwich.
The burgers and steak sandwiches are all served on Blue Cactus’ “no-frills bun,” which Amereno developed with Muro’s Original New York Bakery in Norwalk. The rolls are soft and are fully capable of handling the juices from the meats and additions. Blue Cactus also offers several house-made items including its “cactus slaw” made with cilantro and lime, potato chips, lemonade and iced tea. All of these offerings were top notch, plus the daily cut French fries (served with and without chili or cheese) were perfectly cooked, crispy outside and moist on the inside. For dessert, Blue Cactus serves several choices including a banana pudding that is best described as a throw-back to the 60’s; laden with bananas and pieces of ‘Nilla Wafers.
For an excellent hamburger, fries, “cactus slaw” and an iced tea, Blue Cactus Grill in Norwalk qualifies as a “hidden gem.”
Blue Cactus Grill, 51 Stevens St., Norwalk, CT, 06850, 203-838-8800
[Photography c/o Jeff Schlesinger]