Foodie Tour: On the Hunt for the Best Steamed Cheeseburger in Central Connecticut

Who would have thought that Connecticut is such a foodie destination, but thanks to a few New England trips I’ve been taking up to Thompson Speedway for some SCCA Club Racing, I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to sample something unique to Central Connecticut: Steamed Cheeseburgers.

What are Steamed Cheeseburgers?

Well, they are burger patties that are cooked in a little steam oven instead of on the grill, so that they are juicy inside without the fat being burned into them. The cheese that holds the burger together is done in a similar fashion making it an oey goodness that has a very unique taste to it.

I first learned about the idea of steamed cheeseburgers from the Miata.net forum where I did the research for my other foodie tour of Connecticut that took me along the coast and where I sampled some delicious (and quite pricey) lobster rolls. People said I had to try it, and who am I to say no? Everyone recommended Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden, CT as the go-to place for these burgers. But I wanted to check out a few other places with the same item on the menu to have something to compare it to, you know… for purely scientific purposes.

So I picked a few spots, and programmed Waze to get me there in time. I had to leave New Jersey late enough so that I don’t wait around for Jessie when she gets off work but early enough so I get to the restaurants before they close as some of them had pretty early hours…. this is where the “original” Lunchbox comes in. I read a few Yelp reviews that compared the Lunchbox with Ted’s and people claimed that it made better steamed cheeseburgers than Ted’s. Lunchbox closes at 3pm during the week, and I left NJ at 12:30pm thinking with a 2 hour drive I will have plenty of time to sample my burger. Of course I hit heavy traffic on Merritt Parkway in Connecticut about an hour away from the destination, where at one point I shut my car off because we were sitting stationary for so long. Turns out it was a minor fender bender just before one of the two lanes was closed on the highway for tree removal and grass mowing… Go figure! My Waze GPS was guestimating I would arrive Meriden between 2:55pm and 3pm so I phoned in my order for a Steamed Cheeseburger Deluxe (whatever that means) and they were happy to take my order. At least now I knew that if I made it in time I’d get a chance to sample their creation.

Well, long story short I made it to the Lunchbox just in time, the GPS was right I walked through the door at 2:55pm and my order was sitting on the counter. As I was getting out of my car a silver/grey NB Miata drove by with it’s top down, and as I glanced at the car as it passed me by, the owner waved at me, which was kind of cool! I was starving at that point so I quickly rushed to taste my burger: and wow! What a unique experience. I mean nothing about the ingredients was really extraordinary when you think about it, it was a combination of a bun, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato. But how the whole thing was put together was neat. It was certainly very tasty. And now I had my baseline to compare the others to.

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Just down the street on the same road was my next stop. This one seemed to be much more popular and I overheard a number of people saying they traveled to get there just for the experience. I ordered another steamed cheeseburger this time with bacon, and in matter of minutes it was on the plate and ready to serve. This time, the meal was much larger with a bigger bun and what looked like two burger patties. The cheese was much more liquid-like but super tasty, it was dripping out of the burger on each side. I loved this one a lot more than the other one I tried just minutes earlier. I presume I was still very hungry because I wolfed it down in no time, and was ready to hit the “world famous” Ted’s at last!

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And so I made the mile and some change drive down to Ted’s Restaurant for their version of the steamed cheeseburger. The place was done up nicely, looked far more polished then the other two. The same person I saw on the videos I watched about steamed cheeseburgers was behind the counter serving food, so that was a neat start and I was excited to try their version. But I got the sense the guy was a bit grumpy. I’m sure they get this a lot where tourists try taking pictures of their work, and I’m sure it gets annoying after a while. I got a slight sense of this annoyance.

But the steamed cheeseburger at Ted’s was fantastic! I mean much better than the last two places I visited just minutes earlier. The bun was just right, the meat texture was just right, but what held the whole thing together really well was the cheese. It was completely different texture than the other two places I tried, and far more geared towards my liking. It was soft but chewy and stretched out with every bite giving you a mouth-full of bun, meat and cheese to enjoy together with some bacon thrown into the mix. Adding bacon raised the price from $6 to $7.50 which seemed like a lot, but I guess everyone loves bacon, so why not charge more for it? I paired my meal with an order of homecooked fries, which were awesome… but since I had just eaten three burgers of reasonable size in a row, the fries put me over the limit. I felt like I wobble’d out of there hurting from the pain of being FULL. But what an awesome experience it was!

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I would definitely recommend steamed cheeseburgers to anyone that haven’t tried them before, and at a price that’s less than half of what you typically pay for a much more modest portion of the lobster roll, the price is definitely right.

Go try it!