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EatDrinkShopCook: Where's the beef on Burger Row?

Updated 10:46 am, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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  • Shake Shack has re-imagined classic American burgers, dogs and fries with great success. The chain's Westport outlet remains busy two years after it opened. Photo: Patti Woods / Fairfield Citizen
    Shake Shack has re-imagined classic American burgers, dogs and fries with great success. The chain's Westport outlet remains busy two years after it opened. Photo: Patti Woods

 

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THE SCOOP
If you're craving a:
• Thin, step-up-from-fast-food burger, try Rawley's: 1886 Post Road, Fairfield; 203-259-9023
• Quick but substantial burger, try Five Guys Burgers and Fries: 534 Post Road East, Westport; 203-557-4250, and 340 Grasmere Ave., Fairfield, 203-254-3238 / www.fiveguys.com
• A big burger with lots of options, try Flipside: 1125 Post Road, Fairfield; 203-292-8233 / www.flipsiderestaurant.com
• A classic burger, shake and fries, try Shake Shack: 1849 Post Road, Westport; 203-682-6570 / www.shakeshack.com
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When Plan B Burger Bar announced plans to open a new restaurant in the former Fairfield Post Office building later this year, many people had the same reaction: "How many burger places does the Post Road need?" After all, the slate of on or near the main thoroughfare in Fairfield and Westport already includes Five Guys, Flipside, Rawley's and Shake Shack, along with fast-food contenders McDonald's and Duchess.

So where's the beef? Clearly, it's here.

Yet Plan B doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that this area is a hamburger haven. Maybe that's because a burger isn't a burger isn't a burger. There are thick burgers and thin ones; juicy ones and char-broiled ones; plain ones and fancy ones. Here, then, is a guide to helping you find that perfect burger.

FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES

This chain restaurant started in the Washington, D.C., area by five brothers. The menu is limited: burgers, hot dogs and fries, although the list of available toppings is extensive. In addition to the regular standbys (ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onions), there are things like grilled mushrooms, jalapeno peppers and steak sauce.

The Five Guys burger is a medium patty -- not too thin, nor too thick -- and comes in two sizes: regular and small. (Don't be fooled by the name. The small is slightly larger than a typical fast-food burger.)

Interesting facts: All of its burgers are served well-done, and there aren't any freezers at Five Guys, only coolers, so everything is said to be fresh, not frozen.

As for the fries, they're hand-cut and fried in peanut oil. (Those with nut allergies beware. They also have huge boxes of peanuts in the shell for snacking while you wait.).

Ordering know-how: One order of fries is enough to serve at least two people. Proceed with caution.

FLIPSIDE

I'll admit, it took me a long time to make my first visit to Flipside. Tucked behind some shops off the Post Road in Fairfield, next a the Shell gas station, it's easy to forget it's there. But now that I've gone, it's on my radar for whenever I'm craving a creative burger.

The menu at Flipside is big. There are starters, salads and sandwiches, but it's the burgers that really stand out. You can craft your own, or try one of their specialty burgers, like the Mac 'n' Cheese burger (grilled macaroni and cheese, bacon, fresh pico and cheese sauce), or the Hawaii Five-O burger (sirloin patty, barbecued pulled pork, bacon and grilled pineapple).

I tried the MacFlip burger, which had special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a toasted bun. Sound familiar? It's just like the iconic Big Mac, only tastier. The burgers are available in 6- or 10-ounce sizes, and the sides dishes include regular fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, macaroni salad or house salad.

Summertime bonus: Flipside has a spacious outdoor patio in the back and a full bar with lots of fun drink options.

RAWLEY'S

While best known for deep-fried hot dogs and all the fixin's, Rawley's also offers classic, no-nonsense hamburgers.

The patties are thin and served on a fresh, grilled roll. You can order them with cheese, bacon, grilled onions or chili and don't forget the fries that come with a little wooden fork.

This is not fancy or fussy food by any means, but it's a Fairfield classic.

SHAKE SHACK

You'd think the buzz would've died down about Shake Shack now that it's been open for almost two years in Westport, but the crowds continue to come.

This burger chain was established in Manhattan by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, and Shake Shack has since attracted something of a cult following. Like Five Guys, the menu here is limited -- here, it includes burgers, hot dogs, fries and a single vegetarian option, the 'Shroom Burger.

The Shake Shack patties are an average fast-food size and you can top them with lettuce, tomato, cheese and bacon, or try the ShackBurger, which is a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and "ShackSauce."

The burgers (which are cooked medium) are served in little wax-paper bags, which makes them easy to eat. My only beef with their burgers is that buns are served room temperature. They'd benefit from a little toasting. The fries here are crinkle-cut, golden and crispy, and the shakes are rich and creamy.

An advantage that Shake Shack has over most other burger places is that it offers beer and wine.

PLAN B BURGER BAR

Although the Fairfield restaurant of this Connecticut-based chain isn't scheduled to open till later this year, the Milford restaurant has been open since 2011 and does a booming business. There's four other Plan B locations in the state, including Stamford, another in Speingfield, Mass., and plans for more out-of-state expansion in Boston, Chicago and D.C.

This is an upscale burger joint, with a comprehensive menu that also includes soups, salads and entrees. The burgers -- also said to be never frozen -- are fresh and plump, and can be cooked to the standards of "Some Pink" or "No Pink." You can get a plain burger or you can go all the way with a specialty burger, like the New Englander (lobster, smoked gouda, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato and corn spread), or a West Coast (fried egg, avocado and kalamata onion mayo).

Each Plan B burger comes with fancy fries or organic mixed greens, or you can upgrade to onion rings, tater tots, truffle fries or parmesan fries. Also worth noting is that every burger can be served "in the grass" -- that is, atop lettuce and without a bun.

Plan B also promotes its "selection of all-natural, boutique bourbons" and extensive variety of craft beers.

Clearly, if you're craving a substantial burger, this is the place.

With so many options, the Post Road offers something for every type of burger aficionado. The biggest challenge? Getting everyone to agree on the same place.

Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at eatdrinkshopcook@gmail.