Like most any trip of ours that involves driving through Southern Connecticut, if the timing allows, we usually stop in New Haven for Pizza. For those people that aren’t familiar with it, New Haven Pizza (often known in the area as “apizza”, pronounced somewhat like “a-beets”) is practically a religion, with several establishments having turned out this style of pizza for almost a century now: chewy crusty, heavy charring, crushed tomato sauce, and relatively light cheese. It’s actually my favorite overall style of pizza, and it’s almost impossible to have a discussion of the style without an argument about which of the two iconic New Haven pizza places: Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s Apizza, is the best. I was brought up in the Pepe’s faith (there really wasn’t much question about it, if you had asked about Sally’s, it was like asking your Protestant parents if you could go to the Methodist church…), but do appreciate a Sally’s pie every once in a while. But somewhat lost in the noise in this argument is the fact that there are actually several more excellent places in the pantheon of New Haven Apizza other than Pepe’s or Sally’s, indeed, I can easily think of another half dozen good places to go (and even more that used to be around, like Bimonte’s in North Haven). But if there’s one perennial also-ran in the race for best Apizza, it’s one of the most venerable as well: Modern Apizza.
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I really like bacon. Not just any bacon, either, but good bacon (if anything, I’ve been annoyed by the current bacon trend, since it mostly seems to be emphasizing quantity over quantity; putting three strips of bacon on something doesn’t automatically make it better). No, my bacon needs to be made from a quality pork belly that’s got nice layering of fat and lean. It needs to be thick sliced. It needs to nicely smoked and cured, generally with some nice robust flavors. And it needs to be properly cooked. Most places serving me up some bacon fail on one of these. But I’m lucky enough to live in New England, which actually has several purveyors of really top quality bacon. For example, I’m a huge fan of the various bacons (in particular the cob-smoked bacon) from North Country Smokehouse down the road from me in Claremont, NH. Similarly, two local companies, Garfield’s Smokehouse in Plainfield, NH, and Vermont Smoke and Cure in Hinesburg, VT. But there’s one place in New England that, when my travels allow, I stop by for bacon and a sandwich: Nodine’s Smokehouse in Goshen, CT.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, a lot of people believe that (to quote my former coworker Marc), “A hot dog is a hot dog.” I don’t concur, I’ve eaten enough hot dogs, from Sonoran Hot Dogs, to Chicago Dogs, to DC half-smokes, to New York papaya dogs, to Dodger dogs, that this clearly isn’t the case. It’s also important to note that it’s not just serving styles that vary, but also the dog itself. The Sabrett’s beef hot dog is what give those New York dogs their flavor. Similarly, a Chicago dog isn’t really right unless it’s a Vienna Beef dog hiding under all that stuff. And in the case of Connecticut, there’s quite a bit of variety hiding in this little state, with several regional butchers producing the hallmark style of that state: beef and pork blend, spiced similar to New York dog with lots of garlic and paprika notes. One of my favorite hot dogs is one of these from Hummel Bros. in New Haven, CT, making a good natural casing hot dog with a serious spiciness to it. And one of the best places to get a Hummel dog is Blackie’s in Cheshire, CT.
On occasion, you run into little joints that have some culinary heritage to their offerings in addition to the food. Examples include Phillipe’s in Los Angeles (a leading contender for the invention of the French Dip) and Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis (one contender for the invention of the Jucy Lucy), although like any sort of invention claims, both of these come with some controversy. When it comes to the idea of who invented the modern hamburger, Louis Lunch is one credible claimant. Now located on Crown Street in New Haven, Louis Lunch has been around since 1895 (in locations ranging from a street cart on Meadow Street to the current permanent location), and has been serving hamburgers for most of that time. Regardless of primacy, however, Louis Lunch is interesting since they haven’t made any significant changes to their menu or hamburger preparation the entire time, and are still serving hamburgers prepared pretty much the same way they were done the beginning of the last century.
My recent trip down to New Haven had me passing right through Meriden, CT, so it was time to visit Ted’s Restaurant again, and this time take some photos and blog it. Ted’s is an interesting place, mostly since it is famous for an unusual variation of a cheeseburger: the steamed cheeseburger. Yes, you read that right, the steamed cheeseburger. Unless you’ve spent a fair amount of time in New England, you probably haven’t seen one of these (off the top of my head, I can think of only one other place with steamed hamburgers, and that’s Comet’s in Tyngsborough, MA), but it’s an interesting enough variation on a burger that it’s worth a try.