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  • Writer's pictureAdam Horvath

Meriden Ct- A Steamed Ham(burger) Society

K LaMay's Cheddar Lava

Well I made it, despite your directions. I hope you’re prepared for an incredible story about my unique lunch in the steamed hamburger capital of the country. But first, I'd like to clear up a common misconception I've been hearing ever since I started researching this foodigenous. Don’t confuse steamed ham with those addictive White Castle sliders, you know the ones with the tiny pin holes in the patties that you can eat twenty at a sitting and then twenty minutes later has you sitting again. You know what I mean. White Castle's "steamed cooking" is really just a bit of creative advertising as the beef is technically griddled, albeit atop a pile of chopped onions, resulting in a steam like effect. But that's not this. This local burger style marries 4 ounces of seasoned chopped beef and a slab of aged Wisconsin cheddar that's been shvitzing in individual trays inside their own custom-built spa. The end result is a satiating cheeseburger, bursting with juice and covered by an avalanche of melted cheesy lava.

The Most Unknown Burger Style?

There're actually a few regional burger styles that don't get much shine outside their small regional area. Take for instance Mississippi's slug burgers (no slugs were harmed), the cheese stuffed jucy lucy from Rose Nylund country and the Oklahoma onion burger that just recently got its own trail. But I don't think any of these are as geographically intimate as Central Ct's steamed burger. Meriden the current epicenter of the style sits Just 20 miles north of New Haven, where Louis Lunch started it all in 1895 when they were the first to put a burger on bread. Years later, legend has it that a young 15-year-old Jack Fitzgerald started selling steamed burgers from his wagon, eventually opening a brick and mortar "Jack's Lunch" in Middleton Ct sometime in the 1920's. Like all true foodigenous, the cooking technique spread with O'Rourke's Diner putting them on the menu in 1941 (Sadly after 80 years they recently closed). Then in 1959, Ted Duberek brought the trend to Meriden when he opened the aptly named Ted's Restaurant, that's not only been making these delicious burgers ever since, but also has served as a breeding ground for young entrepreneurs who learned the trade and went on to open their own successful steamed burger restaurants.

I don't like to play favorites on this site. My novice opinion shouldn't sway anyone from not tying them all. But after sampling my share of burgers (insert bloated fat face emoji), I can tell you that K LaMay's in Meriden hits differently. Kevin, the K in the aforementioned, learned his craft at Ted's as a teenager and then in 2006 started serving his own burgers out of a small kitchen in a neighborhood pub. Shortly thereafter, he moved his location to 690 East Main Street where he's been ever since, ironically right down the road from a McDonalds and Burger King! K LaMay's uses a double stacked BURG'R TEND'R steam chest, dare I say the

Rare with a peek of thumb ring

Rolls Royce of steamers which allows them to regulate the temperature of the meat. So, to answer the question I know you are dying to ask, "yea you can get them rare, medium and well". The beef is tender and seasoned to perfection but it's the cheese that separates K LaMay's from the rest of the pack. Kevin insists on using a 7-year aged Wisconsin cheddar which emulsifies in its own separate chest. The high-quality cheese melts like a fondue and coats the burger like a loving embrace. As the cheese starts to cool, the texture changes to semi firm consistency that coats the mouth with each chew, which is why it's been included on Thrillist's best burger in every state list. Not bad when the inventor of the burger is in your state. Oh, and unlike some of the other restaurants in town, the bun is freshly delivered from Lupi's Bakery in New Haven, another game changer.

At last count there are over 10+ places in area that serve their own version of the steamed burger, like the Dawg House Bar & Grill across from Teds, and American Steamed Cheeseburgers in nearby Wallingford.

For some of you, this might be your first introduction to this style of burger but for those of you that are getting a deja vous feeling every time you read the words steamed ham, you probably watched an episode of The Simpsons in the 90's. The 3-minute clip of Principal Skinner serving an uncomfortable lunch of Krusty Burgers pawned off as Utica Style "steamed ham" to his boss Superintendent Chalmers is iconic in its lunacy and has spawned a viral internet meme that's still popular today. Bill Oakley, former Simpson's writer/ show runner turned food enthusiast even created his Steamed Hams Society and Food Discovery Club in its honor that is well worth a follow.

Foodie Tip- After your fill of delicious burgers, make sure you check out Meriden's hidden secret The Little Rendezvous making New Haven style apizza from a 130-year-old coal oven. Careful though, ever since Portnoy gave them a 9.1 score, wait times are redic but so are the pies!


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