The business card of Clamp’s Hamburger stand says, NO SIGN, NO ADDRESS, NO PHONE, JUST GOOD FOOD. In fact, there is a sign about the size of a license plate on the side of the wood-frame hut: “Clamp’s Est. 1939.” Despite the lack of a billboard and a street address, you will have no trouble finding this place because there are cars and people crowded around any time it’s open … which is late April to early September, every day from 11am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm. (Note: those hours are precise.)
Edwin and Sylvia Clamp started the business way-back-when, and now their great-nephew, Tom Mendell, is the boss. Tom told us that since 1939 Clamp’s has never advertised and never had a phone (and therefore was never in the phone book), and while it did have a prominent sign, when the sign blew down in a windstorm back in the 1960s, it was not replaced.
Located on a pretty stretch of Route 202 at the uppermost edge of New Milford (just south of Marbledale), Clamp’s has been a favorite destination for generations of Connecticut summer people and year-rounders. There is no seating inside, but grassy, tree-shaded groves to the right and left of the building are arrayed with wooden picnic tables. You place your order at one of two windows, pay for the meal, then wait for your name to be called. Meals are presented on round white trays.
While the menu lists many drive-in dishes, from chicken tenders to chili dogs, it’s hamburgers that have earned Clamp’s its reputation. Made fresh daily by a local butcher and cooked the way you request, they are modest-size patties with plenty of flavorful juice that leaks out and flavors the tender bun. Their edge slightly crisp, the fibers of the meat infused with a smoky taste that sings of summertime pleasures, they are quintessential picnic food. All condiments are available, but we highly recommend fried onions, which are cooked until caramel-sweet, as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper to accent the flavor of the beef.