To some people, residents of Connecticut are considered weird. But we’ve embraced the things that make us different—that’s just what Nutmeggers do. And it’s probably that philosophy that has made us home to what many outsiders consider the weirdest food: The steamed Cheeseburger.
History of the Steamed Cheeseburger
Central Connecticut, especially the town of Meriden, is famous for cheeseburgers made in a steam cabinet, hence the name “steamed cheeseburger.” The Connecticut delight was invented in Meriden in the early 1900s.
The steamed cheeseburger is cooked in a stainless-steel cabinet which contains small trays that hold either an individual hamburger or a chunk of cheese to be melted. The burgers are literally cooked with hot steam instead of on a grill or griddle.
The cheeseburger is served by placing the meat onto a bun and pouring the melted cheese (also steamed) over the meat. Bill Forman, owner of Ted’s, says the tradition began during a construction boom in the early 1900s when lunches were needed at building sites where you weren’t able to bring a grill along with you: “They made a primitive steam truck and used it to cook sandwiches,” he said.
Another story told about this odd food craze is that steaming was part of a health craze that avoided fried foods. By steaming the burger instead of frying it, you reduce the amount of fats, oils, and calories making for a healthier meal (at least in theory)
Of all the restaurants in Meriden serving steamed cheeseburgers, two stand out as favorites (and supposed inventors): Ted’s and K LaMay’s.
Ted’s is an award-winning steamed cheeseburger restaurant located in Meriden. Founded in 1959, it is family owned and operated and was named for having “Best Burgers in the U.S.” in Food and Wine magazine.
Ted’s Restaurant is considered by many to be the incontestable destination if you want a steamed cheeseburger. Ted’s believes that steaming allows the best possible flavor for the burger, keeps the meat moist, and produces a sticky but delicious blanket of cheese.
The real star here is, of course, the cheese. Ted’s steams 2 ounces of cheddar for every burger. Just looking at the mound of cheese atop the burger and dripping down the sides is a work of art.
Located at 1046 Broad St, Meriden, this burger joint adds a unique twist on fast food and utilizes a ’50s-era counter serve. If you’re up for something new and you’re a Connecticut resident who hasn’t had the pleasure of devouring such a delight be sure to stop in!
Kevin LaMay, owner and creator of K LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburger restaurant, learned about steamed cheeseburgers from the best by putting in his time as a teen working at Ted’s.
K La May’s Steamed Cheeseburgers opened in 2006 in Meriden. They started off serving freshly cooked sandwiches to the patrons of Garryowen’s Pub, which they were located directly behind, and to the public who made their way in for the new burger around town. The business grew their loyal customer base rapidly. Shortly after KLaMay’s moved to a new location still in Meriden where they still remain.
They have also expanded their business to Wallingford at Double Play Cafe and East Hampton which is currently closed for the time being due to damage of the outside of the property.
Having learned everything from Ted’s, the burgers are pretty similar—but don’t tell that to the locals. It seems that everyone has a favorite between the two, and just like the rivalry between Pepe’s and Sally’s pizza in New Haven, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
If you want to join this burger craze at their long lasting spot in Meriden they are located at 690 E Main St.
The Final Verdict
So have you tried a steamed Connecticut steamed cheeseburger? What do you think about this Meriden favorite? And which restaurant do you think serves the best variation? Let us know in the comments below!