If you live near or are from central Connecticut, odds are you've eaten a steamed cheeseburger from Ted's in Meriden. At the very least, you've heard of it. But Ted's isn't the only place in this area serving up these particular type of cheeseburgers. They can also be found at K. LaMay's, also in Meriden, and at Burg'r Tend'r in Wallingford.
Being a Meriden native, I've had my fair share of Ted's. My father has gradually switched his allegiance from Ted's to K. LaMay's, so I decided to bring a few friends to each of these places to check out the differences.
None of us had been to Burg'r Tend'r, so it was our first stop. It's the smallest of the three restaurants, with one table by the window, and you can see into the kitchen from the front counter.
We ordered a couple steamed cheeseburgers ($4.99, with free toppings) and a couple steamed cheese sandwiches ($2.99), onion rings and French fries ($2.50 ecah). One of us familiar with the burgers at K. LaMay's said the burgers at Burg'r Tend'r are similar but a little bit smaller. The beef is loosely packed, with seasoning evenly distributed throughout the burger. Our cheese sandwiches were hot and not overly gooey. The large onion rings were perfectly cooked. But the biggest surprise was finding Vernor's ginger soda in the soda case ($1). Vernor's is a soda I grew up with as kind of a delicacy, since we could nly get it on vacation to Florida or the Midwest.
Next stop, a little more than a week later: Ted's. Most of us had been coming to Ted's for years. I even remember spilling chocolate milk on my dad's white jeans in the back booth at Ted's somewhere around 1990. The dining room at Ted's is maybe two or three times the size of Burg'r Tend'r, but the dining room was packed. Between the five of us, we ordered three steamed cheeseburgers ($4.75, most toppings free) a double hot cheese sandwich ($4), a small home fries ($1.75) and a small loaded home fries (with bacon, chili, cheese and jalapenos, $5.25), and Stewart's soda ($1.50 each). The meat on a Ted's burger is more tightly packed than at Burg'r Tend'r or K. LaMay's, which caused the meat to seem less evenly seasoned. The buns on the burgers were nothing to write home about, but the bun really isn't the focus. Ted's has a larger selection of toppings than Burg'r Tend'r or K. LaMay's, which helps offset smaller burger size. Ted's has the best cheese, and thus the best steamed cheese sandwich. In an attempt to split a double hot cheese, my friend and I ended up with our own Lady and the Tramp moment when the cheese between our two sandwich halves just kept stretching and stretching. I'd have to say my highlight was the loaded home fries, a naughty, guilty pile of pleasure amid all this greasy goodness.
It was an ambitious night of burger eating, so right after Ted's, we hit K. LaMay's, which is on the same side of Meriden. We again ordered a few steamed cheese burgers ($4.99, toppings free) and a hot cheese sandwich ($3.75), some French fries and onion rings ($2.50 each). K. LaMay's definitely has the biggest burgers of the three places, and the bun was also the winner of the night. The burgers and cheese sandwich were pretty similar to those made at Burg'r Tend'r, but bigger. Like Burg'r Tend'r, the cheese served at K. LaMay's was more grainy than melty, and had the same sharp cheddar flavor. K. LaMay's definitely had the juiciest burgers of the three. Our fries and onion rings were good, as were our Foxon Park sodas ($1.75).
Each burger joint has its strong points: Burg'r Tend'r's burger buns and soda selection; Ted's has its amazing cheese and those delicious loaded home fries; and K. LaMay's has the big, juicy burgers on tasty buns. The difference in cheeses is probably the most startling difference between the three places. But any way you slice it, we count ourselves lucky to have as many twists and versions of our beloved steamed cheeseburgers.
>>Burg'r Tend'r, 628 S. Colony Road, Wallingford, is open Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Information: 203-294-8888, http://www.burgrtendr.com.
>>K. LaMay's Steamed Cheeseburgers, 690 E. Main St., Meriden, is open Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Information: 203-237-8326, http://www.klamayssteamedcheeseburgers.com.
>>Ted's Restaurant, 1046 Broad St., Meriden, are Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: 203-237-6660. Ted's also has a location at 43 Berlin Road, Cromwell. Hours are Sunday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Phone: Information: 860-635-8337 and http://www.tedsrestaurant.com.