Little Brother Burgers (New London, NH)

Sometimes it can be nice to break a curse. We all know them, those “cursed” restaurant locations that, for one reason or another, seem to consistently fail to thrive as a restaurant for one restaurateur after another, until finally either a restaurant manages to break the curse, or the building owner gives up and converts the space to something other than a restaurant. Well, recently I was heading back home from SE New Hampshire, and decided to meet Carol for dinner in New London at Little Brother Burgers for dinner. Looking up the address, 420 Main St (an, ahem, memorable address), I immediately recognized it as New London’s cursed spot. In my 18 years living in the region, that same address has had one failed restaurant after another. Most recently, it was Cataleya’s Caribbean Grill. Before that, the Hole in the Fence Cafe. A tavern before that, and several other places that have since faded into memory (Snyder’s Tavern, College Cafe, …). The track record for places opening here is, quite frankly, dismal. But hey, a new owner, some new ideas, maybe something will catch this time?

So, with some trepidation I headed in. The restaurant is basically divided into two seating areas, a front bar area and a back dining room, so you are greeted by the bar right as you come in the door, and I immediately welcomed one sight: NH beer. With the craft beer movement still in full swing, gone are the days when a single tap of “Sam Adams” kept customers happy, but now most places have had to seriously up their game.

In Little Brother’s case, they had a good selection of actual local NH beers, including Great Northern, Litherman, and even Polyculture (run by my friend Chris just down the road in Croydon, NH). The rest of the taps were a respectable cross-section of New England beers. So, if they’re going for the classic burger and beer thing, they’re off to a strong start.

As I enjoyed my Polyculture Boat Shoes beer, we looked over the menu; the basic menu is “burgers” with a variety of toppings, but they’ve also got a few sandwiches (the chicken sandwiched), some tacos (both Mexican and Korean-style on our visit), and a few salads. And, almost as an afterthought, we saw the specials board above the bar, sporting a “dozen wings and fries” special. I’m glad we did, since this was a rather nice plate of wings. In general, I’m more of a fan of unbreaded wings (the crispiness should come from the chicken skin), but they did a really good job with the light breading on these wings, and the inside meat was perfectly moist. Both sauces were tasty and neither overly sweet, and they provided an ample amount of both ranch and blue cheese dressing, and some veggies as well. In short, a hit.

On to the burgers… We both ended up finishing up with burgers. Before I get into the burgers again, I’m going to say that I like that Little Brother is bucking the trend a bit. Around my part of New England it seems that the $18-$20 burger is getting to be standard at a heck of a lot of restaurants (often for as small as a 5 oz patty!), and even some of the lowbrow places are pushing $15 burgers. At Little Brother, the basic quarter pound cheeseburger is $7, and the half pounder is $12, and if you opt for fries (we didn’t, the wings came with fries), those only run you $2. A few of the specialty burgers are a bit more expensive, but still reasonable. Carol opted to go for the Brodeo Burger, which was your basic “BBQ Bacon” burger: bacon, cheddar, onion rings, and barbecue sauce. But everything basically worked here. The burger was properly medium rare with a decent sear, the bacon and onion rings hot and crisp. Myself, I’d like a little more toast on the bun (a small detail that often adds a lot to a burger), and get the cheese a bit more melty, but overall, this was a fine burger.

Myself, I went for the Blues Brother, with mushrooms, onions, Swiss, and blue cheese. Interestingly, I don’t usually go for blue cheese (or feta, for that matter) on a burger, both for the strong flavor, and for the subtle textural issues, but here it basically worked, adding a bit of tanginess that paired well with the mushrooms. Overall, a rather nicely executed mushroom Swiss burger.

Overall, I’m hopeful that the curse of 420 Main is over; New London could always use another good restaurant option (don’t get me wrong, I rather like The Coach House, Peter Christian’s, and the Flying Goose just fine, but it is nice to have options), and Little Brother was a rather nice spot to stop in for a beer and a burger with a pleasant staff without breaking the bank.

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