You can practically throw a rock and hit five good pizza places in Connecticut. With the proliferation of "better burger" joints in the state in the past few years, the same can be said for the humble hamburger (which of course, originated in New Haven.)
BurgerFi is one of the newer national chains to put down roots in Connecticut, opening an Avon location in the spring and following with another store in Manchester in October. The Florida-based fast-casual burger business prides itself on quality beef (all-natural and grass-fed) and eco-friendly operations.
The vibe: The Manchester location is modern and hip, brightly lit with a mix of wood and metallic details and a few flat-screen TVs on the wall. Fun and upbeat dance music lends a clubby touch to the ambience, but you can still carry on a conversation without shouting. Counter servers are friendly and patient, even as you work clumsily through the extensive menu choices.
The food: Burgers are the natural star here, in several preparations. Classic burgers are built with natural Angus beef, lettuce, tomato and BurgerFi secret sauce. The Breakfast All Day burger is one for brunch lovers, topped with a fried egg, hash browns and hickory bacon, drizzled in maple syrup. The brisket burger, ground from 28-day dry-aged meat, incorporates both Swiss and blue cheese into the mix, with lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Feeling creative? A DIY "build your best burger" option allows you to choose from nearly 30 sauces, cheeses, vegetables and other toppings, priced accordingly.
Crowned with a branded bun topper (BurgerFi's logo is seared into the bread) the signature BurgerFi cheeseburger is flavorful and juicy, with two slices of melted American cheese and secret sauce making a delicious mess with each bite. Give into it; there are plenty of napkins (made from recycled paper) at each table.
And while it's hard to resist carnivorous urges here, the VegeFi burger is plenty noteworthy and just as satisfying, a crisped, fresh-tasting patty of quinoa and vegetables on a multigrain bun with white cheddar, lettuce and tomato.
Hot dogs are another focus at BurgerFi, with a Chicago-style dog (mustard, "neon" relish, sport peppers, onion, pickle, celery salt on a poppyseed bun,) a New York dog with deli mustard and kraut; a Texas-style chili cheese dog and an apple-stuffed chicken-based dog. The Wagyu Kobe dog, split and grilled, is robust and savory.
Fresh-cut skin-on fries come with optional toppings like Parmesan cheese and herbs; cheese and chili. Onion rings are comically large, like bangle bracelets, and heavily battered. The "Cry and Fries" side option mixes both for sampling.
Sufficiently stuffed, we promised to try the frozen custard or a "concrete" (custard blended with toppings and mix-ins) on a future visit.
BurgerFi also sweetens the deal with craft beers on tap and a selection of wines, and even carries a Thomas Hooker "Fi-PA" India Pale Ale.
The bill: Burgers range from $3.97 for a single without toppings, to $9.97 for the premium brisket burger. Hot dogs are $3.97 to $4.97. Fries and onion rings are $2.97 to $5.97, with optional toppings from 77 cents to $1.77. Frozen custard cups, cones, shakes and concretes are $3.47 to $5.57.
The particulars: BurgerFi is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.