With a famous chef as its creator and a menu that includes locally sourced hamburger meat and Kobe beef hot dogs, it's no wonder there's been quite a buzz about the recent opening of Woodbury's Zeeburger.
By now, most foodies have heard of, if not visited, Carole Peck's burger place. And when you run one of the most beloved landmark restaurants in western Connecticut, expectations are high for your second venture. So after coercing my son, to whom the name Good News Cafe means nothing, we and a friend arrived for our first taste at these new digs.
Arriving when the door swings open for business will help you grab one of a handful of wooden booths or tables in this brightly colored eatery. The vibe here is modern, welcoming and comfortable, but don't expect any frills. There are napkin dispensers on the tables and help-yourself packets of salt and pepper at the counter.
But no one arrives at this place looking for amenities; we're looking for a good burger. And I'm still debating whether I found it. After my number was called and I fetched my tray packed with offerings, I could barely wait to sink my teeth into Zee Blue Juicy Lucy Burger ($7).
I had high hopes for the grass-fed ground beef mixed with chunks of Gorgonzola, and I added grilled onions and pickle to complete my anticipated masterpiece. After the first, then the second and finally the third bites, I realized that I was disappointed. The meat was cooked to my requested medium well and it was tasty, but I was surprised with its small size and felt the bulky brioche bun overwhelmed the meat.
There was a bright (green) spot, however, and that was the pickle. When I felt the crunch of that sliced pickle and saw its fresh spring green skin, I was smitten. Where do they get those pickles? My family's no stranger to growing and jarring our own pickles, so when I taste a good one, I'm impressed.
My son chose his usual hot dog, unaware that he was ordering a massive meal that I'd be hard-pressed to finish. Zee Mean Kobe Beef Dog ($6) is huge and comes on a split Portuguese roll with smoked jalapeno relish. We ordered the relish on the side, which would be a wise decision for anyone who doesn't like their spiciness to hurt.
The relish had great flavor, but the following burn lingered and I had to gulp down some soda to put out the fire. I know several people who would love this combo, but not many kids. As for the hot dog, it was flavorful, if a little awkward to handle on the split Portuguese roll.
Our third taste off the menu was the Veggie Shroom Stack ($6.50). My friend enjoyed the generous slabs of zucchini and portobello mushroom with cheddar, opting not to include the red peppers. She also thoroughly loved her thick, old-fashioned chocolate shake ($6.50), which was a deliciously creamy pairing with the lunch.
French fries and sides are ordered a la carte at Zeeburger, so we asked for both sweet potato ($3.50) and regular fries ($2.50). After sprinkling mine with a packet of salt (I know, bad habit), I liked both varieties but preferred the thicker sweet potato fries. The house-made Carole's ketchup added a subtle layer of flavor to the fries, whose flavor is often smothered when using commercial ketchup.
Of the items we didn't taste, the Slammin' Salmon burger, Tweety Bird and original Zee Burger looked appealing. Zeeburger also sells beer and wine, in addition to Pepsi products and other beverages.
We couldn't leave without tasting the ice cream made with milk from Arethusa Farm Dairy. Cups filled with chocolate and coffee flavors ($3.25) were delicious.
Every restaurant has to feel its way to its own path when it first opens, figuring out what works and what doesn't. And I'm looking forward to visiting Zeeburger again a little further down that road.
Zeeburger is located at 670 Main St. South, Woodbury, 203-405-6011. Hours are Tue - Sun, 11am - 9pm.