The Local Knowlege

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Unofficial Guide: Legendary pizza and original burgers in Hartford

By Matthew Rudy

New Haven Style
The unofficial motto of the Unofficial Guide is "local delicacies and hangouts," or, the places you shouldn't miss when you make your first visit. You might feel a pang of Instagram regret if you miss a visit to world Pez headquarters (in Orange, CT), but if you come to Connecticut and don't go to the ancestral home of thin-crust brick-oven pizza in America, you've made a serious tactical error. 

New Haven is 30 miles southwest of the TPC of River Highlands. You've heard of it as the home of Yale University, but you should visit for the places you can actually get into. When GQ food writer Alan Richman picked his 25 best pizzas in America, two pizzerias on the same block of Wooster street in New Haven -- population 125,000 -- made the list, and a handful of others in town are worthy contenders. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally's Apizza have been serving pies since 1925 and 1938, respectively, and simple combinations that end up on the battered trays at your table are essentially identical to what you would have eaten during the Great Depression --  homemade dough blistered in the original brick ovens at 600 degrees and topped with your choice of fresh mozzarella, chicken, peppers, pepperoni, sausage and even clams. Come during standard meal hours and you'll wait more than an hour for a table, and the service alternates between brisk and brusque. But fight it out and you'll be rewarded with one of those rare unique food experiences that live up to the hype. Pepe's has an outpost closer to the tournament, in West Hartford, but if you're going to make the commitment, do it right. 

The Throwback Burger
New Haven is to comfort food what Athens is to architecture. Ten minutes from the dueling pizzeria legends is Louis' Lunch, the nondescript little shack where hamburgers were invented in 1900. The original proprietor's great grandson still runs the place, and cooks your burgers pinched vertically on the same unique cast iron clamshell grill Louis Lassen used during the Teddy Roosevelt Administration. Get fancy with your order and they'll boot you out, so don't. Ask for the cheese works and take your medium rare cheeseburger with tomato and onion and sit in one of the ancient booths where turn-of-the-last-century Yalies carved their impeccably spelled graffiti. Louis' might fit 30 people, so if the line is daunting you can stall across the street at Bar, where they serve a mean mashed potato and bacon white pizza. You'll only make fun of it once, before you try it.    


 
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