261 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
Established in 1895, Louis’ Lunch claims to be the first and only authentic “home of the hamburger sandwich.” Proprietor Jess Lassen continues to spin the yarn about how in 1900, his great-grandfather invented the hamburger for a customer who was in a rush. Jess continues to serve his ancestor’s original-recipe burger, which is made from not just beef but a mix of five meats, a treat for which he says “cheese, tomato and onion are the only acceptable garnish.” Louis’ Lunch may offer only one kind of burger – but it is an incredible and creative treat – and still only $5.50.
French 75 Bistro – Restaurant L&E
59 Main St.
Chester, CT 06412
Despite the name, there are no monkey bits in the French monkey burger at Restaurant L&E’s French 75 Bistro. The unappetizingly but curiously named burger is one of six types of burgers on the main menu (and more are added every Tuesday, as Tuesday is “Gourmet Burger Night”). The French monkey burger is a good, meaty treat topped with avocado, smoked tomato and cheddar cheese and Scot’s garden chillies. There is also Chef Robertos’ ground pork burger, which is topped with coleslaw, smoky barbecue sauces and Napa Valley cabbage. The house burger is of course the French 75 – named for an iconic artillery piece from the Great War. It is topped with crisp bacon, a fried egg and Cato Corner’s cheese. There is also a traditional or “classic” burger – albeit with the house remoulade instead of ketchup – and a vegetarian burger with goat cheese, fried eggplant, roasted red pepper and portobello mushrooms. All, of course, are served with pommes frites.
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283 Asylum St.
Hartford, CT 06103
No true burger lover who lives in or visits Hartford should do so without stopping in for a bite at Burger Baby on Asylum Street. This spot still offers a “ten dollar burger and fries” lunch special for two hours every day, as well as presents a lengthy list of specialty burgers, including one named simply “Fire” – as it includes hot smoked paprika, sautéed chillies and chipotle aioli. For those whose stomachs are not lined with iron, however, there are more gentle offerings, including turkey and vegetarian burgers, the “Smothered,” which as the name suggests is buried in a mountain of onions, mushrooms and gorgonzola, and the house special, the “Burger Baby Deluxe.” That comes with pickles, country fried bacon and American cheese. There are many other toppings available, including a variety of cheeses and bacons, and every burger comes with pickles, red onions, smoked paprika and Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup, at no extra charge.
The Sycamore Drive-In
282 Greenwood Ave.
Bethel, CT 06801
Going to The Sycamore Drive-In is like going back to the 1950s – right down to the décor and the rock and roll soundtrack. There are 13 burgers on the menu, including the Dagwood – named for the iconic comic strip character and his penchant for making mountainous sandwiches. This “final answer to the burger,” as the menu proclaims, comes stacked with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion and cheese, as do most of the dozen other burgers on the menu. Those include the “original” or double steak burger, onion, bacon, cheese and tomato burgers, each of which also come in double-sized versions. What is even more creative than the burgers and the ambiance is the price - even the most expensive burger on the menu, the “Dagwood,” is only $5.30.
Claire’s Corner Copia
1000 Chapel St.
New Haven, CT 06510
What is more creative for a burger meister than making a burger without meat? How about also making it Kosher? That is what Claire’s Corner Copia has been doing since 1975 – and it is now up to five varieties: California, Greek, mushroom, bistro and the ever-popular “all-American.” Each starts with a mix of organic grains and vegetables and ground walnuts, to which are added spices and toppings that give each of the five types of burger their distinct flavor. Claire’s somehow still manages to present a great burger, on a whole wheat bun of course, and with a small salad for an amazingly affordable $10 or less. Then again, Claire’s is as committed now as it was nearly four decades ago to serving healthy, affordable, vegetarian, Kosher food to its preferred clientele – current and former students. Situated at the corner of Chapel and College Streets, Claire’s is right across from the old Yale campus.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.