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