Some press from over the years.
Steamed cheeseburger synonymous with Meriden
By Pete Paguaga Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN — Once known as the Silver City due to the prominence of the silver industry, the city has taken on a new moniker in recent decades.
“Everyone comes to Meriden for steamed cheeseburgers,” said Kevin LaMay, owner of K LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers. “Meriden is known for a few things. It used to be the Silver City, now it’s the Steam City.”
LaMay opened his restaurant on East Main Street a decade ago after working at Ted’s Restaurant, a steamed cheeseburger institution on Broad Street founded in 1959.
On the wall of his restaurant, LaMay has a map of the United States with a pin representing each person who has come from outside the state. LaMay said friends have told him he should upgrade his map to a globe.
K LaMay’s is now a staple of the steamed cheeseburger community, but Ted’s came first in Meriden and helped make the steamed cheeseburger famous.
“It was always my opinion, that Jack’s Lunch in Middletown, in the late 1920s, was the originator,” former Ted’s owner Paul Duberek told the Record-Journal in 2006.
Ted’s was open until 4 a.m. to feed drivers and late-shift workers from the factories in Meriden.
Tom Schappert, a Meriden native who opened American Steamed Cheeseburgers in Wallingford in 2013, said he saw in a documentary that steamed cheeseburgers were created around the late 1800s or early 1900s to feed factory workers.
“Around the turn of the century and they would bring them out to the factories. It was a cheap easy way to make food,” he said.
“This generation is going to know this area more for the (steamed) burger than the silver,” Schappert added. “Absolutely.”
Schappert grew up behind Ted’s, and one thing led to another.
“I never planned on doing this, it just kind of happened,” he said. “The steamed cheeseburger is a very unique product.”
The burgers are cooked in steam boxes. Water boils and steam rises in the box to cook the meat.
“We don’t let people make these at my restaurants until they have trained for about six months,” LaMay said. “You have to keep the burger moist and medium well, instead of well. If they get well they dry out very fast.”
Since the burger is cooked using steam, they are considered healthier and easier to digest.
“If you cook on a flat top, the burger sits on the flat top in its own oil. You flip it and sometimes after you eat it, you feel kind of full, bloated,” LaMay said. “Here the steam cooks them, it’s just water, steam coming up. It sits in its own juices.”
The cheese plays an important role in a steamed cheeseburger.
“I tried 12 different cheeses when I started and almost everyone picked this cheese,” LaMay said. “You want to get the sharpness where it gives the burger a kick, but you don’t want it to be too sharp where it tastes like you’re eating cheese and crackers and it kills the sandwich. You have to get a nice balance in there.”
The steamed cheeseburger is still a staple of Meriden, but is growing throughout the state. Ted’s opened a location in Cromwell in 2011, while LaMay has another location in East Hampton and opened Double Play Café in Wallingford.
“If you go too far, you have to advertise the right way. You have to sell them,” LaMay said. “If you’re close to here and people have heard of them you don’t have to sell them, they sell themselves. Once they have one, our repeat customers are great. Out of 100 I would say 95 people like them.”
The Best Burger in Every State in America
Published on 2/27/2015 – By Kevin Alexander and Liz Childers
After we tried to figure out the best pizza in every state, it was inevitable that burgers would be next. After all, we spend much of our year consuming them for our 33 best/personal satisfaction. So, over the course of the last three months, we’ve set about researching, eating, and fighting about everything from pork belly pastrami-covered burgers in Pennsylvania, to griddled patties in Indiana, to quite possibly the best damn bar burger in Minnesota.
Note: this was not just a list compiled from other lists which were compiled from other lists until you’ve reached the end of the Internet. If we didn’t eat it personally, one of our other National Food/Drink editors or City editors or contributing writers did. We tried to show our work whenever possible, and give credit to others in the running. But at the end of the day, we think we’ve got a case for a burger you’re going to love in every single state in the Union. And if you disagree, let us know in the comments. We’ll happily come eat more burgers.
K. LaMay’s – Meriden, CT
The burger: Steamed cheeseburger
As someone from New England who went to college in Connecticut, I had to ask myself a lot of questions: how do you not choose Louis’ Lunch in the state that essentially invented the cheeseburger? Or the legendary Ted’s, if you’re going to pick in Meriden? Or hell, the cheeseburger at Shady Glen in Manchester? Or go with your favorite burger from college, at the Wood-n-Tap in Hartford? Well, first doesn’t always equal best, and in this case, Kevin LaMay (who essentially apprenticed at Ted’s as a teenager) has figured out the perfect ratios with his slightly bigger steamed cheeseburgers on fresh Kaiser rolls with molten hot cheddar. It also gets the vote of Meriden native/noted cheeseburger connoisseur Devin McGoldrick, so you know it’s high praise.
The Top 10 Restaurants In Meriden, Connecticut
K LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers
Specializing in steamed cheeseburgers (a regional means of preparing this classic American fast food) K LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers is a local favorite amongst Meriden residents and burger fanatics alike. Each cheeseburger is prepared in a large steam cabinet that cooks the meat and melts the cheese. The burger is then served by scooping the meat onto a freshly baked roll and topping it with the melted cheese as well as any desired extras. The restaurant has won a series of awards for its outstanding take on a Connecticut classic. View the article here.
K. LaMay’s in Middletown: Connecticut Loves a Steamed Cheeseburger
Steve and Lisa Alcazari – www.CT.com
Here’s a question: What’s Connecticut’s signature food? Stop a stranger in Tennessee, Ohio or Wyoming and chances are they won’t have a hunch about what’s a good bet for grub in the Nutmeg State. We all know we’ve got righteous pizza and mean lobster rolls, but the word isn’t necessarily out beyond our borders. The steamed cheeseburger might be another candidate for a food item of statewide fame. But it depends who you ask.
Turns out, not everyone around here even eats steamed cheeseburgers, but we’re kind of known for them in the central part of the state. Don’t believe us? There was a documentary about hamburgers a few years back that selected eight burger joints of note from around the country to spotlight, and little old Connecticut had two of the featured establishments. One of them, Ted’s in Meriden, was presented as the place to go if you wanted to sample a steamed cheeseburger. Middletown is now giving Meriden a run for its money in the iconic-steamed-cheeseburger department. (There are some places on the Berlin Turnpike that proudly compete for steamed-cheeseburger prominence, too.) O’Rourke’s Diner has long served steamed cheeseburgers (the meat patties, along with slabs of cheddar cheese, are cooked in little steam boxes). And now K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers down the road a little on Main Street, has entered the game.
K. LaMay’s is obviously focused on steamed cheeseburgers — I’m not sure if there’s another establishment in the state that puts “steamed cheeseburgers” front and center right there in the restaurant’s name. It’s more than just the name. A look at the menu reveals that there’s little else to focus on. The sandwich offerings include: steamed cheeseburger ($4.95), steamed hamburger ($3.95), double steamed cheeseburger ($6.95), hot cheese sandwich (no meat) ($3.95) and BLT ($4.50), with added bacon and cheese options. It’s rare to find a place so committed to such a minimalist selection. And one can see signs of their resolve softening; there were hand-written signs announcing the addition of new items like a steak and cheese sandwich and they’ve also introduced a turkey bacon cheddar melt, which, given the beef-centric nature of everything else, seems like a major departure.
And beef-centric is one way to describe the steamed cheeseburger. It’s strange; when we think of beef we generally think of it being kissed by the char from a grill or a fire. It’s so central to the idea that most of us have of beef’s taste that to steam the meat somehow seems like we’re missing some key element. But don’t be fooled, a steamed cheeseburger is strangely more “beefy” than many macho char-broiled half-pound numbers. That might be because once you factor our those dominant carbonized flavors of smoke and fire what you end up with has more beef essence. Whether you want to be getting your beef essence from ground beef instead of say, a porterhouse, is a question you’ll have to ask yourself (but you probably won’t go steaming your steak anytime, so maybe it’s a non-question). This isn’t to say that meat is the only thing going on with the steamed burgers at K. LaMay’s. That sharp cheddar plays nearly a scene-stealing supporting role to the beef. The cheese is laid on thick, and once it spends time in the steamer the only word that comes to mind to describe it is “slab-like.”
The burgers at K. LaMay’s are juicy and tasty, and they’re a little bigger than many or the more compact steamed burgers you’ll find in the area. They’re served on a hard roll lightly dusted with (I think) a hint of corn meal. These are a perfect counterpart for the steamed burger. They have enough body and substance to hold up to the juiciness without needing to be toasted, and yet the roll doesn’t require any extra tooth-work to get through.
The steak and cheese was flavored with grilled onions, sweet and caramelized and crispy. The beef was more like slices of corned beef than the razor-thin sheets of the stuff one finds on Philly style sandwiches. Onion rings came in medium big hoops, with a medium-thick batter-fried coating. Fries had bits of skin still attached in places. Not drastically rustic and rough, but not the mass-produced uniform-pressed fast-food type either. If K. Lamay’s is thinking of adding to its minimal menu, I might lobby for a milk shake. Keeping true to the CT-pride evident in its steamed-burger focus, the restaurant serves Foxon Park (New Haven) sodas.
If you’ve got a Whalers jersey, if you take out-of-town visitors to Hartford’s Little Italy, or down to New Haven for pizza, or if you wrinkle your nose at lobster rolls with mayonnaise, you might consider the steamed cheeseburgers at K. LaMay’s as your new culinary badge of state pride.
Steamed cheeseburgers now available on Main Street in Middletown
Published: Saturday, June 18, 2011; Last Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011 12:25 AM EDT
By CLAIRE MICHALEWICZ | Press Staff
Matt Kokoszka and Kevin LaMay, owners of K . LaMay Steamed Cheeseburgers at 170-5 Main Street in Middletown are opened for business.
MIDDLETOWN – Steamed cheeseburgers are a delicacy particular to this part of Connecticut, and now there’s another place to get them – K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers, which opened last Saturday on Main Street.
Owner Kevin LaMay opened his Meriden location three years ago, and it’s been so successful that he wanted to expand to a second location. LaMay has been working in the restaurant business for 18 years, and learned how to make steamed cheeseburgers at the original Ted’s restaurant in Meriden.
To expand to a second location, LaMay said, he needed a business partner, and enlisted the help of his longtime friend Matt Kokoszka. Kokoszka had been working as a high school biology teacher, but decided he needed a career change.
“It’s brand new but it’s exciting,” Kokoszka said. “There’s a lot of pride, especially in owning your own restaurant.”
LaMay said he chose Middletown for his new location because he liked the city’s Main Street.
“I love the downtown,” he said. “Everybody just comes and walks downtown.” And, he said, he’s looking forward to the fall, when Wesleyan students return. “I always wanted to do these next to a college.”
Steamed cheeseburgers, LaMay said, are “a healthier, tastier alternative” to regular burgers. Because they’re cooked in water, there’s no oil or grease added during cooking. Even some of the grease from the meat is drained out after cooking. “You don’t feel like you’ve eaten a greasy burger afterward,” he said.
“We knew we had a good sandwich, a good product,” he said. “We were happy and we had a lot of good feedback.”
So far, he said, the busiest day at K. LaMay’s was Wednesday, the day of the annual Cruise Night on Main Street, when the restaurant served about 400 burgers.
“We’re still working the kinks out,” LaMay said, laughing about how he’s still trying to find the perfect location for the trash can. Right now, he and Kokoszka are running the Middletown location and letting other employees run the Meriden restaurant, but LaMay said he might rearrange the staff once the Middletown location is better established.
“It’s a lot of work but I’m ready for it,” he said. Eventually, he said, he’d like to expand with another location, maybe bringing the burgers to New York or Boston.
Last October, K. LaMay’s and seven other Meriden burger restaurants participated in a contest to see who had the best burgers, and K. LaMay’s won. The secret to making a good steamed cheeseburger, LaMay said, is the cheese. He uses aged, sharp cheddar cheese, which he said gives the burger more flavor than other steamed cheeseburgers. The burgers take about six minutes to steam in a special metal cabinet, with the burgers on top where the cabinet is hotter and the cheese underneath. After the burger and cheese are cooked, the melted cheese is poured on top of the burger.
“We don’t cut corners,” he said. The rolls and the beef are delivered each morning, so the ingredients are always fresh. The menu is simple, offering cheeseburgers, hamburgers, steak sandwiches and a steamed cheese sandwich for those who don’t want the meat. There are also French fries and onion rings, and chicken nuggets for kids. LaMay said customers sometimes ask why he doesn’t offer veggie burgers or turkey burgers, but he wants to stick with what he knows.
“We do what we do best and we keep it simple,” he said.
K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers is located at 170-5 Main St. in Middletown. Contact them at (860) 347-0602, or at www.klamayssteamedcheeseburgers.com.
Chamber hosts grand opening for K. LaMay’s steamed burgers
Published: Monday, July 18, 2011; Last Updated: Monday, July 18, 2011 2:43 AM EDT
From left to right: Larry McHugh, president of Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Kelly Smith, chairwoman of Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Kevin LaMay, co-owner of K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers, Mayor Sebastian Giuliano and Matt Cacase, co-owner of K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers.
MIDDLETOWN – The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce held a grand opening on Thursday for K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers at 170-5 Main St.
K. Lamay’s original restaurant is located in Meriden. The Middletown restaurant is located next to Dunkin’ Donuts in the Metro Square plaza.
K. Lamay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers is Middletown’s newest eating establishment. It serves steamed burgers, steak and cheese, BLT’s, hot cheese and chicken nuggets. You can also find LaMay’s own cheddar cheese for sale in the cooler. The restaurant is co-owned and operated by Kevin LaMay and Matt Cacase.
For more information, call (860) 347-0602 or visit www.klamayssteamedcheeseburgers.com.
K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers Opens on Main Street
Posted by Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon)
The opening of K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers in Middletown was recently celebrated on June 10th, announced Kevin LaMay and Matt Kokoszka, co-owners.
K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers also features over stuffed sandwiches including steak, just cheese, BLTs and more. Their menu also includes French fries, chicken nuggets for the kids and Foxon Park Sodas.
This is their second location serving up the Central Connecticut staple steamed burger. K LaMay’s also has a location in Meriden, CT at 690 East Main Street.
“We wanted to expand for some time now and the location in Middletown seemed to be the right place. It’s rich history and diversity of restaurants is what makes Main Street Middletown special” said LaMay.
K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers is located in Middletown at 170-5 Main Street
Steamed cheeseburgers … to go – City eateries look to stake out new territories
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Thursday, March 17, 2011
Author: Dan Ivers ; Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN – For decades, the steamed cheeseburger had been found almost exclusively in the Meriden area; the generally accepted idea is that the city is its birthplace. Now, though, two of the city’s most notable purveyors of the provincial specialty are hoping to expand their reach.
A Broad Street fixture for more than 50 years, Ted’s Restaurant opened its second location in Cromwell on Saturday. The menu remains the same, but the new space in a former Quizno’s on Berlin Road is a far cry from Ted’s cramped Meriden quarters, seating up to 45 people, according to owner Bill Forman.
Forman took over Ted’s four years ago from his uncle, Paul Duberek, the son of the original owner, Ted Duberek. Forman said he’d always had ideas about a second location, but wanted to make sure the timing was right.
“I bought the business four years ago. I really wanted to get on my beat, make sure I understood the business and how it worked before I got in over my head,” he said.
Since he has taken over, Ted’s has attracted national attention from shows such as the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” and “Hamburger Paradise,” raising the profile of the unique burger across the country.
Ted’s isn’t the only local restaurant branching out this year. Kevin LaMay , owner of East Main Street’s K. LaMay ‘s Steamed Cheeseburgers, is planning to open a second location on Middletown’s Main Street in May.
A former Ted’s employee, LaMay moved his restaurant from a Meetinghouse Village plaza to East Main Street just seven months ago, but said the success the move has brought made him confident it was the right time to expand.
“It’s been going really well,” he said, adding that the site in Middletown, with its abundance of college students and steady foot traffic on Main Street, helped influence his decision.
Steamed cheeseburgers are hardly foreign to Middletown – its famous O’Rourke’s diner is one of the oldest and most well-known steamer spots – although people generally do not associate Middletown with the dish as they do Meriden.
Cromwell, however, is uncharted territory, although the manager of the new Ted’s, Christian Parisi, said most of his early customers seemed to be familiar with steamed cheeseburgers, even if they had never tasted one before.
“I would say the majority of people know about Ted’s steamed cheeseburgers. Either they’ve seen it on TV, or they’ve been to the Meriden location,” he said.
Parisi, a native of Meriden and a longtime Ted’s employee, said early business has been booming, with customers telling him they had been driving by the storefront daily to see if the new Ted’s had opened.
“It’s been crazier than I could have ever imagined,” he said.
Steaming it up on the East Side. K LaMay ‘s Steamed Cheeseburgers does things differently
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Sunday, December 5, 2010
Author: Stephanie O’Connell ; Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN – Kevin LaMay , owner of K LaMay ‘s Steamed Cheeseburgers, has regular customers who have know him for years walk into his corner restaurant with a big smile, a wave hello and a “Hi Kenny.”
The baby-faced, bright, blue-eyed 33-year-old is too polite to correct anyone who stops by his 609 E. Main St. eatery for a steamed cheeseburger, a basket of onion rings and some friendly sports banter. But no matter what you call him, LaMay can be labeled a success – a savvy businessman and an all-around good guy.
“I love what I do and I have fun doing it,” LaMay said. “I have been working with steamed cheeseburgers since I was 15 years old. I went to college for a year and it really wasn’t for me, so I came back to doing what I do best, what I like to do.”
Three months ago, LaMay packed up his cheeseburger chest and moved from Gary Owen’s Pub and Restaurant on 164 Scott St., where he had been steaming up the windows for a little more than three years, to his new location, one he had been eyeing for a while.
“I live right down the street, so I always drove by and thought this would be a great location. I went from having 200 cars drive by everyday to 42,000 cars.”
The location, which was previously a Spanish specialty restaurant, Spanglish Delights, sits next to Les’s Dairy Bar on the busy chain restaurant- filled road. Travel a little further down the road and hang a right and you could end up at that other steamed cheeseburger joint in Meriden, where LaMay got his start whipping up the local treat.
LaMay started at Ted’s Restaurant when he was 15 and manned the steam box for 10 years before the time came to branch out on his own.
“Ted’s was going to be sold to a different owner, so I just thought it was time for me,” LaMay said. “I think that there is enough money is this town for both of us to be successful. I am still friends with the owner of Ted’s and I don’t want to compete.”
Though LaMay , a Maloney graduate, doesn’t want to go head-to-head in a burger battle with Ted’s, he does make it a point to set himself apart from the place that taught him the art of steaming.
Proudly displayed on the restaurant’s menu board underneath the list of burger offerings are two tin compartments that house the meat of the two eateries’ burgers.
LaMay ‘s is clearly bigger, with a third-of-a-pound of daily fresh ground meat going into each tin. With a bigger burger comes a better roll, LaMay said – rolls that are baked fresh every morning at 8, cooled until 9 a.m. and picked up every day, seven days a week at 10 a.m. by one of LaMay ‘s team members.
The ooey-gooey cheese that leaks out of the sides of those buns isn’t just any cheese. LaMay receives sharp cheddar deliveries from Wisconsin and even sells blocks of cheese lined up in a cooler next to colorful bottles of Connecticut brewed Foxon Park sodas.
“I come here quite often; I work right around the corner and it’s really good,” Amanda Hammons said. “I have so many friends who post their Facebook status as ‘Going to K. LaMay ‘s.’ It’s faster and tastes better and the people who work here are so nice.”
LaMay counts on a dedicated team of people to get through the busy days, when the counter is filled and the only 14-person seating area is packed with people waiting for a seat. LaMay hopes the revolving door of customers will travel, as he has plans for a second location in Middletown or Southington and has ideas for franchising.
But before he can franchise, open a second location, or even have a chance to look up and glance at the big screen to catch last night’s sports highlights – he’s a Red Sox fan, which his Yankees-loving customers love to bring up – LaMay has to worry about serving lunch. It’s before noon and there is already a line and customers at the counter.
“When I bought this place I used so much of my life savings I thought ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ” LaMay said. “But so far it has been good. No complaints here,” he said with a boyish grin before jumping back behind the counter and grabbing his spatula.
Burger battle is an out-of-the bun success
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Friday, November 12, 2010
Author: Stephanie O’Connell ; Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN – More than 300 people filtered into the upscale banquet room at Il Monticello with their mouths watering Thursday night, ready to taste some of the city’s best burgers.
The first Battle of the Burgers, hosted by the Record-Journal and Il Monticello, featured seven restaurants dishing up their best classic, non-classic and unique burgers in a competition judged by two local foodies and a lucky Record-Journal reporter who got to count stuffing her face with burgers as work.
Charlie Marczewski, executive chef at Four Points Sheraton; Rick Tompkins, manager of Sans Souci; and I voted for best overall burger.
The second food competition sponsored by the Record-Journal this year, the burger battle followed a wing competition. Appetizer and meatball competitions are in the works. “We started with the wing fest and everything I have been hearing and reading since that has been about burgers,” event director Dee Babkirk-Rodriques said. “Whenever people come to town, they want to know where they can get the best burger, so we brought most of them here.”
Meriden burger veterans K. LaMay ‘s, Ted’s Restaurant, The Original Lunch Box and Quality Time put their tastes up against newcomers Grace’s Restaurant, Giada’s Cuisine Express and Jake’s Wayback Burgers.
“We work at a business in town and it’s nice to come and meet people in the community,” said Cal McWaid, who ate with all his co-workers from Dale’s Auto Body. “We order lunch from all these places all the time anyways.”
Cast away from the rest of the burger nibblers, our judges’ table was tucked into the corner. We were served what was supposed to be a sample of each restaurant’s burger though I think each one thought we were judging on quantity because we were given more than a mouthful from each.
Each restaurant served up a slew of burgers cafeteria style from steaming foil trays. Some, like Ted’s, choose to stick with their restaurant specialties while others thought outside the bun.
The Original Lunchbox was rewarded for its creativity, winning the most creative burger title for its messy but good Military Burger, topped with guacamole, bleu cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and mushrooms.
K LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburger won the best classic burger. This voting was done by over 300+ people.
Jake’s Wayback Burger won the best overall category for its mix of original flavor and creativity. The Thanksgiving Dinner Burger, a turkey burger topped with stuffing and cranberry sauce, won me over, while the flame-grilled double cheeseburger was a nice departure from the city’s signature steamed cheeseburgers.
“I enjoy a good grilled burger,” Marczewski said. “Being that Thanksgiving is almost here, the turkey burger won me over.”
That was the sentiment of the crowd, who chatted with their mouths full about their favorite burgers after the competition as Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” ushered the crowd out the doors.
BUILD A BETTER BURGER …AND THE WORLD (OR AT LEAST THE STATE) WILL (OR AT LEAST MIGHT) BEAT A PATH TO YOUR DOOR
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Author: Dan Ivers ; Record-Journal staff
At least two empty storefronts along East Main Street in Meriden are soon to be filled, and both with businesses selling one of America’s most enduring culinary mainstays – the hamburger. Cheshire-based Jake’s Hamburgers, a franchise that is expanding around the East Coast, is scheduled to open at 903 E. Main St. by the end of September. The new building, which will also house a drive-in Dunkin’ Donuts, is on the site of the former Parkway Drive-In Cleaners.
Just up the street, K. LaMay ‘s Steamed Cheeseburgers will move into the vacant space at the end of a small plaza at 690 E. Main St. that formerly housed Spanglish Delights. The business is moving from a smaller space in the kitchen of Garry Owen’s Pub in Meetinghouse Village.
The two restaurants represent different ends of a “burger boom” that has already hit the state with the arrival of restaurants such as Red Robin and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The latter chain opened a location on Route 66 in Middletown late last year, and has 11 other outlets across Connecticut.
Restaurant owners and industry specialists alike have noticed that consumers are moving away from traditional fast-food burgers and toward more “gourmet” burgers and other versions of the storied sandwich.
The fare at Jake’s Hamburgers concentrates on fresh, never-frozen beef patties, and will include healthier options such as a turkey burger. Company President John Eucalitto said Jake’s has been able to expand from 12 locations to more than 30 since 2008, thanks in part to the increased demand for bigger and better burgers.
“It is demanding right now. It’s kind of like the bagel boom from a few years ago,” he said.
While steamed cheeseburgers are nothing new to the Meriden area, the local favorite has enjoyed increased prominence of late thanks to interest from national media outlets. The city’s oldest and most recognized steamed-burger restaurant, Ted’s, has been featured in documentaries and TV shows such as The Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” and “Hamburger Paradise.”
K. Lamay ‘s owner Kevin Lamay , who got his start at Ted’s before breaking out on his own three years ago, said he often gets customers from outside the area in search of a different taste. He’s hoping that the move to a more visible location on East Main Street will help bring in more customers.
“My plan was to start small and go to a little place, get the name out there … I realized that people like my sandwich, so I want to get it out to a bigger market,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to open a few more.”
Darren Tristano, executive vice president of restaurant consultancy Technomic in Chicago, said chains such as Five Guys and Jake’s have been helped by more-established fast food chains’ movement away from burgers. “The traditional players – McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s – have really shifted their focus away from burgers to breakfast, chicken and beverages,” he said, adding that he expects better burger outlets will continue to see double-digit sales growth for at least a few years.
Molly Catalano, communications director for Five Guys Burgers and Fries, said the Northern Virginia-based company is opening new locations on an almost weekly basis, and now boasts 633 across the country – up from just five in 2003.
She said that opportunities to open a franchise in Connecticut have been sold out for months, but did not have information on any that may be in the works.
Catalano compared the rise of Five Guys and other better burger restaurants to the growth of what she called other “fast, casual” chains such as Panera that offer higher-quality fare with fastfood wait times – although she admitted that those emphasizing burgers may possess a natural advantage.
“What’s interesting about hamburgers is that (Americans) love them,” she said. “I think people are realizing that people love hamburgers in all shapes and sizes.”
Restaurateur steams ahead with lessons learned at Ted’s
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Thursday, September 14, 2006
Author: Mary Ellen Godin
MERIDEN – After 13 years of guarding the secret to steamed cheeseburgers at Ted’s Restaurant, a former cook there has bought his own burger box and opened the doors to a new establishment. Kevin La May, 29, recently left the landmark eatery to serve “steamers” at Meetinghouse Village Plaza on Scott Street. La May had worked with Paul Duberek, whose father, Ted Duberek, founded Ted’s in 1959. While La May was there, master burger maker Ed “Whitey” Gwara showed him the secrets to buying good meat for the burgers, and to making home fries and other lunch favorites. “It was my time to leave,” La May said. “I want to try to go out on my own, do my own thing.” Edward Jones, who owns Garryowen’s Pub, is a friend of La May’s and offered to lease the dining area and kitchen to help get La May started. The new restaurant, which opened Friday, is called K. La May’s. La May said he will continue to make steamed cheeseburgers a specialty, and is offering an overstuffed version that is one third pound of beef, as opposed to a quarter- pound at other restaurants. He’s also serving steak sandwiches, BLTs, hot turkey sandwiches, kielbasa sandwiches, desserts and his own home fries, which he calls K Fries. “We’ve been doing pretty well here,” La May said. “We sold 180 sandwiches. People love it.” La May plans to hire another employee, to allow him to interact more with the customers, and he hopes to open more restaurants statewide. He’s particularly looking at the University of Connecticut area. Duberek’s nephew, Bill Foreman, said it remains to be seen whether there is enough room for another steamed cheeseburger place. The city, known for the sandwich, already has four or five eateries that offer the cheeseburgers . But Ted’s, on Broad Street, is clearly the best known, a destination for visitors and aplace for residents to take guests. The restaurant has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, Yankee and Connecticut magazines, and in a 2004 documentary film, “Hamburger Nation.” It also has its own Web site, www. steamedcheeseburger. com. Chip Geriak, a member serv-ices representative for the Greater Meriden Chamber of Commerce, said La May should do fine, if the restaurant sells more than just cheeseburgers and because he’ll get the Garry-owen’s crowd.
Richard Higgins, the plaza property manager, sat at the bar of the adjacent pub Monday and finished a burger. He said the new restaurant brings more variety to Meetinghouse Vil-lage, an apartment develop-ment off Yale Avenue. “And from what I tried of his food, it’s excellent,” Higgins said. La May said having his own place would also allow him to act on feedback from his cus-tomers, something he was un-able to do at Ted’s. “If you give them good food, they’ll come back,” La May said.
K. La May’s Steamed Cheeseburgers Opens
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT) – Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The grand opening of K. La May’s Steamed Cheeseburgers in Meriden was recently celebrated, announced Kevin La May and Dan Gibson, co-owners. K. La May’s Steamed Cheeseburgers also features overstuffed sandwiches including steak, kielbasa, BLTs and more. Their menu also includes French fries, home fries and cheese fries. “I learned the trade of steamed cheeseburger preparation working at Ted’s Restaurant for the last 12 years,” said La May. K. La May’s Steamed Cheeseburgers is located inside of Garryowen’s Pub in Meetinghouse Village in Meriden.