I’ve been steaming burgers for years since I had my first beer-steamed burger in Boston, MA. Ted’s has been doing it for over 50 years! The first time I heard of Ted’s was a few years ago while watching an episode of Man vs Food on the Travel Channel. I was immediately entranced by the custom-built steaming process that Ted’s employs to get their signature burger style and flavors. The one thing that really blew my mind was the concept of steaming cheese. Once I saw that, I knew I had to eat there. The one problem was that I couldn’t envision a single time where I would ever need to go to Meriden, CT or Cromwell, CT (the other location). Lucky for me, my friend, Flex, moved out to Connecticut and lo and behold, Ted’s was on the way! I took at 20 minute detour on my way to visit my friend to stop at Ted’s. I was in and out of there in about 15 minutes and back on the road with a belly full of 50 years of steamed burger history.
Atmosphere and Service
The exterior of Ted’s isn’t going to win any architectural design awards, but the sign does let you know where you are without question. I noticed outdoor seating, but you have to go inside to order. Upon stepping inside, the interior looked pretty much like a diner with stool and counter seating, but just much smaller. In fact, the interior of the restaurant, while cozy, really doesn’t fit that many people. I took a seat at the counter on one of the 50′s style diner stools and immediately asked by one of the cooks what I would like. I asked for a minute and he politely let me peruse the posted menu. After a couple of minutes, the cook turned back from making burgers and took my order. I went with the classic cheeseburger to get the full effect of the steaming on the burger without any distractions.
As soon as I ordered I was immediately entranced by the preparation of the burgers. The first step they take is to pack a giant wad of twice ground beef into a rectangular, custom-made tin. The twice-ground beef supposedly holds it’s shape better during the steaming process. Similar trays are also filled with a special cheddar cheese that melts beautifully and that isn’t very sharp.
The next step is where most of the magic happens. The burgers are placed in a custom-made steam box. I was surprised at how small the actual steam box is, but then I saw that they can really pack the steamer with a bunch of burgers and cheese when they need to.
While the burgers steam, the chefs get the buns and toppings ready. The burgers at Ted’s come with whatever you want on them. Some toppings are extra, but many are complimentary and you can create any number of burger combinations you want.
The burgers steam fairly quickly for a few minutes and are then removed from the steamer. The burger is removed from the pans and the fatty liquid stays behind. This is where many people will argue about the tastiness of Ted’s burgers. Fat is flavor. We all know that. Nonetheless, a lot of the fat in the burgers at Ted’s tends get steamed out. The burgers, nonetheless, stay flavorful and juicy. Ted’s credits the steaming process for removing excess fat to create a healthier burger, while still allowing the flavor of the meat to shine through.
With the meat scooped out and placed on the bun, the steamed molten cheddar cheese is essentially poured over the burger. It truly is beautiful sight to see.
All the while, over on the flat iron griddle, there is a monstrous mound of homefries constantly cooking and waiting for someone to order them. Ted’s doesn’t serve normal french fries, but instead serves homefries as their traditional side. I didn’t try the homefries this time, but they smelled great.
My cheeseburger came out before I knew it and all of that cheese made my mouth water uncontrollably. I noticed that the bun was kind of thick, which I don’t usually enjoy for burgers, but I quickly understood why Ted’s uses hearty buns for their steamed burgers.
If there were such a thing as a “pure” burger, Ted’s would be it. The steaming process doesn’t hide the meat like some other cooking processes. Charring a burger can add delicious flavor, but that isn’t the meat you are tasting. There is no hiding the flavor of the beef at Ted’s and they’re not trying to. The true beef flavor might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it very much.
A couple of bites in and my burger was a mess. Burger juices, cheese, mayo and ketchup were dripping everywhere. Every time I squeezed down on the bun to hold the burger tighter, a tomato, pickle, or onion would shoot out the side. By the end, my hands were a mess and the basket my burger was served in had seen better days. Luckily, the burger was really tasty and I happily stuck with it.
Ted’s makes a really unique and pretty tasty cheeseburger. The steaming process really let’s the flavor of the meat itself shine through and steaming cheese is possibly the best way to get it on top of a burger. One of Ted’s principle ideas is to make great burgers at an affordable price and they do just that. Definitely recommended as a place for a quick bite if you’re anywhere near the area.