Anita Dufresne knows all about steamed cheeseburgs (New Englanders often drop the –er suffix from burger). She helms the steambox behind a twelve-stool counter at the Lunchbox on East Main in Meriden — one of a handful of restaurants in this small part of Central Connecticut that specialize in steamers.
So, what exactly are they? They are thick hunks of well-fatted ground beef cooked in a steam cabinet in an individual tray that allows them to wallow in their juices. Blocks of cheddar also are cooked in their own separate trays in the cabinet, just long enough to become viscous enough to seep into every crevice of the meat on which they are placed. The soft hamburger (no crust on a steamer) and cheese are layered in a roll, usually along with lettuce, tomato, pickle. onion, and mustard.
Most locals have loyalties to one or another of the steamed cheeseburger joints around Meriden; and culinary tourists likely have heard of Ted’s, across town, which had its moment of fame a few years ago on TV. But we believe the Lunchbox is a cut above. Its burger is juicier and its cheese tangier. And there’s a fresh bakery bun to bind the whole package together.
The Lunchbox may be the only steamed cheeseburger establishment to serve breakfast; and more often than not, even in the afternoons, you’ll see a few guys digging into plates crowded with eggs, sausage, and home fries. Waffles, French toast, southwestern Migas, even blueberry pancakes are available. Or how about a steamed cheeseburger omelet?
Anita’s Military Burger won the Most Creative Award in a Battle of the Burgers competition a few years back. This mighty mountain comes topped with guacamole, blue cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, onion, lettuce, tomato, and mushrooms! It’s amazing, but we’d advise first-time steamed-cheeseburger eaters to keep it simple.