Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Steamed Cheeseburgers

Steamed cheeseburgers are uniquely Connecticut. Louie’s Lunch in New Haven is credited with inventing the hamburger. That same Yankee ingenuity has, for over fifty years, been cranking out a steamed variety.  I’m talking about Ted’s Restaurant.  I’m not new to the steamed hamburger scene, but I just found out that a Ted’s opened up in Cromwell, not five minutes from my house.  Well, a new burger joint in my neck of the woods is always welcome, so Friday night my wife and I decided to check it out. It was busy when we got there thanks to the Hartford Courant review a day before.  We decided to sit at the counter instead of waiting for a table.  Good move as it gave me an unobstructed view as to the machinations of the steamed cheeseburger. 

One thing that struck me was the limited menu.  Steamed hamburger, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, BLT’s and cheese sandwiches. Home fries, not French fries. Like Five Guys, do one thing and do it right.  There are lots of toppings for the burgers along with the usual condiments.  I got lettuce, tomato and sautéed onions. Sal got the sautéed onions, pickles and ketchup.  The kitchen and prep area are right in front so you see the burgers being prepped, cooked and assembled.  We gave our order to the waiter, sat back, and watched the show. 

The cook takes square patties and puts them into a small metal tray.  Away they go into the steamer.  It’s a purpose built box sitting on top of the stove.  The cheese goes into a similar pan and then into a separate cheese steamer.  This is looking real good.  Sal and I while away the time chatting about our day and getting drinks.  The usual assortment of soft drinks awaits.  By the way, no Coke, Pepsi. 

The home fries are cooked on a flat top.   They dump a pile of diced, par boiled potatoes onto the grill, squirt a nice big drizzle of butter, and top it off with a big dash of paprika.  You can get them plain or with cheese.  We opted for plain. 

Finally our order was ready.  The counter guy took the hamburger out of the tray, dumped off most of the fat and put the burger on a fresh Kaiser roll.  He added a dash of the fat from the tray for a little flavor.  Next he took out the steamed cheese and dumped it on the burger.  I need to be restrained because I can’t wait to bite into this.  He adds the toppings and serves it up.  Wow!  This is a fine looking burger!  I bite into trying to get a mouthful of burger, cheese, toppings and roll.  Success.  The burger is very juicy with a good meaty flavor.  The huge glob of steamed cheese is the star here as it makes  the taste and texture pop.  The fries are done right too.  Not mushy, but with a nice bite.  The paprika adds a nice smoky depth to the taste.  Having it cooked in butter doesn’t hurt either. 

Two burgers, two fries and two drinks for $15.  Not too bad.  I still prefer Five Guys because I like my burgers with a crust and I think their blend of meat is a little tastier.  Would I go back?  In a heartbeat...  provided it is still beating after downing all that cheeseburger and fries. 

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