Ted’s Restaurant (Meriden, CT)

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.

The menu at Ted’s is pretty simple, basically steamed hamburgers and cheeseburgers, with home fries available as a side. Both the burgers and the cheese for the fries are cooked in a stainless-steel cabinet mounted over a steamer tray, which contains a rack of small trays, each holding either an individual hamburger or a block of cheese. The bun is slices, the burger scooped out of its tray onto the bun, cheese (if desired) applied from another tray, condiments applied, and the sandwich delivered.

I opted for both a hamburger and a cheeseburger, both with onion and mustard. The steamed burger really does give an interesting result, ending up someplace between a “slider” (a proper slider being grilled above a bed of onions, partially steaming it) and a normal burger.

On the upside, the the steaming keeps the meat very juicy, although there’s no crispness here. Like several other burgers, the bun is one of the better elements here, a nice crusty kaiser roll, which soaks up much (but not all) of the grease, while having enough crustiness to keep most of that grease from ending up on your fingers. It’s good overall, but to me, it’s more of a “meatball” sort of good, instead of a proper burger.

On the downside, the steamed burger lacks much of the texture that I like in a good burger, there’s no crispness (it’s the exact opposite of, say, a Steak n’ Shake burger which is pressed into the grill to sear it heavily), and much of the structure of the bun becomes soggy with grease. The texture is hurt more if you opt for the cheeseburger… the cheese is flavorful, but has a gummy texture (much like a fried mozzarella stick) that, quite frankly, isn’t what I’m looking for on a cheeseburger.

Don’t get me wrong, Ted’s is worth trying, and the burgers here are good, albeit in their own little corner of the hamburger spectrum, but these aren’t the sort of burger I’d want every day.

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