National Burger Month draws to a close.
What better way to celebrate the conclusion of an entire month of enjoying some incredible hamburgers than announcing the 2014 CTbites' winners of the Best Restaurant Burgers of Fairfield County. More burgers challenged last year’s winners and three were successful, Olio, Mama’s Boy and Bar Sugo.
For the second year in a row, the winner is:
The Whelk– 2014 Best Restaurant Burger in Fairfield County
1 - The Whelk (Westport) – The Whelk Burger combines a blend rich flavored meat, sweet pickles, cry baby Swiss cheese, two varieties of bacon, crisped onions and onion mayo on a brioche bun. The dry aged blend of short rib, brisket and chuck from Craft Saugatuck Butchery was fantastic. The cheese covered, thick patty sat atop two different varieties of bacon that added saltiness and smokiness, while slices of sweet pickles, a slice of frisée and the onion accented mayo brought additional flavors and textures. Sitting atop the plump patty was a handful of crisped onions. These were all encased in a sweet brioche bun. The flavors were overwhelmingly delicious with smoky, salty, sweet all complementing the deep, rich flavors of the beef with the crisped onions adding a fun and crunchy texture. The hamburger was served with shoestring fries that were perfectly prepared and salted.
2 - South End (New Canaan) – The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko started with fantastic beef, topped with double smoked bacon, American cheese, South End burger sauce and served on a poppy seed roll. The flavor of the meat was perfect, and Chef Martschenko charred the exterior while maintaining a medium rare interior that oozed tons of juicy goodness. The bacon was crisp and flavorful and complemented the meat. A few slices of B&B pickles adorned the burger and added another delightful flavor and the melted American cheese encased the patty. The sauce was a chunky spiced ketchup-y delight, which added another flavor level. The roll was light on flavor and allowed the bold flavors inside to shine. The fries were delicious, lightly salted with a dusting of parmesan cheese and was a great side for the burger.
3 - Elm (New Canaan) – The “elmburger” is another winning dish created by Chef Brian Lewis. The burger started with an incredibly flavorful meat topped with soft and sweet caramelized onions and a layer of melted Gruyere cheese. The caramelized onions were the best that I sampled on my travels and the Gruyere added a slight nuttiness to the dish. (The cheese changes often). Unlike any other burger in the area, the elmburger sits atop a swath of Sriracha aioli that added just a touch of heat (the only burger tasted that included a spicy component) to take the flavors to another level. The bun was toasted and a delicious addition to the meal. The burger was served with thick cut fries.
4 - The Chelsea (Fairfield) & MATCH (South Norwalk) – The “Chelsea Burger” and the “Match Burger” each delivered an incredible array of flavors. Chef Matt Storch’s burger started with Craft Saugatuck Butchery’s rich, grass fed short rib, chuck and brisket combination. After grilling to create a crisp char and smokiness, the burger was dipped in a Bacon-Cheese Béchamel, a process created by Chef Storch. Bacon bits sat atop the cheese-dipped burger to add saltiness and then sweet-sour onions finished this presentation. The burger was encased in a sweet onion brioche from the Good Bread Company in Port Chester, which added just a little more sweetness to the burger. The fries at Match were the best I tasted, and Chef Storch told me he worked years developing his technique; crunchy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and were the perfect complement to the burger.
5 - Harlan Social (Stamford) – The “Harlan Burger” included a special blend of short rib, chuck and brisket from Pat Lafrieda and then Managing Partner and Chef Steve Lewandowski elevated the flavors with his unique toppings. He first basted the burger with a house-made “Japanese Worcestershire Sauce” and then added his “Cheddar Ale Sauce,” comprised of four varieties of cheese, mushroom stock and cream ale. He topped these items with a delicious Bacon Onion Jam. The sweet, sour, salty, umami elements were all present. Then Chef Lewandowski encased the burger in a Portuguese Muffin from Boston (my favorite bun on the tour), which added a sweet accent.
6 - Napa & Company (Stamford) – The Napa Wagyu Burger which has appeared on this list since its inception. The large, marbled meat was perfectly prepared and then topped with an onion jam, aged Gouda cheese, and pepper mayo, all encased in a brioche roll. The meat was rich and juicy and the onion jam was fantastic. The aged Gouda cheese was perfectly melted and brought a deep nutty flavor to the burger. The fries that accompanied the burger were delicious.
7 - Olio (Stamford) - The Olio House burger is a unique combination of flavors and ingredients. It starts with a thick all-beef patty topped with Tasso ham, melted Manchego cheese, caramelized Cipollini onions, with a schmear of roasted tomato aioli, all encased in a Brioche roll from Eli’s. It is served with thick steak fries and a side of ketchup. The burger is excellent. The meat was lightly formed with the grind of the meat still present. The substitution of the Tasso ham for a traditional smoked bacon added a significant level of pepperiness and the mild Manchego cheese added a nice creaminess. The star of this combination was the caramelized Cipollini onions, they were fantastic, creamy, sweet, just a great addition. The roll added a good buttery complement.
8 - Mama’s Boy (SONO) - The “Mama’s Boy Burger” is the third newcomer to this year’s list. It combines local grass fed beef with house-smoked bacon, fried Vidalia onions and pickles, encased in a brioche bun. (The current burger now includes pimiento cheese). The 5-6 ounce patty was perfectly seasoned and the bacon strips added a significant amount of smokiness and a touch of saltiness. The fried onions (nestled under the burger) were soft and sweet and adding a few of the pickle slices added sour notes. Served with shoestring fries, this is another great item on their menu.
9 - Bar Sugo (Norwalk) – “the burger” at Bar Sugo includes a 6-8 ounce patty from Saugatuck Craft Butchery shiitake mushrooms, melted Robiola cheese, atop frizzled onions and topped with a fried egg, served with a cup of French fries. Make sure you have a few napkins since once you release the creamy goodness of the egg yolk, combined with the creaminess of the melted Robiolo, it is a two-handed burger with outstanding flavor. The sautéed shiitake mushrooms added a great earthy flavor and the frazzled onions just the required level of crunch.
10 - Le Farm (Westport) – The “Beef Burger” with B&B pickles, mayonnaise, Cheddar cheese and bacon on a brioche delivered incredible flavors. The meat was charred on the exterior and the interior texture was soft. The interior was perfectly prepared to medium rare and was moist and juicy. The house-made pickles added a sweet element and the cheese and mayo were delightful and creamy complements; the bacon was a little bold for the other flavors. All of these delicious ingredients were encased in a brioche bun, a favorite of mine.
Congratulations and thank you to all of these winners for creating some incredibly delicious burgers.