It’s that time of year again. Restaurants have opened their patios and added new menu items to highlight the newly arriving spring bounty. With the warm weather finally upon us it is time to release the 2015 list of my Top 10 Burgers in Southwest Connecticut.
The burgers just keep getting better. This year I decided to return to a single list and celebrate the best of the best. Over the last year I re-visited previous winners plus sought out many other locations (three are new to this list) to taste their creations. The list was finally reduced to my favorite burgers and at the end of the day and after much soul searching and return visits, it was a tie.
The Best Burger(s) in southwest Connecticut are…
1 (TIE) - South End (New Canaan)
The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko started with fantastic beef, topped with Benton 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 enveloped 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. (Photo by Jane Beiles)
1 (TIE) - Harlan Social (Stamford)
The “Harlan Burger” included a special blend of meats and then Owner & Executive Chef Steve Lewandowski and Executive Chef Michael Sobelman 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.
3 - MATCH (South Norwalk)
The “Match Burger” delivered an incredible array of flavors. Chef Matt Storch’s burger started with a 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. 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, which added just a little more sweetness to the burger. The fries at Match were outstanding, crunchy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and were the perfect complement to the burger. The burger is available on Thursdays and sometimes Fridays, plus at lunch.
4 – Bailey’s Backyard (Ridgefield)
NEW FOR 2015 - The “Cheddar and Ale Burger” is the best new addition to this list. It began with grass fed humanely raised beef that was mildly compressed and grilled. The meat was deep and rich in flavor and incredibly juicy. Chef Forrest Pasternack topped his creation with caramelized onions and a house-made cheddar and ale sauce that contained over 29 ingredients. The subtle spice in the blend to complement the cheddar cheese was za’atar, itself a combination of several spices. The burger was encased in a buttery brioche. The hand cut shoestring fries were crispy and perfectly salted.
5 - Walrus + Carpenter (Bridgeport)
NEW FOR 2015 – The “W+C Burger” is another new addition this year. It included Cheddar cheese, smoked mayo, bacon, and a secret ingredient, bourbon onions. The meat was delicious, with several strips of bacon, each mildly salty, to complement the onions and beef. The melted Cheddar cheese was creamy and added just a touch of nuttiness; and the mayo a smidgen of smokiness. The toasted brioche bun was the perfect choice for this combination. The killer ingredient was the Bourbon onions... these were some of the most delicious caramelized onions I have ever tasted. They were sweet, buttery and the slight crispiness from grilling was a bonus.
6 – The Whelk (Westport)
The “Dry Aged Beef Burger” was simpler than last year’s version and combined a blend of rich dry-aged beef topped with sweet pickles, belle bantam cheese, bacon and onion mayo on a brioche bun. The beef was perfectly seasoned and the sweet pickles and the sauce added a wonderful sweet and creamy addition. The nuttiness of the cheese and the great bacon were great complements.
7 – Bounty Food Truck
The “Bordelaise Burger” was outstanding. The meat was full of deep rich flavor and juicy, and then it was grilled to a perfect medium-rare. It was next topped with melted Gruyere cheese, which added a touch of creamy nuttiness. The slight pepperiness of the arugula was a fantastic addition and also contributed a little crunch. The caramelized onions were sweet and added just a touch of sweet back-notes and then the Malbec butter kicked in with a bold earthiness and a little pungency. The "Bounty" was also outstanding.
8 – Fleisher’s Craft Butchery (Westport)
NEW FOR 2015 – The “Craft Burger” is the next new addition to this year’s list. It included dry-aged beef, IPA fondue, bacon bits, bitter greens, and an onion ring served on a brioche. The meat was fantastic, perfectly prepared to medium-rare and delivered that wonderful rich flavor we have grown to expect from this butcher. The IPA fondue was a thick cheese sauce that covered the top of the meat and the mini-cubes of bacon were a great addition. The ingredient that elevated this burger was the bitter greens. It added a level of complexity that none other contained and the sweetness of the brioche was fantastic.
9 - Parallel Post (Trumbull)
The “Double Burger” includes two patties of very mild grass-fed beef, topped with Vermont cheddar cheese, Benton’s bacon and served on a sesame brioche bun with fancy sauce. The meat is delicious, and the bacon delivered a high level of smokiness to the entire burger. The nuttiness of the Cheddar was a great complement and the bacon added the salty component. The brioche was very buttery and really added to the overall composition. The fancy sauce was a tomato aioli with a little spiciness that added to versus detracted from the burger. The fries were perfect and there was just a little kick in the ketchup.
10 (Tie) - The Spread (South Norwalk)
Chef Carlos’ “Cheeseburger” started with an 8-ounce patty of grass fed Kobe beef, topped with pickles, melted Cheddar cheese with a swath of spicy mayo encased in a sesame seed bun; and I asked for a few strips of bacon. The meat had a loose grind, juicy and the flavor was deep and rich. The bread and butter pickles added a great sour component and the bacon was perfectly cooked and a smoky-salty balance. The bun added a nice buttery complement.
10 (Tie) - Mama's Boy (South Norwalk)
The “Mama’s Boy Burger,” combined local grass fed beef with house-smoked bacon, Pimiento cheese, fried Vidalia onions and pickles on a brioche bun. The patty was juicy and perfectly seasoned, the bacon strips added a significant amount of smokiness and a touch of saltiness and sweet the pickle slices added sour and spicy notes. The fried Vadalia onion rings were delicious.
I want to thank all the chefs for creating these incredible burgers plus other great burgers and for many of our readers who sent recommendations. Please post comments on others that you think are fantastic and if I have not visited I will place in my calendar to go and enjoy.
Have a great summer and enjoy these and other great burgers in Southwest CT.