In the tradition of the Food Network’s extremely popular show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” I get a special thrill in discovering great old eating establishments while on the road.
One way to easily hunt down those local gems is by downloading an app like MapMuse on my iPhone, which tells me all of the locations of every joint featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
So whenever I’m heading home to New York to see my family, I check the website out for the possibility of a fun eating experience along the way, not too far off I-95.
One time I made a stop in Westport, CT at the Black Duck Cafe, and chowed down on an amazing sauteed crawfish po-boy and Caesar salad, on the waterfront of this sleepy blue-collar town, the elevated highway directly above.
More recently, I stopped in New Haven, CT at the legendary Louis’ Lunch, established in 1895. With room for only 25 people, this tiny hot spot claims it is where the hamburger was invented. If you want a fancy burger, this is not the place. They serve ’em just a few ways: with cheese or without, with tomatoes and onions or without. All burgers are cooked medium-rare, and come on toasted white bread. No ketchup in the building. No salt and pepper. For sides: potato salad or chips. Some drinks. And that’s it!
Apparently, they don’t need to cater to the masses, because there’s always a line out the door, and the wait can be as long as 2 hours for a burger…and people gladly wait.
A fresh batch of burgers right out of the grill!
I was lucky: I got there on a Friday afternoon and missed the lunch rush, so I only had to wait a half-hour for my taste of history, still grilled in the funky-looking original gas-fired grills built back in the 1800’s.
The original grills at Louis’ Lunch: 9 burgers are cooked at a time, placed in a screen that holds them while they cook sideways.
In all honesty, it was not the best burger I’ve ever had…and I don’t know if I’d wait 2 hours for one. But it was a fun experience being there…watching others in line doing what I was doing: whipping out the phone and taking pictures of this legendary establishment…one that almost succumbed to the wrecking ball until the people of New Haven came to the aid of Louis’ Lunch and had it moved down the road to its current location.
At the counter: White plastic bags full of sliced bread await the toaster that sends them spinning around on a belt.
It just takes a couple of minutes off I-95 to get to Louis’ Lunch. Certainly more fun than stopping at some fast food joint. And a chance to taste a bit of history.