It’s that most wonderful time of the year again.
Yet, as we all envision ourselves sitting by a cozy fire, calmly sipping egg nog and welcoming friends and family into our homes, the reality is that we are juggling work, kids, cleaning house, cooking, party planning, gift shopping, and holiday decorating.
So consider taking a night off from the kitchen, pack the family in the car and head to West Hartford’s newest “kid on the block” – Jake’s Wayback Burgers at 450 South Main Street. This casual eatery, located conveniently near Westfarms Mall at the intersection of South Main and New Britain Avenue, might be just the place to wind down and fuel up.
It’s 1991, and a small burger joint called Jake’s Hamburgers opens in Newark, Delaware. Its made-to-order grilled burgers and milkshakes prove so popular that soon there are several restaurants in that area.
Fast forward 20 years and the now re-named Jake’s Wayback Burger has 35 franchises in ten states with another 35 restaurants already planned. The West Hartford location, which opened on November 10, is the company’s eighth Connecticut franchise, with sites in Avon and Stamford scheduled to open soon.
In an increasingly competitive burger market – West Hartford now has five non-fast food burger restaurants, with another slotted to open in Bishop’s Corner – what is it about Jake’s Wayback Burgers that differentiates it from its rivals?
Owner Gary Valenti is confident that once customers eat one of his patties they will know the answer to that question, and Jake’s Wayback will become their favorite burger place.
“The quality of our meat is unsurpassed. It’s fresh, never frozen, and the burgers are made to order just the way the customer wants it. Also, our prices are very affordable. It’s a great burger for the money,” notes Valenti.
Money is something that Valenti knows a great deal about. For nearly two decades, he worked in financial services. Last November, he was laid off from his job as a certified financial planner at ING and he realized that it might be time to take another career path.
He and his wife, Joan, who continues to work in financial services, decided to partner up and buy a business. After thorough research, they were drawn to the idea of buying a Jake’s Wayback Burger franchise – a decision that makes a lot of sense to Valenti since he grew up in a big family “with lots of food.” He also does a great deal of the cooking at home for his wife and twin daughters.
The interior of the restaurant is open and warm with inviting red and cream colored walls, stainless steel chairs, and wood tables. A counter divides the cooking area from the seating and the grill is visible to customers who line up to order. Wait staff will bring the food to your table when it is ready.
The menu hangs overhead and while burgers and shakes figure predominately, there are other offerings like grilled or breaded chicken sandwiches, chicken fingers, hot dogs, cheese or chili dogs, garden or turkey burgers, BLTs, and grilled cheese. Toppings, such as grilled or raw onions, bacon, chili, lettuce, tomato, and pickle are offered in order to customize your burger.
There will be specialty burgers and shakes offered monthly. The milkshakes are “hand dipped” which, explains Valenti, simply means that they are made from vanilla bean ice cream that is scooped into a milkshake cup and mixed with milk and syrup. The combination of those three simple ingredients create what has some connoisseurs consider the best, most authentic-tasting milkshake out there.
There are also French fries, cheese or chili fries, onion rings, and the restaurant’s signature house-made chips in plain or, the flavor of the month, which this month happens to be barbecue.
A kid’s meal is available.
Valenti first considered opening his restaurant in Bishop’s Corner but did not find a suitable location. This Farmington resident is no stranger to West Hartford, noting that he and his family, “always come to West Hartford to do things.”
His ultimate decision to open at the bustling Elmwood intersection appears to him to be a very sound decision. “This location is centrally located. It’s right off the highway and close to the mall. You have a lot of people in Elmwood that don’t have a good, casual affordable burger restaurant.”
On Thursday mid-afternoon, Myrna and Jay Rabin of West Hartford sat quietly munching on their cheeseburgers. It was their first time eating at Jake’s Wayback Burgers and their review echoed that of many of the restaurant’s repeat patrons – “It’s a real value. A great quality burger for the money. “
Customer can call ahead to place an order at 860-561-5000 or order online at www.waybackburgers.com. They will have your order hot and ready when you arrive.