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Spring driving-around-in-the-car season has officially arrived, and we’d like to provide you with some destinations. Destinations for food, that is. Road food. Casual chow. Guilty pleasures. This time, we looked for spots we haven’t often included before (Super Duper Weenie, Harry’s, Blackie’s, Rawley’s—you know who you are). So go, enjoy—and don’t forget the napkins.
BURGERS AND SHAKES
254 Main St., Old Saybrook, (860) 510-0048; 1244 Storrs Rd., Mansfield, (860) 487-9066
Chef Jack Flaws has been making culinary magic in Connecticut for a while now, and here, at two locations, is his latest rabbit-out-of-the-hat effort. The setting is comfortably retro, the $5 cheeseburgers come with a choice of seven cheeses, the shakes are seriously creamy and there’s a good menu of other shake-shack treats (great wings and Hummel hot dogs).
50 Memorial Rd., West Hartford, (860) 236-8400
The only New England outpost of this national chain, The Counter is known primarily for its customizable burgers, claiming 312,120 possible variations, so it’s likely you will find exactly the combination you want. A fully loaded 1/3-pound cheeseburger is $8.50. The shakes don’t get top billing here (there’s a full bar), but ours was chocolaty and thick.
372 Scott Swamp Rd., Farmington, (860) 678-7231; 150 Kitts Lane, Newington, (860) 372-4620
More full-service restaurant than shake shack (the pizza is a big draw here), Joey G’s is nonetheless hard to beat for a burger and shake. The burger meat is ground fresh twice a day and the half-pound cheeseburger with fries is $8.99 with free add-ons ranging from mushrooms to a fried egg. The “Best of Connecticut” milkshakes are sublime.
Burgers, Shakes & Fries
302 Delavan Ave., Greenwich, (203) 531-7433; 800 Post Rd., Darien, (203) 202-9401
Perhaps taking a cue from the granddaddy of them all—Louis’ Lunch in New Haven—BSF serves its excellent burgers on buttered, toasted white bread; its shake menu includes vanilla, black & white, Neapolitan, chocolate, strawberry, coffee and cinnamon. The original tiny location in Greenwich, home of BSF founder Kory Wollins, only recently took on its larger partner in Darien.
Moe’s Burger Joint
997 Main St., Bridgeport, (203) 333-9500; 1340 East Putnam Ave., Greenwich, (203) 990-0119
It’s so great to find a top-quality burger and shake in downtown Bridgeport right between McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Our $5.25 Cheddar-topped cheeseburger was thick enough to cook medium-rare, as ordered, and tasted freshly ground. The shake spent what seemed like a lifetime in the blender and was agreeably creamy and cold.
Lake Zoar Drive-In
14 Roosevelt Dr., Monroe, (203) 268-8137
We had to have at least one picnic-table burger joint on the list, and Lake Zoar, with its big, messy burgers and delish shakes, is it. This is actually a breakfast, lunch and dinner spot, but the emphasis seems to be on the burgers. The Zoar Burger is a quarter-pounder with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, raw onion, ketchup and mayo. Highly recommended.
1125 Post Rd., Fairfield, (203) 292-8233
Ah, the mocha shake. For years, we put up with Arby’s mediocre fare just for a taste of their mocha concoction. So it’s nice to see it as a menu staple at Flipside, where the burgers come with many options (each adding to the cost) and taste fresh and beefy.
1248 Queen St., Southington, (860) 747-0566
You’ve got to trust a hot dog place that’s been around for 44 years, and that’s certainly the case with Saint’s. And when the menu is headed with the words “Saint’s Famous Chili Dog,” you’d probably need to have your head examined not to order it. The chili sauce is not especially meaty, but it’s sweet and addictive nonetheless. A real central Connecticut gem.
Mr. Mac’s Canteen
838 Main St., Monroe, (203) 459-9595; 2004 Bridgeport Ave., Milford, (203) 874-1515
If you like your chili dogs hot, we mean really ridiculously hot, you’ve got to get yourself to Mr. Mac’s. The chili sauce is meatless, more a mélange of chopped-up hot peppers that will make your lips and tongue burn and possibly even catch on fire. The Hummel franks and toasted buns are both good, too, with or without the chili sauce.
Chef’s Dog House
337 Willard Ave., Newington, (860) 667-3700
Tucked away behind a 7-11, Chef’s is a nice new addition to Connecticut’s hot-dog universe. The main brag here is the size of the condiment bar, with its 30 freshly made toppings. The chili dog, served on a buttered, toasted roll, contains real chili, with meat and beans—an abomination to some, but delightful to us.
940 Ferry Blvd., Stratford, (203) 378-6728
Here’s another chili sauce that’s thin and red-hot rather than meaty and thick. Danny’s is a classic hole-in-the-wall below an I-95 overpass in Stratford that’s been serving dogs and more since 1935. Our deep-fried Hummel dog had snap, and the heat was supplied by Kuhn’s chili, an old Connecticut recipe that still kicks it.
Al’s Hot Dog Stand
248 South Main St., Naugatuck, (203) 729-6229
Yet another hot-dog joint that summons up an earlier time with its foot-long franks, picnic tables and quirky roadside ambiance. The chili dog may not be the great stand-alone attraction here, but the chili makes a nice complement to the melted cheese, bacon strips and sauerkraut in the aptly named Hippo Dog.