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« Bobby Flay Is Coming To Stew's | Main | CTbites Shout Out: What's Your Favorite Pizza in CT? »
Sunday
Oct032010

Black Duck Burger Makes Top 5 List 

My latest stop in the Fairfield County Burger Quest brought me to the Black Duck Café in Westport. Located in the shadows of I-95 and overlooking the Saugatuck River I was startled to see a building that looked more like a candidate for a reconstruction project than a restaurant. The structure is not a building at all but a retired ice and refrigeration barge that was originally built in the 1840’s. It was refurbished in the early 1900’s and eventually relocated to its current location in 1961 and sits atop another barge that sank at a time when the Saugatuck River was much deeper.

The Black Duck Café is named after the infamous rum running boat, the Black Duck, which created legendary tales evading the Coast Guard during the Prohibition. It commenced its restaurant operations in 1978 and the interior’s nautical motif expands on the renowned exploits of its namesake. There are 13 tables that seat approximately 50 patrons in the dining room, a long bar with 20 seats across the back wall plus a few stools in the bar area facing into the dining room. I chose a seat at the bar where I saw a million dollar view of the Saugatuck River through the rear windows. I then noticed the brilliant inlaid wood bar top, one that would make most boaters jealous.

The bartender gave me a menu and I was impressed by the variety of foods that the Black Duck offers. In addition to the twelve specialty burgers, the menu included hot dogs, escargot, steaks, ribs, Cajun favorites, a chicken parmesan and a variety of seafood choices from lobster and crawfish to the traditional fried fisherman’s platter. The menu can be viewed on the Black Duck Café website.

Many consider the burger at Black Duck one of the best in Fairfield County so I ordered my customary cheeseburger, medium rare, with fried onions and a side of onion rings. There were several TVs overlooking the bar and I watched ESPN as well as the boats slowly passing along the river in the background. When my lunch arrived, the bartender placed a nice thick burger, six ounces of handcrafted 80-20 Angus, in front of me. Nestled atop the burger was a mound of frizzled onions, thin slivers of onions fried for a few seconds in the deep fryer. The bun was plain so as not to detract from the burger, cheese and fried onions.

I performed my standard ritual of cutting the burger in half to check for its doneness. It was cooked to perfection, a medium pink section of meat occupied the middle while the exterior had a nice crust. After my first bite, a smile came to my face as a little juice slowly slid down one end of my lips. After a few more bites I was convinced that this was an excellent burger in all aspects. It had a nice rich flavor and the texture was soft and showed that care was taken in the kitchen in preparing the meat. The size of the burger allowed the flavor of the meat to be the highlight of the burger and it was cooked to my requested medium-rare doneness. The frazzled onions were great and the bun was sturdy enough to handle the juicy burger while not interfering with the flavor.

Although the onion rings were not prepared on-site (very few in Fairfield County are), they were also very good. The coating was different from other onion rings in the area. These were more batter dipped and then deep fried, rather than the crumbly, bread crumb texture.  The onions on the interior were soft and had a lot of flavor.

There are few items in the food world that can bring such enjoyment and are so simple to make as a cheeseburger. The Black Duck Café does it very well and is a gem in Westport. I am definitely placing the Black Duck Café on my list of the Top-5 Burgers in Fairfield County.

Black Duck Café 605 Riverside Avenue, Westport  203. 227-7978

Black Duck Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Reader Comments (24)

Why wouldn't onion rings be prepared on site? They're so easy to make at least taste decent. And those frozen ones aren't very good, IMHO

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDale

I agree! It's the best burger in Fairfield County! I LOVE that Black Duck Burger!

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterannbb

I'd love to know the other 4 that made this list. just curious...

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanielle

@Danielle

In alphabetical order:

Black Duck Cafe
Burger Bar
Burgers, Shakes and Fries
Cherry Street East
Napa

BTW - Before everyone jumps on me for not including Le Farm, I have never been there but plan a visit shortly. And another BTW , after these 5, it is tough to come up with a number 6. The next closest was ex-Chef Dan at Harvest Super.

October 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

j food, have you had the burger at leFarm yet? I think it could be a contender ...

Looking forward to checking this place out.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Kundrat

As a connoisseur of bacon cheeseburgers, I cannot undertand why you omitted Bogey's and SBC, both of which are excellent! And the fries at Bogey's, which are included, cannot be beat.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBabette

Try the burger at Nicholas Roberts in norwalk this is really good

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlis

All,

Keep those suggestions coming.

And as you can see from the suggestions here and the feedback on the pizza article there is passion for burgers and pizza. It's a wonderful thing.

As this project continues, I wlll continue to post about all the great burgers in the area.

Thanks

October 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

THE definitive list for Fairfield County:

#1 - LeFarm, Westport - This burger is made from fresh, locally-sourced house-ground beef. Chef Taibe's additions of bacon, aged cheddar, sauteed onion, b&b pickles and black pepper mayo augment the flavors perfectly, and the brioche bun from SoNo bakery ties the whole kit & kaboodle better than anyplace I have ever been.

#1a - Napa & Co., Stamford - No surprise here as this beast is another Taibe creation, now executed by Chef Arik. Familiar theme...Wagyu beef, juicy beyond comprehension. This time paired with a sweet red onion "jam", black pepper mayo, and aged gouda. Great combo of flavors.

#3 - Burgers, Shakes, & Fries, Greenwich - Kory Wollins has been pumping out fantastic burgers for several years at this Byram hole-in-the-wall, and is now about to expand at a bigger location in Darien. The meat is sourced from a top Tri-State purveyor, cooked to perfection, and the grilled bread complements the beef nicely. Lots of toppings (no lettuce, so don't ask) to build your own masterpiece.

#4 - Flipside, Fairfield - An up & comer, these babies are some gooood eatin. Greasy, juicy, whatever you want to call 'em, the piping-hot patties at Flipside are sure to delight both ma' and pa' as well as the little ones. Now that the service kinks have been worked out, it's a much more enjoyable experience these days. Cold beer on tap, terrific shakes, and nice, fresh hand-cut fries (reminiscent of Super Duper Weenie)...Flipside is finding its legs.

#5 - Brennan's, Stamford - Best burger you've never had. A tiny pub in the middle of a residential area of Shippan, Brennan's char-broiled burgers conjure up flavors of it's cousins in NYC (Donovan's, JG Melon, PJ Clarke's). A terrific burger, big & bawdy it lacks the juiciness of the others on the list, but there's no denying it's terrific flavor and consistency. Add some awesome waffle fries and a Guinness and you're now in my version of heaven.

The rest...

6. Cherrystreet East - New Canaan
7. Rory's - Darien
8. Burger Bar - SoNo
9. Black Duck - Westport
10. Five Guys - Norwalk, Westport, Newtown, etc.

I've not had the burger at Harvest Supper. If it stands up to the rest of their food, it will be certain to crack the top 5.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCTBurgerlover

To CTBurgerlover -- I definitely do not agree with you about Five Guys. I tried the one in Westport once, and will never go back. The burger, orgered medium rare, was overcooked, dry and tasted like cardboard. The fries were greasy and tasteless.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBabette

Of course, that should be "ordered." That's what I get for not proofreading.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBabette

CTburgerlover - I finally had the leFarm burger and I have to say it was one of the best burgers I've had in a long time (ever?). The Old Raj gin martini may have had something to do with it but I digress. Also notables in our neck of the Fairfield County woods: Nicholas Roberts, Stepney Kitchen and of course BSF are some of my other all-time favorites.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Kundrat

@ctburgerlover

It is tough to disagree with a handle as great as yours :-)) and a very nice list.

My Brennan review is in process but it did not crack my top 5.

I am nowhere close to a fan of 5Gs but boy people are loyal to that place. It's like a lightening rod to say anything negative.

Too bad I did not read earlier since I had an early afternoon meeting in the area and Flipside would have been a nice pre-meeting adventure.

You missed having the burger at Harvest Supper. Chef Dan (another Napa Alum) is on to another project.

October 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

Chef Dan has moved on, but Harvest Supper still has the same burger on the menu and it's every bit as good.
Le Farm's burger is great.
I'm surprised to find Burger Bar on these lists. I find their burgers to be tasteless and dry.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkbfood

I know this post is about burgers, but I had to give a shout out to Black Duck's steamers and escargots, as well - both are made with more garlic than should be legal, and are fresh and delicious. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured the restaurant, and in particular their steamers and clams casino (another phenomenal dish).

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMara

Super Duper Weenie makes a fine burger, with house-made condiments, and it sure as heck isn't $20.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

Kardos is still at Harvest Supper!!!

http://newcanaan.patch.com/articles/harvest-supper

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBababooey

My sources say that Kardos has definitely moved on. I couldn't find a date on that Patch article. Major loss, but hopefully he'll resurface elsewhere in FC.

October 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Kardos is at Bennett's Steakhouse in Stamford working for the Napa people. They are closed for a couple of months while they redo the place. His name is still on the menu at Harvest Supper, but he isn't in the kitchen and the food has definitely suffered. We went a couple of weeks ago and it was nowhere near as good as it was when he was physically in the kitchen (and we've eaten there at least a dozen times). Too bad. Hopefully they will get someone else in there who can put all of their focus into it.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkbfood

I just called there and the owners said he is still there and driving the menu, changing it seasonally. Also said he is in the kitchen 2-3 nights a week.

Exec Chefs very seldom do the actual cooking, so unless his sous chef or line cook moved on the quality of the food should still be the same.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBababooey

I understand the situation, his name is on the menu, he is the named executive chef. I'm just saying the menu has been pretty stagnant lately and the food has not been as good. The menu used to change constantly, and now the same 5-6 dishes have been on for months with just a few additions here and there. He hasn't been in the kitchen the last few times we've been, and I believe he was doing the cooking when he was there. You can say the food "should" be as good, but I'm saying it hasn't been for us. If it was the first time we'd eaten there, we probably wouldn't go back. And this place is has been one of our favorites, so I hope they pull it back together.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkbfood

Looks like the review is from today, it's still on the main page of patch.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBababooey

OK, had the burger at Harvest Supper. There now has to be room at the top...

1a. LeFarm
1b. Napa
1c. Harvest Supper

Any given night you can interchange these for best burger ever.

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCTBurgerlover

@ctburgerlover

Good to see that 10 weeks after Chef Dan left Harvest Supper, his replacement is keeping the burger tradition on the menu and you enjoyed it.

I finally made it to LeFarm. I loved my pasta with Oxtail but the burger probably needs a second visit because although the meat had good flavor, it was very salty and the bun was just OK (hard to believe it was from SONO Bake Shope). One visit would only place it probably #4-5 on my list.

October 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

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