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O'Rourke's Diner


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#1 Jason Perlow

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 09:08 PM

728 Main St. (Rte. 66), Middletown, CT, (860) 346-6101


On the way back from Boston, Rachel and I stopped at O'Rourkes Diner in Middletown, at the insistence of San Francisco Chronicle (and former Hartford Courant) food columnist Bill Daley, to try the legendary STEAMED CHEESEBURGER.

The Steamed Cheeseburger is a unique, strange and beautiful regional variant of the cheeseburger which is limited to only the 25-mile radius of Middletown, Connecticut. Its served at maybe a dozen different places in the local area, including Ted's in Meriden.

But Orourkes is the legitmate heir to the Steamed Cheeseburger because its owner, Brian Orourke, is the grandson of its inventor, Jack O'rourke, who served it at Jack's Lunch, a luncheonette that once existed a short way down Main Steet from where Orourke's Diner is today. The burger then made its way to Meriden, and then back to Middletown.

Textureally, a steamed cheeseburger is sort of like eating a meat loaf sandwich that is completely engulfed in gloppy, melted sharp cheddar cheese. The Orourke's burger patty itself isnt that large, but it seems to be the correct amount of beef considering it is paired with such a huge amount of melted cheddar cheese.

I was unable to photograph the actual cooking process, but basically what happens is that the burger meat is put into these square molds which is then put into this steamer contraption to cook. Blocks of sharp white cheddar cheese are also put into these molds and the steamer contraption, and then the whole mess is put on top of a kaiser roll. I can assure you, this thing tastes way better than it sounds.


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The diner, a classic 1946 dining car

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The legendary steamed cheeseburger, made out of ground black angus beef and topped with melted sharp white cheddar cheese.

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the steamed bacon cheeseburger patty melt, an interesting variation on the original

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You can get reubens with melted cheese too.

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world class french fries and fried zucchini

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sweet potato soup with greens. YUM.
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#2 slowday

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 10:55 PM

The link to Ted's shows the kind of contraption that steam cooks the hamburgers. Everytime I hear the words steam and burger I think of White Castle and their steam grilling.

The burgers look great and the onions have a nice color but those fries are the killer. They look twice cooked and thick cut which is combination I haven't seen. Truly awesome.

#3 ieatfire

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 07:21 AM

O'Rourke's is my favorite diner ever. I went to college in Middletown, and ate there about once a week. The breads are excellent, as are the omelets and the apples 'n noodles dish. Yum.

If you're ever driving between NY and Boston (or Hartford), it's only a short detour, and is definitely worth it.

#4 Andrew Fenton

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 07:50 AM

How do they make the patty melt? Do they put the cheese/burger on toast, or put it on bread and then grill it? Seems like an odd combination of cooking techniques. Also, it looks like there's some white sauce on the patty melt (and maybe burger): what is it?

That fried zucchini looks awe. some.

#5 ludja

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 02:36 PM

"On the way back from Boston, Rachel and I stopped at O'Rourkes Diner in Middletown, at the insistence of San Francisco Chronicle (and former Hartford Courant) food columnist Bill Daley, to try the legendary STEAMED CHEESEBURGER.

The Steamed Cheeseburger is a unique, strange and beautiful regional variant of the cheeseburger which is limited to only the 25-mile radius of Middletown, Connecticut. Its served at maybe a dozen different places in the local area, including Ted's in Meriden. "


Jason, thanks for reminding me of this and for the pix. I grew up in Middletown and never went to O'Rourke's for the famous steamed burger. I'll be back at the holidays and will definately check it out (and report back).

In the end, did you think it was worth the detour?
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#6 Jason Perlow

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:09 PM

Yes, definitely worth it.
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#7 ludja

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:38 PM

Yes, definitely worth it.

thanks, I'll be sure to take notes and add my impressions to the thread...
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#8 Jason Perlow

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:43 PM

If you're in Middletown make sure you check out Jerry's Pizza as well.
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#9 choreboy

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 01:59 PM

New Haven, Connecticut - home to superlative pizzas (Sally's, Modern, Bar) and home of the hamburger (Louis Lunch). Who would've guessed Middletown (my wife's birthplace) would have places to rival these New Haven legends? We must spend more time there (without visiting her relatives, natch')

Edited by choreboy, 18 December 2003 - 02:00 PM.


#10 kellymonaghan

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Posted 01 January 2004 - 07:34 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned O'Rourke's breakfasts in this thread.

For my money, that's the real reason to make the pilgrimage to Middletown. Home-made veal and lamb sausage are to die for, as are the crab cakes. The Bananas Foster pancakes ain't too shabby, either. Every dish is individually - and artfully - garnished.

For us Nutmeggers, a visit to O'Rourke's is a sure-fire way to astonish guests from out of town.

#11 ludja

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 02:32 PM

Well, when I was back in Middletown, CT for the holidays I finally (lived there 15 years) made it to O'Rourkes to sample the famed steamed cheeseburger.

My dad and I went there for lunch. Great decor; classic old diner, sunny and cozy. The burger was very good; on a nice roll (substantial enought, but not too 'bready' for the burger) and as Jason described (and showed) covered with lots of good sharp softened white cheddar cheese. It was very tasty! Also excellent were the homemade onion rings. Just the way I like them--light crispy (non-breadcrumb) batter, onions cut thinly, crispy on the outside and tender onions on the inside.

Per the mention of breakfast above, I also heard they make a wonderful home made corned beef hash; I need to try that next time... or maybe the homemade sausages...

Jason also described the wonderful white pie over at Jerry's Pizza, also in Middletown--I'll have to fit that in next time as well!

Thanks again for the nice post w/pix reminding me to try O'Rourkes...
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#12 HungryChris

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:14 AM

Sad word is that this fine CT institution known for it's steamed burgers and wonderful breakfasts succumbed to a devastating fire last night. Let's hope O'Rourke's Diner will rise again.

HC

#13 bspachman

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:49 PM

Sad word is that this fine CT institution  known for it's steamed burgers and wonderful breakfasts succumbed to a devastating fire last night. Let's hope O'Rourke's Diner will rise again.

HC

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Local news report here.

Other local talking has said that he is more than hopeful to rebuild, he definitely plans to.

<fingers crossed>!!

brad

#14 Pontormo

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 07:02 AM

:shock:

Any pictures? Saying the place can be rebuilt is not very reassuring...
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#15 mod*betty

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 07:23 AM

there are some photos and more info at the website www.roadsideonline.com where I saw this sad news last night.

We are heading through CT in 2 weeks and had plans to stop at O'Rourkes to try a legendary steamed cheeseburger. :-(

Can anyone suggest an alternate place to check out for this regional delicacy or are we just out of luck?
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#16 Roundelay

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 09:56 AM

there are some photos and more info at the website www.roadsideonline.com where I saw this sad news last night.

We are heading through CT in 2 weeks and had plans to stop at O'Rourkes to try a legendary steamed cheeseburger. :-(

Can anyone suggest an alternate place to check out for this regional delicacy or are we just out of luck?

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There's Ted's in Meriden and Rosco's Big Dog in Hartford.

Emily

#17 Chris Amirault

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 06:42 AM

There used to be a place on Thayer Street in Providence that served a steamed burger (and also another concotion called a Jimme Gimme that was steamed). I'm clearly getting too old as I can't remember the name of the place.
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#18 Panosmex

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 02:10 PM

A website has been started to report on the O'Rourke's situation, rebuilding possibilities, fund raising, old memories, etc. It's orourkesdiner.com

:shock:

Any pictures?  Saying the place can be rebuilt is not very reassuring...

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Buen provecho, Panosmex

#19 bspachman

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 01:08 PM

It's reopened! Just last week!

http://www.courant.c...100,print.story

More steamed hamburgers for all!
brad

#20 ludja

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 02:10 PM

It's reopened! Just last week!

http://www.courant.c...100,print.story

More steamed hamburgers for all!
brad

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good news and thanks for the update. I drove by when I was home at Christmas and was wondering if it would really reopen or not. I've had their famous burgers but their own "Dubliner Omelet" w/corned beef hash, Irish cheddar and Irish Sodabread sounds interesting!

Edited by ludja, 21 February 2008 - 02:11 PM.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"