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- Ten Connecticut Burgers For National Hamburger Month
- Dining and Drinking
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263 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06510, USA
360 Middle Turnpike W, Manchester, CT 06040, USA
43 Berlin Rd, Cromwell, CT 06416, USA
124 Lasalle Rd, West Hartford, CT 06107, USA
104 Broadway St, Colchester, CT 06415, USA
187 Allyn St, Hartford, CT 06103, USA
1096 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA
120 Hebron Ave, Glastonbury, CT 06033, USA
Though Louis Lassen's tiny New Haven eatery, Louis Lunch, has been widely credited with the invention of the hamburger in 1900, that didn't stop an ominous demolition threat in the 1970s, when the city wanted to turn the building into a high rise. But in 1975, Lassen's grandson, Ken, convinced officials to move the historic restaurant to its current location on Crown Street.
"We fought the city for survival for 10 years, plus. We came within a week of being torn down. But moving up here was probably one of the best things to happen to us, because of the location and the proximity to Yale," says Ken's son Jeff Lassen, the fourth-generation owner of his great-grandfather's business.
Louis Lassen is said to have invented the burger in 1900, when — to accommodate a rushed customer — he placed ground steak trimmings between two slices of bread. More than a century later, the burgers have remained the same, cooked on the original vertical cast-iron grills (stamped with "1898," the year they were made) and served on white toast.
Regulars know that the only "acceptable" burger toppings here are cheese, onion and tomato. Only the uninitiated will notice the lack of other condiments, and only the truly unaware will ask for them.
Jeff Lassen recognizes that the no-ketchup (or mustard, or mayonnaise) policy is unusual, but says it exists to showcase the quality of the meat. It is freshly ground daily, never frozen, he says.
Louis Lunch has been featured regularly on the Travel Channel, and its legacy has been certified by the Library of Congress. This documentation is regularly referenced whenever the hamburger's birthplace is questioned.
"Number one, we're the only place that's still in business," Lassen says. "Number two, we can pretty much prove [our burger's origin] because of our [date-stamped] grills. Other places, basically all they have is a story."
>> 261-263 Crown St., New Haven. 203-562-5507, louislunch.com.
The Dramatic Presentation
A Shady Glen burger, with its corona of fried cheese, is instantly recognizable. The cooks at this vintage Manchester diner create this classic by placing four slices of cheese atop the patty, extended so that the cheese melts and then crisps upon contact with the grill. (Some customers skip the burger altogether and just order plates of the brittle cheese.)
Last summer, the restaurant ran into a supply issue with its cheese, forcing the owners to look for another product. Customers weren't happy with the replacement, but Shady Glen worked quickly to remedy the problem. The issue is "long-since taken care of," says general manager Billy Hoch.
The unusual specialty, known as a "Bernice Original" after co-founder Bernice Reig, began when the dairy bar opened in 1948. Generations of customers have enjoyed it since. But every once in a while, the restaurant will still see some newbies, Hoch says.
"It's so much fun to see how they're going to decide to eat it," he says. "They just can't get the concept…they twirl the plate in a circle, and just look at it. Some take half the cheese off and save it, or fold the rest."
>>Two locations: 840 East Middle Turnpike, 860-649-4245; 360 West Middle Turnpike (Manchester Parkade), 860-643-0511.
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