The seasonal hamburger has become virtually obsolete, at least in my neck of the woods—the Tri-State Area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut). That's why I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to make my first visit to Clamp's, a seasonal burger stand near my friends Sam and Arietta's house in northwestern Connecticut.
Sam had been raving about Clamp's for years, but he was concerned that it had gone downhill since the great-nephew of departed founder Edwin Clamp took it over. We arrived at Clamp's around 2:15 p.m. two Saturdays ago. It was shut up tight. I wandered up to the sign leaning against Clamp's exterior. The sign told the story.
That's right. Clamp's closes every day of its season (late April to Labor Day) between 2 and 3:30 p.m. I railed against the hamburger gods to no avail. Sam was undaunted. "Don't worry, Eddie. We'll come back tomorrow. For now, we can go grab a burger at the Gooseboro Drive-In. It's really close."
Yes, Sam and Arietta are lucky enough to have not one, but two, seasonal burger stands near their house. Gooseboro's doesn't look as cute as Clamp's, but it was open. We ordered a cheeseburger (above), a hot dog (right), and a coffee malt.
The burger was cooked as ordered and was perfectly decent but had no crust and not much beefy flavor. The hot dog, on the other hand, was exemplary, a natural-casing Hummel beef and pork dog in a toasted and buttered hot dog bun with housemade relish. The coffee malt wasn't terrific, but how bad can a coffee malt be? [Quit meandering, Levine. AHT is not the place for hot dogs. Malts, however, I'll allow. —The Mgmt.]
1293 Bantam Road, Bantam CT 06750 860-567-9356
Back to Clamp's
On Sunday, we went back to Clamp's around 1:30 p.m., so there'd be doubt we'd get our hands on a Clampburger. I ordered a cheeseburger with grilled onions, french fries, a hot dog, onion rings, and some cole slaw. We sat down at one of the Clamp's green spool tables (above) on the side of the road.
A Clamp's burger, as you can see here, is mighty fine. The onions are sweet, the burger has a proper crust, and it only needed a shake of salt to make it perfect.
The hot dog is a skip at Clamp's, as are the french fries. [What'd I say about hot dogs?!? —The Mgmt.] The onion rings were crisp, greaseless, and pretty obviously frozen. The cole slaw was excellent and might have rescued the hot dog as a topping (next time).
It took us two days, but we finally had our Clamp's burgers. Sam and I were feeling pretty satisfied. As we got up to leave at 2:30 p.m., we saw someone pleading his case, desperately trying to snag an after-hours burger—or should I say "between hours" burger, as Clamp's reopens at 5 p.m. for dinner service till 8.
That someone, who did not succeed, by the way, turned out to be Serious Eats friend and inspiration Michael Stern, of Roadfood. Michael lives nearby and couldn't believe he wasn't going to get a burger at Clamp's that day. I told him the early burger lover gets the burger.
Clamp's Hamburger Stand
Route 202, New Milford CT 06776 (near Marble Dale, Connecticut)
Notes: Open daily from late April to Labor Day; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.