About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Louie's Lunch, New Haven, Ct.

A couple of years ago the Travel Channel had a 2-hour segment on, if my memory is correct, the 100 best fast food restaurants in America. Louie’s Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut was declared #1. Louie's claim is that Louie’s Lunch is the birthplace of the hamburger. According to their web site, “One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis' Lunch and told proprietor Louis Lassen he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run. In an instant, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way. And so, the most recognizable American sandwich was born”.

Since the Internet reviews I read ranged from bad to amazing I knew I had to drive up to New Haven and check this out for myself. My good friend Mario and I made the 90 minute drive on Thursday to check it out.

Before I tell you my experience some additional information is necessary. The only option at Louie’s is a hamburger or cheeseburger. The only toppings available are a slice of tomato and/or cooked onion. NO KETCHSUP OR MUSTARD OR MAYO IS PROVIDED OR ALLOWED. The burgers are made from a blend of beef that is freshly ground daily on the premises.
They are cooked in cast iron vertical ovens that date back to 1900. The same ovens used then are used today. The cheese used for the cheeseburger is a cheese spread that is applied to the toast the burgers are served on. That’s right I said toast. Good old-fashioned white bread toast. Remember this is the birthplace of the hamburger, when it was created there was no such thing as a hamburger bun, all that was available was white bread, and Louie toasted it. The burgers are cooked medium rare, but you can order them to any cooked wellness you desire. We had ours as Louie suggests, medium with cheese, tomato & onions (the works as it is known). The only sides available are potato chips or potato salad.

So how were they? Drum roll please!!! THE BEST CHEESEBURGER I HAVE EVER HAD, AND I HAVE HAD SOME GREAT CHEESEBURGERS IN MY TIME!!! The burger was thick, incredibly juicy and greaseless.
The white toast was the perfect compliment. And while I always eat my burgers with ketchup, this burger did not need it. We opted for the potato salad and again I was blown away. This was my mother’s potato salad, not some store bought, mass produced goo. It was made with chopped hard-boiled eggs just like mom did. Potatoes were perfectly cooked and the salad was perfectly seasoned. It was the perfect compliment to the burger. While I would have loved an ice cold Becks Beer to wash the burger down with, I had to settle for diet birch beer. Icy cold, it filled the bill.

Louie’s is a very, very small place (300 – 400 square ft. would be my guess) with only two employees. One takes your order and collects your money while Louie’s grandson, the current proprietor, makes the burgers. Since there are only 3 burger ovens be prepared to wait about 30 minutes to get your burger. But the wait is worth it. Nibble on your potato salad while you wait and you will be happy as a lark.

For a video of Louie’s Lunch click here.

By the way, readers of this blog know that I do not pay attention to point or star ratings so I will not give one. I will however tell you that the most coveted rating in the world a restaurant can receive is a 3 star Michelin rating. A 3 star Michelin rating, according to Michelin, means that the dining experience is worth buying an airline ticket to go to the restaurant. Now I am not suggesting this, but if you are in the New Haven area it is definitely worth a detour. And if you are like me a 90-minute trip for an incredible burger experience is well worth it.

Bon Apetito,


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