Great Connecticut Burgers for National Burger Day 2015

Connecticut Magazine

May is National Burger Month, and May 28 is National Burger Day. We confess we're not entirely sure about the how or why with regard to those designations, but since Connecticut loves (and has lots of) great burgers, we decided to showcase some of our favorites in the spirit of burger month.

It's not a list of the best burgers in Connecticut we're presenting (though we want to bite into that challenge in the near future) but simply a guide to terrific burgers that can be found across Connecticut. We hope to offer a couple of burger hotspots each week throughout the month, for a total of about 10.

Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook and let us know what you love (if not for this story for consideration when we do tackle best burgers.)

Also see last year's story,

(Even More) Best Burgers in Connecticut for National Burger Day May 28

And

Try Connecticut's Legendary Steamed Burgers for National Burger Month

Artisanal Burger Company More Than a Delicious Manchester Burger Joint

Shake Shack

International Burger Day, May 28, is upon us and to commemorate the day and the end of burger month we stopped by one of our state’s most high-profile burger purveyors, Shake Shack. We’ve been intrigued by this New York City-based chain since we first saw the epic lines outside of the original in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. After trying it for the first time on a rainy day (the line was still long, just not ridiculously long) we realized what all the fuss and lines were about and have been fans ever since. A few years later we were excited to see Shake Shack locations arrive in Connecticut, in Westport and New Haven.

(Above, the ShackMeister Burger.)

The menu states that the burgers at Shake Shack are made using a proprietary Shack blend that utilizes 100 percent all-natural Angus beef with “no hormones and no antibiotics ever.” The result is a burger patty of exquisite flavor. The ShackBurger, the restaurant’s signature offering, is a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce (a wonderful condiment that tastes somewhat like ketchup and mayonnaise combined, only a whole lot better).When it comes to simple culinary pleasures it’s hard to beat this classic cheeseburger. On our most recent visit we also tried the ShackMeister Burger (cheeseburger topped with crispy marinated shallots and ShackSauce), which made its public debut as the winning entry at the 2014 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash, and began being offered at most U.S. Shacks in January of this year.

Our favorite remains the classic ShackBurger but the ShackMeister was a nice change of pace. If you stop by for a burger we also recommend the creamy frozen custard that is made daily at each Shack location and uses only real sugar (no corn syrup here), and which is used to power a variety of not-to-be-missed shakes that give the place its name.

Bobby's Burger Palace

Every time we hear the word burger our thoughts turn longingly to Bobby’s Burger Palace at Mohegan Sun—the lone Connecticut location of the specialty burger chain owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

Though the word “chain” might scare some foodies away, in this instance it shouldn’t. The burgers at Bobby’s Burger Palace are individual pieces of burger heaven as good as we’ve had anywhere. Made with certified Angus beef, these burgers are juicy and delicious. Order them medium rare and they come medium rare, with dripping almost-pink meat that is so good we make a stop at Bobby’s Burger Palace anytime we’re nearby and have even been known to stretch the boundary’s of what constitutes “nearby” in the past.

The folks at Bobby’s Burger Palace love National Burger Month as much as we do and have unveiled some fun festive specials for May. The monthly burger special is the Mulberry Street Burger, a decedent monster of a burger made with fresh mozzarella, basil ketchup, fresh arugula, and parmesan. In addition the burger giant has launched the National Burger Month Photo Contest. For the contests fans are invited to snap picks of themselves eating at Bobby’s Burger Palace for a chance to win a variety of prizes (see Facebook post below).

We love seeing our #BBPFans pictures! Share them with us and enter to win cool #BBP Prizes this month! Snap a #BBP pic,...

But you don’t need to take a selfie in order to enjoy the burger wonderland that is Bobby’s Burger Palace. One favorite from a past visit is the Vegas Burger (below), made with white American cheese, Fresno red chilies and barbecue potato chips. The chips add crunch and texture, while the red chilies add flavorful spice that is not overpowering. Another favorite is the Brunch Burger, which has a fried egg, smoked bacon, and American cheese. This burger was previously a Burger of the Month Special that became a permanent fixture of the menu thanks to fan support. It’s easy to see what the masses saw in this bacon, egg and beef patty creation that is perfect for breakfast but pretty great anytime of day. At Bobby’s Burger Palace, you'll be a winner no matter which burger you choose.Plan B Burger Bars

This week make a stop at one of Plan B Burger bars locations Plan A.

The burger, beer and bourbon bar is going all out for National Burger Month. At the start of May each location invited fans to submit their wildest, wacky and, of course, most tasty burger recipes. Starting Monday (May 18) they unveiled the two finalists at each location. For the rest of the week the two finalists will battle it out for burger supremacy, and the winning burger combo—the best selling one—will be crowned the champ and be offered as a special next week, when it will be served as a special all week including on International Hamburger Day (May 28).

In addition to bragging rights, the culinary genius behind the winning burger will also be awarded a free burger a week for the rest of 2015. When we heard the two finalist burgers were being served Monday, we dashed out of our newsroom and headed to Plan B in Milford. We enjoyed a memorable burger-licious lunch, gleefully digging into the Memorial Day Cookout Burger and The Ragin’ Cajun Burger. Both of these finalists feature Plan B’s house ground all-natural beef, and are served on a soft brioche roll, and both are delicious.

That’s where the similarities end.

The Memorial Day Cookout Burger (above) lives up to its name and is a big, bold all-American dream of a burger with the burger patty served over housemade potato salad, cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, two onion rings and pulled BBQ pork. Not surprisingly, the most prominent flavor in the Memorial Day is the pulled BBQ pork, which overpowers (but not in a bad way) some of the other ingredients. The pork and ground beef go surprisingly well together and the barbecue sauce serves as a nice condiment for the burger, and though ketchup is served on the side we didn’t find it necessary.The Ragin’ Cajun (left) is as different from the Memorial Day Burger as two burgers can be from one another. This burger features Cajun spice topped with sautéed bell peppers and onion, Andouille sausage, Brie cheese and housemade remoulade. Less over-the-top than its competitor, the Ragin’ Cajun certainly holds its own. The bell peppers and onion, mixed with the sausage give this sandwich a pepper-and-sausage grinder flavor that pairs surprisingly well with the burger. It lacks the wow factor of the Memorial Day, but makes up for it with more subtly of flavor.

These two highly recommended burgers were chosen by the Milford Plan B staff after the restaurant received more than 100 recipe submissions. According to staff members some of these were just too outlandish, some were good but too similar to burgers already on the menu or regularly offered as specials. Which one will emerge victorious remains to be seen but all those who stop in and give either burger a try will leave feeling like winners.

See the website to connect with all the Plan B locations.

GoldBurgers, Newington 

Matt Crowley opened GoldBurgers in Newington in 2008 because he had long been intrigued by the idea of high-quality fast food. Last summer when we visited the old-fashioned burger joint nestled into a storefront on Newington’s all-American Main Street we immediately liked the look and feel of the place. When we bit into one of the burgers we were hooked. As we wrote last August GoldBurgers is “a fast food joint with a product worth waiting for.” Almost 10 months after our last visit to the place we are still craving these giant burgers full of juicy goodness and topped with a creative smorgasbord of ingredients. And we’re not the only ones who feel this way.In March GoldBurgers was invited to James Beard Foundation headquarters in New York City to join an exclusive lineup of burger purveyors at the culinaryfoundation’s Beard Burger 'Bun' Anza. GoldBurgers was only one of four restaurants offered the honor and the only one located outside of New York City. If you visit GoldBurgers you’ll understand exactly why the Newington restaurant got the invite.

The big (with a capital B) juicy specialties at GoldBurgers are all made with locally-sourced beef and include the venue’s namesake, the GoldBurger (a monster of a burger made with two paddies with American cheese, GoldBurger sauce, lettuce onions, tomatoes, and crowned by potato chips), as well as more outside-the-box burger-and-bun creations like the “Boss” Burger (two patties layered with cheddar cheese and jalapenos, and topped with pepper jack cheese and spicy mustard) and the Pizza Burger (topped with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese).No matter what you choose GoldBurgers is a flavor gold mine.

Max Burger, West Hartford 

Max Burger in West Hartford is a popular dining destination for a variety of reasons. It’s got a sleek feel with indoor and outdoor patio seating, a good locally focused craft beer list and a menu full of intriguing items. But, as the name would imply, the true draw here are the burgers. The restaurant uses certified Angus beef, from humanely raised, environmentally sustained animals that are free of antibiotics, pesticides and added hormones. This doesn’t just sound good on paper, it tastes good on your plate when the juicy, flavorful patties arrive. The burger menu includes creative burger creations like the Inside Out (gorgonzola stuffed, applewood smoked bacon, grilled onion, arugula) and Blackjack (blackened, jalapeño jack cheese, roasted green chiles, guacamole, honey-chipotle onions), as well as rotating burger specials for each day of the week.During our visit on Tuesday, May 12, we sampled a burger with the classic ingredients of lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup (below), as well as the Tuesday burger special, which is called the Bacon-Onion Smash (above). Both burgers were excellent and paired well with a flight of craft beer (including an Allagash White and several beers from Two Roads Brewing Co.) and crispy hand-cut fries, but the standout was the Bacon-Onion Smash. To make this mouthwatering burger, bacon and onion are smashed into an 8-ounce burger patty that is served along with lettuce and tomato on a ciabatta roll. Adding the bacon directly to the burger, instead of putting strips of bacon on top, infuses it with an addictive smoky bacon flavor. While bacon burger purists might miss the crunch that strips of bacon provide to a traditional bacon burger, we appreciated the lack of crunch and the way the bacon flavor pervaded the burger, mingling with the beef in a subtle manner. Knowing that this burger is only available on Tuesdays we’re going to have a craving for it every time Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Tuesday’s Gone” plays on the radio.In addition to the West Hartford location there is also a Max Burger restaurant in Longmeadow, Mass., and both restaurants are part of the Max Restaurant Group, which operates several restaurants in the Greater Hartford area. 

Munchies Food Truck, New London area

Last summer we started a series of stories on Connecticut’s best gourmet food trucks, and our research suggested we should check out the Munchies food truck that sets up shop in varying locations along the shoreline east of the river.

It took some effort to find Munchies one sunny morning, as the truck was hidden in the parking lot behind a medical office building in New London.

But that effort was rewarded with one of the best burgers we’ve ever had—from a food truck, at a roadside stand and even at acclaimed burger-bar restaurants.The Munchie Burger Deluxe above (fried egg, bacon, cheese, pickles, red onions, tomato, iceberg lettuce, ketchup and mustard, mayonnaise) unleashed a gourmet suite of juicy, essential burger flavors as it literally melted in the mouth. We had it with the hand-cut sea salt fries, which we called “a work of art gilded by the connoisseur’s touch of being served with garlic-pepper mayonnaise (or ketchup).”

Just thinking back on the burger—even almost a year later—makes the mouth water with desire. (And, by the way, given the informal food truck aspect of the operation, these burgers (and everything else, like fish-and-chips below, is a bargain).The experience maybe shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Munchies is a gourmet truck operated by professional chef Aiman Saad and his wife, Manal.

Knowing that we had to add Munchies to this year’s National Burger Month story, we reached out to Saad on Facebook to make sure his amazing burgers were still a primary focus. On the Munchies Facebook page and in his reply we were delighted to see that there are more amazing burgers than ever:

You can track the locations of Munchies on Facebook, and on Twitter. The phone number is 860) 961-6606.

Dew Drop Inn, Derby

Classic biker bar, hole-in-the-wall, bar food haven. The Dew Drop Inn in Derby holds up as all of the above, and as a recent visit affirmed, it can also be considered a worthy stop in your search for delicious burgers.No matter what you’re in the mood for, there’s a burger on the Dew Drop’s lengthy menu for you.

Want something classic? Go for the Fast Food Burger with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup. Want something outrageous? The Peanut Butter and Jelly Burger sounds up your alley. Want to set your mouth on fire? The Lava Burger with habanero peppers will ring the alarm.

With a mouthful of a name, the Avocado Gorgonzola Bacon Burger (right) was a crowd pleaser on our most recent visit. At once creamy and crunchy, the gorgonzola cheese makes the perfect tangy balance to the sweetness of the beef.

The Apple Burger (at top) with crisp slices of Granny Smith apples and a caramel drizzle is another seemingly odd combination that is worth a try. The sweetness of the caramel plays against the inherent saltiness of the burger. It’s on the cusp of being a dessert burger—in a great way.The Maple Butter Bacon Burger (left), a classic flavor combination at the Dew Drop, is juicy to the point of being messy but don’t let that deter you. The pile of diced bacon on top is sure to please any meat lover.

The Dew Drop Inn surrounds the burger list with many other appetizing foods, most famously their ambitious wing list (100 varieties in all.) If you think the burgers are far out there, you haven’t seen anything yet. Their Peanut Butter and Jelly wings may have received the most notoriety, but what about Jalapeno Cream Cheese, Blueberry BBQ, Tequila Sunrise, Wasabi Ranch or Coca-Cola? Or their menu of dessert wings including Nutella, S’Mores and Cinnabon?

Twenty-two lines of craft beers and an array of bottles will help you wash it all down.

The Dew Drop Inn is located at 25 North Ave. in Derby. (203) 735-7757, facebook.com/dewdropinnct.

Ted's Montana Grill, Hartford

A year ago this month we sat down with Ted Turner at his new Ted’s Montana Grill location on Front Street in Hartford, and for lunch we had a Canyon Creek bison burger with cheddar, bacon, jalapeño, blackberry jam and a fried egg.It was (without exaggeration) one of the best burgers we’ve ever had—anywhere.

The combination of toppings at first sounded a bit like abstract art you can’t grasp (blackberry jam with a fried egg?) but they came together like a beautiful symphony of flavors, each standing out and all combining for supreme deliciousness.

(Below, the Canyon Creek burger.)The bison meat is sweeter and richer than beef, and each bite of the fat juicy burger (gooey and dripping) just melted away; chewing was all form requiring very little function.

It surely helped matters that this particular Canyon Creek burger was personally prepared by Chris Raucci, the corporate chef for the Ted’s Montana Grill empire. (The big boss was in town for lunch at his newest place, so the big chef was there to make sure the meal was flawless.)

You can get the burgers with all-natural bison, certified Angus beef or grilled chicken breast. They’re served on a Kaiser bun with fresh-cut fries. (Ted’s just announced its addition of all-natural chicken that is antibiotic-free, from Georgia-based Springer Mountain Farms, Colorado’s Red Bird Farms and Delaware’s Nature Sensation’s Label.)

Ted’s Montana Grill is a festive place inspired by the American West that specializes in comfort food and is family-friendly.

And it has new menu items, including smoked trout dip, Boylan Hand-Crafted Sodas and strawberry shortcake.

“The Smoked Trout Dip appetizer boasts a southwestern flavor featuring trout smoked in-house, roasted Anaheim peppers, fresh lime, cilantro and served with ciabatta toast points and tortilla chips,” Ted’s says, adding, “Just in time for spring, Ted’s is bringing back Strawberry Shortcake, a guest favorite. Ted’s Strawberry Shortcake dessert features fresh-baked sweet drop biscuits topped with vanilla Häagen-Dazs® ice cream and house-made whipped cream, fresh strawberries and strawberry sauce.”

The new menu options are now available at Ted’s Montana Grill’s 46 locations.

The Hartford location is at 35 Front Street (860-692-1167), and the Ted’s Montana Grill in South Windsor is at The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, 500 Evergreen Way (860) 648-1100. The website is www.tedsmontanagrill.com.

Prime 16, New Haven

 

(Above, a burger from the photo gallery on the Prime 16 website.)

To launch May in juicy fashion we visited one of the favorites that's also closest to our office, Prime 16 in New Haven, which is a downtown haven for all-natural Angus burgers, craft beer and more in an inviting, fun atmosphere that's also urbane. And the location is prime too, as all of New Haven's (and Yale's) arts and cultural offerings are just steps away.

Prime 16 has great Happy Hour specials on burgers and pints of craft beer, among many other attributes. See the menu online and connect with the website for all the details.

The burgers (8 ounces of prime beef tucked between brioche rolls) are thick, tender and juicy, and the creative variations bring complex flavors to the equation. (We love the Cowboy Burger that's topped with Wisconsin cheddar, smoked Canadian bacon, a fried egg and romaine lettuce, with a side of pico de gallo.)

If you're looking for non-beef burgers, there's a Mediterranean lamb burger, a salmon burger and a mushroom-and-pecan burger. We tried the Buffalo Turkey burger, above, (buffalo sauce-basted, hand-formed turkey patty topped with bleu cheese crumble, celery-and-carrot coleslaw and romaine lettuce.) It was delicious.

Prime 16 is located at 172 Temple St. in downtown New Haven (203-782-1616). There's also one in Orange, at 464 Boston Post Road (203-553-9616).

(Above, The Firehouse Burger at Prime 16, with roasted jalapeño, roasted red pepper and onion, topped with pepper Jack cheese, romaine lettuce and tomato, with a side of garlic aioli.)

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