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  • Writer's pictureAdam Horvath

I Passed the "Duchess" on the Left-Hand Side

Updated: Jun 21

I’ve made the trip down I-95 South thru Connecticut dozens of times. Usually, it’s with the perfume of a half-eaten box of “abeetz” permeating from the back seat of my car. I’m sure I lamented a bad beat or two returning from one of the casinos. And then there was that one time I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and got caught checking out my plump lips in the rearview mirror, engorged courtesy of Colony Grill’s hot oil sting. I gotta admit though, they did look pretty sexy. But no matter the reason, it seems like every time I’m in Connecticut, I catch a fleeting glimpse of an illuminated Duchess restaurant sign as I pass by, yet I've never thought to check out the Nutmeg state’s native fast-food chain.

But that all changed the other day. Call it chance or serendipity, I think it was more like creepy Black Mirror episode. I was driving along, listening to ESPN radio when all of a sudden, the station changed by itself. The faint Biddly-Bum-Biddy-Bum-Bum-Biddly-Biddly-Biddly-Bum, a familiar beat I hadn't heard in years, started getting louder and louder. Then...

"It was a cool and lonely breezing afternoon. You could feel it ‘cause it was the month of June"🎵-

Okay it was night, not afternoon, but it was rather temperate, and it was June. Was the radio talking to me?

"How does it feel when you’ve got no food?"🎵 It sucks, I was starving!

And then just as the teenage reggae band Musical Youth started to sing the chorus "pass the dutchie on the left-hand side", I PASSED A DUCHESS, ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE of the highway. That's some cosmic shit, right? So, I had to get off the next exit and back track, right? Wouldn't you?

What's Duchess?

I pulled into one of the 12 Duchess restaurants, all located within New Haven and Fairfield counties, and like this one, many of them are a stone's throw from the Interstate 95 corridor. My first impression was that Duchess fit all my criteria to qualify as a fast-food.

Drive thru Do they serve fries √ Offer combo mealsBooths √ 

Is your food served on a tray √

Always fresh, never frozen, with the works

I knowww Taco Bell doesn't serve fries but it's my list and besides this place just feels like a fast-food joint with a few notable exceptions. In addition to the standard burger, crispy chicken sandwich and nuggets fare, Duchess sells eggplant parm sandwiches, cheesesteaks, patty melts and egg salad sandwiches plus a whole menu of Big Deli sandwiches served on thick wheatberry bread.

Quick Service Food Served Fast

Two brothers Jack and Harold Berkowitz, former diner owners, created Duchess in 1956. To put that in perspective, that was just 3 years after Burger King started and a whole decade before Wendy's, so in the world of fast food, Duchess is an OG. The brothers purchased an existing restaurant in Bridgeport Ct, known for burgers and hot dogs and decided to rename it Duchess, after Dutchess County New York- they just dropped the T. Someone smarter than me needs to explain the reasoning for this, but I could only guess that's where they were from? The addition of non-traditional fast-food items, like homemade soups of the day, differentiates Duchess from a McDonalds-esque franchise but the overall experience is very much the same sans the sus clown. The food is ordered at a counter, the menu hangs on the wall, and a ticket is given for you to wait. But you can taste the freshness. Like for instance when you bite into a nugget, the chicken pulls like you are biting into a breast. It's not an amalgamated lump of battered chicken. For the record, I happen to enjoy a bitesize fried McNugget of processed white meat but call me old fashioned.

There are a lot of great culinary destinations throughout Connecticut and honestly, if I'm faced with the deciding between burgers or pizza, I'm always taking pizza. But if you want a true taste of Connecticut and you've hit all the apizza spots, don't be like me and wait for a possessed car to tell you try Duchess. Stop on your own and try one of the many regional fast foodigenous chains throughout the country! #fastfoodigenous

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Mark Neurohr-Pierpaoli
Mark Neurohr-Pierpaoli

It may not be a regularly available item on the menu, but Taco Bell's Nacho Fries are top tier delicious.

Adam Horvath
Adam Horvath

Someone else just told me this!! Thanks

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