Local Bites - BBQ season / Jeff Schlesinger
The Fourth of July has passed and barbecue season is in full swing. Over the last few months I have enjoyed this wonderful time of year by sampling a variety of delicious hamburgers and developed a listing of "Ten Recommended Burgers from Greenwich to Westport" that includes three New Canaan locations.
Beach Burger (Norwalk) Across the river from SONO, the newest arrival on the Fairfield County hamburger scene is the creation of "Chopped" winner Marc Anthony Byrum and local ice cream store owner Anthony Luciani. This duo immediately entered the discussion as a recommended destination with their 6-ounce grass-fed all natural beef hamburger. Their toppings include traditional cheese, bacon and sauteed onions, plus non-traditional toppings such as pulled pork, guacamole and fried oysters. Beach Burger also offers some very uniquely flavored milk shakes, including Banana Foster, Twinkie and PB&J.
1st Street & Cove Ave., Norwalk, 203-956-5767
Black Duck (Westport) Tucked under I-95 off Exit 17 sits a reconstructed 1840's barge overlooking the Saugatuck River, and the hamburger is unquestionably one of the best in Fairfield County. The hamburger is a full 8-ounces 80-20 Angus beef patty (a 12 ounce variety is also available), perfectly cooked and delivered encased in a plain bun. The hamburger has a nice rich flavor and the texture is soft and shows that care is taken in the kitchen in preparing the meat. The larger size burger allows the flavor of the meat to be the highlight even when topped with my favorite frazzled onions and cheese.
605 Riverside Avenue, Westport, 203-227-7978
Blue Cactus Grill (Norwalk) This hidden gem of owner Vic Amereno serves hand-formed hamburgers with daily-delivered meat from Omaha Beef Company in Danbury using a 75-year-old recipe. The 8-ounce 70/30 blend burgers are hand formed on site each day and then grilled to perfection. The hamburger is served on a plain grilled bun from the New York Bakery in Norwalk, based on a recipe that Amereno developed. Together the deep flavor of the meat and the mild bun work perfectly together. In addition, the hand-cut fries as well as the hand-made chips are fantastic sides; plus be sure to try the homemade cactus slaw.
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51 Stevens St., Norwalk, 203-838-8800
Burgers Shakes and Fries (Greenwich / Darien) Considered by many as the best hamburger in Fairfield County, owner Kory Wollins combines delectable beef from Master Purveyors with his signature butter grilled bread at the original location in Byram as well as the BSF restaurant in Darien. Customers choose from numerous toppings, such as cheese or fried eggs to complement the great flavor of the meat.
If a hot dog is desired, BSF also serves one of the best `dogs' in the county. For side choices, customers choose from the perfectly prepared fries or the latest addition of delicious sweet potato tots. To complete the meal, BSF offers several delicious shakes made with house-made syrups. The tasty chocolate shakes are the mainstay at many tables.
302 Delavan Ave, Greenwich, 203-531-7433, 800 Post Road, Darien, 203-202-9401
Cherry Street East (New Canaan) -- When I envision the perfect bar hamburger, Cherry Street East ranks as one of the best. Each day, CSE hand forms its hamburgers for local business and town's people. This institution has survived economic downturns and a ground-leveling fire to remain a destination spot for hamburger lovers. My favorite, and in my unofficial poll, the favorite of many, is the Vermonster, a single hamburger with bacon and cheddar on an English muffin. To accompany the hamburger, the french fries and the daily hand-cut onion rings (my favorite onion rings in Fairfield County) add to the perfect lunch or dinner in combination with a large beer or soda.
45 East Ave., New Canaan, 203-594-1515
Farmer's Table (New Canaan) -- After six months on the vibrant New Canaan restaurant scene, Robert Ubaldo and his fiancee, Lucia, are delivering an incredible hamburger. The meat is sourced from John Boy's Farm in New York, and the hamburger is served with two slices of delicious cheese and thin slices of cornichon. The slight tartness of the latter perfectly complements the richness of the beef, and Farmer's Table delivers its signature french fries perfectly prepared with just a touch of salt. Always wanting to improve the product, stay tuned as Farmer's Table looks into developing a new twist in the near future.
21 Forest St., New Canaan, 203-594-7890
Harvest Supper (New Canaan) -- Harvest Supper's hamburger begins with superbly prepared American Wagyu beef. Owner Grace Lamb then complements the deliciously rich flavor with a melted slice of Beemster XO cheese, a few slices of bread and butter pickles, a thin slice of red onion and the Harvest Supper "Special Sauce" all encased in a wonderful sesame seed bun. I recommend eliminating the special sauce (ordering on the side is an alternative), which allows for the great flavor of the meat and the deep, nutty flavor of the Beemster cheese to shine. Harvest Supper serves its hamburger with perfectly fried shoestring potatoes that are accented with a touch of rosemary.
15 Elm St., New Canaan, 203-966-5502
Le Farm (Westport) -- chef Bill Taibe serves his vision of an incredibly delicious high end hamburger beginning with Pat LaFrieda's single grind shoulder meat which is cooked to perfection. He next complements the rich flavors of the meat, with several slices of delicious bacon, melted mild cheddar cheese, a few thick slices of bread and butter pickles and housemade pepper mayonnaise. He serves this flavorful combination encased in a poppy seed bun from SONO Baking Company and Cafe. Each of the ingredients is delicious individually, and when combined create a great hamburger. Alongside the hamburger, Taibe serves salty and peppery roasted potatoes and a delicious balsamic dressed mixed salad.
256 Post Rd E., Westport, 203-557-3701
Napa & Company (Stamford) -- Chef Arik Bensimon delivers the quintessential high end hamburger, which begins with delectably seasoned American Wagyu beef. Chef Arik pan fries this incredibly flavorful and succulent meat to perfection and then serves with red onion jam, aged Gouda and black pepper mayo encased in a brioche bun. The red onion jam adds an incredible sweetness and the aged Gouda brings a deep nutty flavor to the other rich flavors.
On the side, Arik serves mouth-watering fries, currently featuring a touch of rosemary. With a glass of beer or a perfectly paired glass of wine, this hamburger is the epitome of perfection.
75 Broad Street, Stamford, 203-353-3319
Nicholas Roberts (Norwalk) -- With owner/ chef Robert Troilo overseeing the kitchen, Nicholas Roberts produces another delicious hamburger in Norwalk. It begins with D'Artagnan natural beef and then pan-fries the hamburger to perfection. The hamburger is served with a few slices of aged Vermont cheddar cheese, soft and sweet caramelized onions, a few slices of bacon, sauteed mushrooms and fries.
The bacon, also from D'Artagnan, is a perfect complement to the flavors of the meat and I always ask for extra fried onions. In addition the perfectly prepared french fries at Nicholas Roberts are some of the best in the county.
5 Main St., Norwalk, 203-229-0035 .
We are fortunate to have three excellent hamburgers available in New Canaan with seven other recommended locations in the surrounding towns. With all of these great choices it is no wonder Connecticut is sometimes referred to as a destination for hamburgers.