A toast to a straight-forward burger spot in Darien
I like a straightforward restaurant. This is what attracted me to the Darien location of Burgers, Shakes & Fries. It is pretty easy to figure out what they serve. As a longtime restaurant reviewer, people often suggest a place for me to eat. When I ask them what the place serves, I often get “everything” or “anything you want” as an answer. This is not helpful.
Burgers, Shakes & Fries is not all this restaurant has on the menu, but it is the core of the place, so that was my focus. No one had to twist my arm to try any of these items as they are all in the pantheon of American classics.
The burger was terrific, one of the best I have tasted in a very long time. Like the whacked-out craze for doughnuts, which too often translates into insane ingredients from bacon to pickles, restaurants that feature hamburgers are often seduced by the “more is more” spirit. The public’s fickle eye is to be drawn by boasts of “the biggest,” “the tallest,” “the widest” burger, and pictures of these items show a poor little patty hidden under a mound of mismatched proteins and vegetables. The burger seems to be cringing from embarrassment.
Burgers, Shakes & Fries, as you may surmise by its name, is a casual family-friendly place, although there is a bar and a good selection of craft beer. All around me were swarms of well-behaved kids and parents who would take no less in the manners department. It was a pleasant break from seeing kids throwing food and running rampant through informal restaurants. I could go into a rant on the subject of kids gone wild in places to eat, but I think you get the idea.
If you wisely choose the burger, you decide between a single or a double. I ordered a single burger with cheddar and sauteed onions. I was asked if I wanted the burger on toast or a bun, and I went for the toast and this is why, the “hamburger sandwich” was invented in Connecticut in 1895 by Louis Lassan. If you doubt the veracity of this claim, take a look at all the plaques on the wall from various historical societies, as well as the U.S. Library of Congress. Louis’ Lunch still operates today in New Haven and the burger is still served on toast, the toast coming from a wonderful old steampunk-like metal contraption.
The meat in this burger does not take a professional to know it is top-of-the-line. I loved it so much, I wish I had ordered a double. About the cheese: I like cheeseburgers, but rarely do I like what I get. People think slapping on a square of yellow stuff is enough. Recently, I have eaten quite a few cheeseburgers where the burger is red hot and the cheese is ice cold. It would be nice if it melted, but it doesn’t, which probably says more about the quality of the cheese than about the chef. The cheese looks like wax and tastes like wax, but unlike wax it does not melt.
At BSF I meant to order my cheeseburger with Gorgonzola, but I had a brain lapse and the word “cheddar” rolled out of my mouth. Cheddar is an odd food in that much of it is rather tasteless. Maybe the problem is I like well-aged, very sharp cheddar, and what passes for cheddar is often just American cheese being pretentious. Not here. The cheese, like the beef, was first rate, it oozed over the meat and mixed with a heap of sauteed onions. A big burger served on toast can be a little unwieldy, but I persevered. OK, so half of it went on my shirt; no one is perfect.
I was not impressed with the fries or the shakes. They seemed generic, the kind of thing you could get anywhere. Some like the fries. The happiest fry eater I saw was a little 4-year-old blonde girl who sat like a trouper for the whole meal in her chair and daintily dipped each fry neatly in a pool of ketchup. I wish the shakes came in tall glasses instead of paper cups, but with so many kids eating here, maybe paper is a safer option.
Just to experiment with something other than a burger, I ordered a plate of shredded chicken tacos. They were enormous, nicely presented and well seasoned. Would I go back to BSF for Mexican food? No, but if you dislike American standards, you will be satiated with this generous meal.
I am delighted to find a burger that screams “prime” and the option to serve it on toast is brilliant and historically accurate. Louis Lassen is looking down from heaven giving a thumbs-up.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, coauthored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern. Join her each week as she travels Fairfield County finding a great meal in unexpected places for $20 or less.
Burgers, Shakes & Fries
800 Post Road, Darien; 203-202-9401