In central Connecticut, the steamed cheeseburger is king, much to the credit of Ted’s Steamed Cheeseburgers. From its 650-square-foot, 18-seat shop in Meriden, Connecticut, the 53-year-old eatery serves its signature steamed meat-and-cheese combo on a fresh-baked bun.
In addition to becoming a heralded local favorite, Ted’s has emerged a popular travel destination following appearances in the documentary film “Hamburger America” and a pair of Travel Channel shows: “Food Paradise” and “Man v. Food.”
Ted’s co-owner Christian Parisi, who began working at the store 15 years ago as a teen, discusses Ted’s history, the unique steamed cheeseburger, and the concept’s future.
What’s the history of Ted’s?
Ted Duberek opened the restaurant in 1959 and ran it for 20 years. The locals loved it, and since there were no highways at that time, truck drivers and travelers often passed right by Ted’s. The buzz spread by word of mouth and the rest was history.
How do you make the steamed cheeseburger?
We pack five ounces of meat into a steel tray and put that into a dedicated, specially designed stainless steel steaming cabinet. It takes about 10 minutes to cook one burger. We know the burger’s done by touch. If there’s some give in the center, it’s rare; if it’s hard, it’s well done. We then top the burger with two ounces of steamed cheese.
What makes the steamed cheeseburger so distinctive?
Though there’s a burger boom in America, so many do the burger the same. Because it’s so different, the steamed burger piques people’s curiosities.
All in all, it’s a healthy burger. The cheeseburger is about 580 calories and the plain burger is just over 400—and the bun takes up about 150 of those calories. Plus, we use locally ground beef and locally sourced cheese. That’s a good product story to share these days.
What’s in Ted’s future?
In central Connecticut, the steamed cheeseburger is well known. Go just 20 miles away, however, and a lot of people don’t know what a steamed cheeseburger is. We hope to change that. We opened a second store in Cromwell, 10 miles north of Meriden, in March 2011 and followed that with a third location in North Haven, 10 miles to the south of Meriden, in November. The idea is that we can slowly introduce people to the steamed cheeseburger as we continue to branch out. Over the next five years, we hope to have 10 additional locations.
We know we have a market niche and a good product that can appeal to the masses. There’s a place for Ted’s.
By Daniel P. Smith