Over a year ago CTbites decided to create as comprehensive a guide as possible for this year’s Best Burger review. During that time, I visited over sixty local chains, bars, fast food joints, and restaurants, grabbed a seat, looked at the menu and placed my order. Over sixty patties of ground meat were prepared on a griddle, grill, or flat-top, and thousands of French fries were plunged into oil. The meat was seasoned, the rolls were sliced, the toppings were placed on the patty and the fries seasoned.
When each arrived at the table, it was sliced to check for doneness, a piece of meat pulled and tasted and the competition officially added another competitor. Each of the toppings was individually tested and finally the burger, toppings and bun were viewed as a single entrant. Many did not make the grade on seasoning, some failed on doneness, others on taste and others due to toppings. A very simple process for a very simple product, but the sheer variability of my reaction to the end result ranged from a huge smile to a grimace. Some I craved for more, while others earned a few tentative tastes and I asked for the check.
This year we decided to present the burgers in two categories, “Bar Burgers” and “Restaurant Burgers,” believing it unfair to compare a $7-12 burger with a $20+ burger.
With only three repeat locations from the 2012 list, here are the… Top-10 “Bar Burgers” from Greenwich to New Haven. Happy National Burger month!
- Parallel Post (Trumbull) – The “Double Burger” created by Chefs Dean James Max, Chris Molyneux and Ali Goss was my perfect Bar Burger. Comprised of seven ounces of grass-fed beef from Ox Hollow Farm, topped with Vermont cheddar cheese, Benton bacon and served on brioche bun from Brothers Bakery in NYC. The flavor of the meat was delicious, deep, rich and then grilled to achieve a nice char on the exterior. The Cheddar was perfectly melted and just sharp enough to complement versus overwhelm the meat. The Benton bacon added great saltiness and smokiness to the burger. The brioche bun was sweet and buttery and grilled for just a little crunch. The fries were also fantastic, crispy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and slightly salted. This was a perfect burger from top to bottom.
- Super Duper Weenie (Fairfield) – The “Natural” burger was 6 ounces of delicious chuck and sirloin from Newtown’s Butcher’s Best Market. Owners Gary Zemola, John & Lorin Pellegrino created a very distinct flavor in the meat and the kitchen perfectly seasoned the patty. It was served on a bun from Chaves Bakery (plain or potato depending on the season) that allowed the flavor of the burger to shine. The grill-master cooked it to a perfect medium-rare. The bacon and cheese were excellent additions. You may also want to try one of Zemola’s house-made toppings (recipes are the same for over a decade) to add other great flavors and textures.
- Black Duck (Westport) – This burger was six ounces of handcrafted 80-20 Angus and I ordered mine topped with frizzled onions and cheese. It was cooked to perfection, the exterior had a nice crust and medium pink occupied the middle. It was rich in flavor and the texture was soft and the size of the patty allowed the flavor of the meat to be the highlight of the burger. The frizzled onions were fantastic. The bun was plain but sturdy enough to handle the juicy burger and did not interfere with all the great flavors of the meat. The onion rings were my choice, with a crispy, thick coating.
- Cherry Street East (New Canaan) – The “Vermonster” was served on an English muffin with bacon and sharp Cheddar cheese. The 8-ounce burger was ground and hand-formed daily on-site and cooked on a gas-fired indoor grill. The meat reminded me of the old-fashioned soda shop burgers and the Cheddar cheese and bacon added great flavor. The English muffin was a great addition and added just a little bit of tang. The fries (regular and sweet potato) were very good but the house cut onion rings were probably the best in the area and a perfect side for this great burger.
- Burgers Shakes & Fries (Greenwich (Byram) / Darien) - There are two locations, but the burgers were significantly better in the Byram location. The meat was delicious and cooked to order. My selection was the single with bacon. American cheese and fried onions, plus fries and a chocolate shake. The meat was rich in flavor and perfectly prepared, the bacon and cheese added saltiness and creaminess, respectively and the grilled onions were the best in the area. I loved the buttered and grilled toast as the “bun.” The fries were also fantastic and for a change of pace the sweet potato tots were also a good option. The burger, shake and fries were a fantastic meal.
- Dinosaur BBQ (Stamford) – The “Dino Burger Deluxe” was 6 ounces of Angus beef topped with BBQ caramelized onions, melted cheddar cheese, tomato, house-cured pickles and BBQ mayo. The patty was cooked over a wood grill and the flavor of the meat absorbed a lot of great smoky flavor. The onions were a little pungent but the cheese and BBQ mayo were both great additions, the latter added just a touch of spice. The griddled bun was basic but the grilling increased the flavor and crunchiness. The Dino Poutine, fries covered with cheese and pulled pork, was a great side to go with.
- Barnum Publick House (Bridgeport) – The “Barnum Burger” was 100% Angus beef with shredded Iceberg lettuce, tomato, Special Sauce served on an English muffin and I added Cheddar cheese and bacon. House-cut fries were included. The burger was prepared on an indoor grill and absorbed a tremendous amount of smokiness. The patty was perfectly charred on the exterior while the interior was moist and flavorful. Two slices of basic bacon added a little saltiness and the cheese was nicely melted. The English muffin was a great complement plus the fries were delicious.
- B.J. Ryan’s Pub (Norwalk) – The B.J. Ryan Burger was delicious; a simple burger served on a soft roll. The meat was perfectly charred on the exterior and juicy on the interior. The grind of the patty was not too compressed or too loose and a slice of American cheese brought all of the saltiness that was required. The fries, which are extra, were not in the same league and not worth the additional cost. (Not to be confused with the one that is sold at its sister restaurant BanC House).
- Prime 16 (New Haven) – Prime 16 served an excellent bar burger, 100% organic and humanely raised ground beef cooked to my requested medium-rare. Even though the meat was compressed, it was a large patty, delivered excellent flavor and was juicy throughout. There were two thin slices of bacon that added just a little saltiness and the soft brioche roll was the perfect choice to encase the patty and added a little sweetness. The russet fries were very good but I would recommend the sweet potato fries, which were excellent, some of the best I tried.
- Louis Lunch (New Haven) – This institution is still serving a great patty using its patented vertical flame grills from 1895. You can ONLY order cheese, onions or tomato, served on toasted bread. The beef was excellent, great flavor and nicely seasoned. The cheese was well melted and the toast held it together. The tomato and bread were not in the same league as the incredible meat, but the historical claustrophobic ambiance and its inclusion on everyone's “Burger Bucket List” gave Louis the #10 slot.
Congratulations to Parallel Post in the Trumbull Marriott as my choice of Best Bar Burger from Greenwich to New Haven and to all the others for serving fantastic burgers. There were a few locations that I just did not have a chance to visit, and if there are any that the readers would like to suggest I will try to visit each and see if they could have made the top 10.
Stop back in two weeks when CTbites presents the Best Restaurant Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven.