With high-end burger bars popping up on every corner it seems, it's easy to get distracted by the hype of a new, hip joint touting "secret sauce" and truffle-scented fries. From the first bite of the sandwich at Burger, Shakes & Fries in Darien, Conn., (the original location is in Greenwich) I was reminded why burgers hold such a special place in the hearts of Americans. This sandwich was simple, with no frills to hide behind — just an expertly grilled patty with skillfully melted American cheese, pickles, and onions. Comfort food at it's very finest.
Let's break it down, component by component. The "bun," which in this case is two slices of perfectly toasted Pullman-style white bread, is one of the marvels of this sandwich. Somehow it maintains its crisp and toasty integrity despite the juicy patty and fillings inside. My first inclination was that the melted cheese acts as a glue of sorts, keeping everything intact. However, the toast on other side of the sandwich, which had sautéed onions instead of cheese as a topping, resisted the threat of patty melt-like sogginess as well.
Next comes the patty. When a place offers single and double burgers (as BSF does) it's usually safe to assume the patties will be fairly flat, even smashed in some cases, and crispy. A well-made burger of this variety can still be juicy, but more often than not the meat will end up being dry and overcooked. The patties at BSF are juicy and surprisingly thick; the meat is beautifully seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled, not griddled on a flat-top. The exterior of the patty is distinctly crunchy, as it should be, and the interior is so moist that juice runs down your forearms as you eat.
Toppings are where it gets tricky. With so many options, it's easy to get carried away and overpower the burger. I opted for American cheese (arguably the best "melting" cheese around), pickles, and sautéed onions. The cheese was gooey and expertly melted, which most likely came from a last-second steam to marry the cheese and burger together. On the other side of the sandwich were the sweet and savory onions — which had a slight bite instead of being cooked down fully to a jam-like state. A few slices of fresh dill pickles topped off the onion-side of the burger, adding a bright and crunchy finish.
While the burger is the true star of the show, the fries should not be forgotten. In addition to the delightfully golden-brown steak fries (I'm a sucker for well-done fries, the crispier the better) BSF offers onion rings and sweet potato tots as well. The shakes are thick and hand-spun, a creamy compliment to the greasier food offerings.