As we approach the fifth anniversary of that fateful day in April, 2006 I wanted to express my thanks to John and Mary Bergin and so many of my neighbors for saving the New Canaan tradition known as Cherry Street East.

In April 2006, Cherry Street East suffered the greatest catastrophe that can strike any business when it became engulfed in flames. A total loss; many loyal patrons stared at the charred remains of their local pub, their beloved haunt, and the place that since 1977 had served one of the best burgers in Fairfield County. Cherry Street East was a piece of the fiber of the New Canaan community and patrons were concerned that Cherry Street East would become a distant memory. In a true tribute to the owners, many local residents formed an alliance to reconstruct an exact replica of the much-loved building. The diverse clientele returned; including local business people sharing an appetizer and burger for lunch, several regulars holding court, and families out for a traditional burgers and fries dinner.

With the building reconstructed to its former glory many of us were nervous about the return of the legendary burgers that we so adored.

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Our fears were soon dismissed; the legendary burgers that were the cornerstone of Cherry Street East returned. The 8-ounce burgers are ground daily on the premises and then carefully hand-formed to maintain the loose grind of the meat. Each burger is cooked to order on a gas fired indoor grill, with individual attention to assure the desired doneness in each burger. I prefer my burgers with a full pink interior, and in every instance, it arrived perfectly prepared. The half-pound size allows for a nice thick presentation, fully capable of handling any of the numerous combinations of toppings that are available to satisfy any craving. Each customer starts with a great burger and then adds to its individual perfection; you can mix and match from the twenty different toppings including traditional tomato, lettuce, grilled peppers and onions plus guacamole, jalapeno peppers and salsa.

My customized bacon-cheeseburger arrived with two slices of American cheese (several other cheese choices are available including Swiss, Cheddar, Jack and Smoked Mozzarella); and crispy bacon atop the burger and encased in a large Kaiser roll. Upon the delicious first bite you understand why people love the Cherry Street East burger. The meat has a great flavor, full, rich, reminiscent of all the burgers you love when you grill at home and the bacon adds a nice level of smokiness and saltiness. While the Kaiser roll is the standard fare, I prefer the English muffin and highly recommend the Vermonster that includes three slices of bacon and cheddar on an English Muffin. The additional flavor of the muffin adds a little sharpness to the burgers deep flavor and I find the rolls a little too bland for my taste. If you order your burger on a roll I find asking for the roll to be toasted adds more flavor to the meal.

The other item that is outstanding at Cherry Street East are the house cut onion rings. Each morning pounds of onions are hand cut and readied for the day. The coating is light and crispy and the onions are soft and wonderful. They arrive unsalted, but each table is equipped with individual salt and pepper grinders. A lunch of a burger and onion rings in this friendly establishment is one of the best ways to spend a lazy afternoon.

Cherry Street East also serves both russet and sweet potato fries.

Like the onion rings, they arrive unsalted, but a few twists of the S&P shakers and the fries are ready for a quick dip into some ketchup (malt vinegar also available). They are prepared when ordered to create a perfectly fresh product, each with some skin and each deep-fried to a glorious finish. The russets are mild in flavor, and if you would like little more flavor, then the sweet potato fries are a perfect choice as they have a slight amount of sweetness.

The delectable burgers, onion rings, and fries can be accompanied by a selection of six beers on tap including Bass, Bud Light, Guinness, Sierra Ale, Smithwick's Ale, and Stella. In addition, several choices of beer are available in bottles. My personal favorite is the Freaky Dog Rooff Beer.

The always occupied bar offers three strategically placed TV's broadcasting sports, CNN, ESPN or MSNBC. There are eight small, 2-person tables plus eight booths to serve a total of fifty patrons. An upstairs dining room is also available. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed, engaging and friendly. The staff has been there for years and treats everyone like a member of the family.

Cherry Street East is a destination spot for a great hamburger.

If you are in the mood for a great hand formed, perfectly cooked burger with a side of fries and some house prepared onion rings, then Cherry Street East is a great place to satisfy your craving.