Cheshire, (203) 699-1819
Since Mary and Art Blackman originally opened Blackie’s in 1928, very little has changed at this popular roadside joint—the walls are still wood-paneled, the menu is essentially only hot dogs and hamburgers (and potato chips—no French fries), and the recipe for the famous spicy peppery relish is still a family secret. The prices also seem old-fashioned: $2 dogs that you get to dress yourself. (Pile on that amazing relish!) With such a limited menu, service is incredibly fast and friendly, and you can enjoy your dogs—especially made for Blackie's by Martin Rosol's of New Britain—at the counter or in one of the two small dining rooms, which are lined with pictures of sponsored Little League teams and former Blackie competitive eating champs (no dancing!). The only drawback is that Blackie’s is never open on Fridays, a throwback to the staunch Catholicism of the Blackmans that forbade the consumption of meat on that day. Hey, when you have a formula that’s been successful for nearly 90 years, why mess with it?
New Haven, (203) 562-5507, louislunch.com
It’s the celebrated birthplace of the hamburger, purists flock to this cozy stand to sample what the Lassen family has been serving for a century: a fresh grilled burger between two slices of toast with only cheese, tomato or onion as garnish. Perfection!
Al’s Hot Dogs
Naugatuck, (203) 729-6229
An unapologetic, and thus, glorious roadside throwback that is renowned for foot-long hot dogs and sensational homemade toppings, including chili and sweet and hot relishes—all of which you get to slather on yourself.
Hamden, (203) 281-0604, glenwooddrivein.com
For nearly sixty years the Glenwood has been the go-to place for the best road-style food, particularly hot dogs, lobster rolls, homemade onion rings and burgers, which are now certified Angus beef and bigger than ever. Oh, and don’t forget to leave room for ice cream—the adjacent Kelly’s Kone Konnection makes dozens of great flavors.
Oxford, (203) 881-1040, richfarmicecream.com
An idyllic hillside dairy operation and a “Best of Connecticut” winner, crowds flock to Rich Farm to see the cows and scoop up any of the 27 different flavors always available and made fresh daily.
K. Lamay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers
Meriden, (203) 237-8326, East Hampton, (860) 365-5237, klamayssteamedcheeseburgers.com
Kevin LaMay learned the art of steaming cheeseburgers at the iconic Ted’s in Meriden (where he worked as a teenager) before opening his own place—the 1/3-lb. burgers are bigger and a bit spicier but steamed burger aficionados love them just the same, if not more.
Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale
Madison, (203) 245-7289, ljfishtale.com
Although Lenny & Joe’s has multiple locations, we love the original drive-in—plenty of fried clam strips, broiled scallops and hot lobster rolls, all in a family-friendly, picnic-like atmosphere.
Clinton, (860) 669-2005
When a place is as universally hailed for the excellence of its lobster rolls as Lobster Landing, it’s no surprise that folks flock from all over to this quaint seaside shack—and return over and over again (as we do!).
(Julie-Ann Poll, a Connecticut foodie friend who exchanges intel with us on Twitter, was inspired by this story to seek out Lobster Landing and loved it. She pronounced the hot, buttery lobster roll "amazing" in her blog post on the summer culinary adventure. She took these photos and graciously agreed to let us add them to the story.)
Frankies Hot Dogs
Waterbury, Watertown, Bristol and West Haven, (203) 753-2426, frankieshotdogs.com
A Waterbury institution, Frankies made its fame by serving foot-long dogs—which are still as popular as ever—but now offers burgers, chicken and great seafood (the lobster roll is to die for!), plus fast and friendly service.
Cheshire, (203) 272-4237, sweetclaudes.com
There are few finer summertime pleasures in the state than sitting on the porch of Sweet Claude’s while enjoying a heaping serving of homemade ice cream—either one of the signature flavors (like toasted almond, triple chocolate and Claude’s cupcake) or any of the specials of the week.
Saybrook, (860) 388-1111, saybrook.com
Located right on the water at the mouth of the Connecticut River, there are few places in the state that can provide the amazing setting and dining of Fresh Salt. Part of the Saybrook Point Inn and Spa and adjacent to an active marina, the restaurant and its outdoor patio welcomes visiting guests and nautical folk alike, as well as those who sail in looking for fine American cuisine—lunch and dinner, a lounge menu and an incredibly popular Sunday brunch buffet. A seasonal menu means the choices change regularly, but expect a heavy helping of seafood options—from a raw bar to grilled Block Island swordfish chops—as well as beef, chicken, veal and lamb, plus burgers, lobster rolls and more. Fresh Salt is also committed to locally grown food, which only adds to the “fresh” experience.