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What's With All the Burger Joints in West Hartford?

It's trendy to eat a burger nowadays, and at the same time there is an increasing trend toward vegetarianism and other "healthy" diets.

Avon has a . Farmington has one, too, in addition to a . There's the in Canton, and in Simsbury. In the Granby area, the does a booming burger business.

And then there's West Hartford, where upscale burger joints have seemingly multiplied like rabbits. In just the past year, , , and have joined the already-popular , Max Burger, , and as purveyors of "high quality" burgers.

Hamburgers are popular menu items at non-burger joints as well, like Joey's and . And then there are the ever-popular fast food choices which we don't even need to name.

West Hartford nutritionist Sally Lynch sees the parallel trends – burger joint proliferation occuring at the same time as a national focus on healthy eating – as a battle between the needs of our bodies vs. the desires of our brains.

"I do find it puzzling that in the midst of a national obesity crisis, we see hamburger/french fries joints and cupcake kiosks popping up like zits on a teenager. But I do think the 'need' or desire for comfort food is gathering momentum due to a collective food addiction we seem to have," Lynch said.

She thinks most of us deal with this dichotomy on a daily basis, as even dedicated "healthy" eaters occasionally chow down on burgers and fries.

"We strive for a healthy balanced 'homeostatic' diet to keep our bodies running smoothly, but we crave the bliss point from 'hedonic' eating that seems to need more sugar, more salt and more fat," Lynch said.

"The gap [between healthy and unhealthy] is increasing, and the rate is definitely not slowing down. It's actually increasing the other way," said Andrew Nelson, assistant manager of Five Guys in Farmington.

"Where do you fall on the scale between extreme points of homeostatic and hedonic eating? Do you eat for sustenance? Do you eat for pleasure?" Lynch asks. She thinks many vegetarians primarily eat for sustenance, but said "there are plenty who drool over the cupcakes, too."

"There are those of us who strive to eat balanced and healthy, but just can't resist the chocolate brownie sundae or that juicy cheeseburger and fries. Some of the raw foodies are taking homeostatic eating to the extreme, trying desperately to swing the pendulum away from food addiction, hedonic eating and obesity, trying to bring us back to a state of balance, health and longevity," said Lynch.

Maybe it's just that few want to become one extreme or the other. Or, as Lynch surmises, that much of the food consumed today, which is more salty and/or sugary than food past generations ate, is highly addictive.

"Our brains are hard-wired for reward ... our brains are needing a a bigger rush of salt, sugar, and fat than our grandparents needed," said Lynch.

"No one here seems to care," said Nelson noting the continued surge in business at Five Guys. "Our business is growing at an alarming rate," he said. When the Farmington location opened it was the 200th store in the country. Five years later, he said, there are more than 1,000 locations nationwide.

"When I see these places popping up in the midst of our obesity crisis, I see the human struggle is there for each and every one of us, on how to balance between homeostatic and hedonic eating and still stay healthy," said Lynch.

linda jenkins August 02, 2012 at 11:03 AM
I used to think that buying bigger was better, Meal planning is key, so look for the items you’d need to create healthy meals, Plan your meals based on what’s on sale and see if you can find samples from "Official Samples" that is even better
judy salm August 02, 2012 at 12:58 PM
As the burger joints continued to open in WH, I was puzzled why creative, healthy restaurants serving homemade soups, salads and wraps weren't there instead???
Heather L. August 02, 2012 at 11:47 PM
That woman Lynch is an absolute nut. I bet she weighs 80 pounds and hasn't eaten anything that was cooked in 20 years. Burger joints are opening because people like burgers. There are more burger places now than there used to be because the population is growing. And lets not forget... CT is the second thinnest state in the nation. We're entitled to a burger if we want without some "raw foodie" trying to shame us.
Gerson Goldstein August 03, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Because there are about 4 men in the town that would be rushing to eat there. The other 70,000 are craving A big greasy burger. Genetics and the normal human need for meat for the last 40000 years has something to do with it. If you ever worked in healthcare and looked at the blood work of vegetarians and vegans you would be positively horrified and have a whole different attitude about the need for a balanced diet as was the national craze in the 70's. My nutritionist girlfriend and dietician friend agrees, health food as a main diet is just not good for mammals. Salads and wraps, yummy lets start a business in town. Then again, maybe not.
Sally Lynch August 03, 2012 at 11:14 AM
OK, I gotta pipe in. I'm a philosopher by nature, not one who condemns or judges. I love to speculate the nature of life. I'm sorry if I offended anyone, but I'm on vacation with my family enjoying lots of burgers, fries and brownie sundaes.
TPL August 03, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Population growth in Ct? Nope. People eat out too often and when they do they eat too much.
Ronni Newton August 03, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Heather - Please don't make your attacks personal. Let's stick to the topic being debated. Sally Lynch is a nutritionist, she's not trying to shame anyone.
Susan Schaefer August 03, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I have wondered why there are so many burger joints in WH as well. I'm with Judy, I would like to see more restaurants with healthy options. How about a poll Ronni? Great advice Sally, moderation is key. Eating healthy isn't about deprivation, it's about balance and making smart choices.
Don Kauke August 03, 2012 at 07:25 PM
For years, Hartford area residents traveling to the Connecticut shore, had the opportunity to stop in Colchester at Harry's. The taste of his burgers on their famous rolls provided memories that lingered (and provided CT with one of hits legendary legislators as well). I even remember the taste of a"quality" hamburger from Point Lookout, LI many years ago. Some of our "fast food" establishments almost gave the burger a bad name in the interim. It now seems to have been rescued.
Gerson Goldstein August 05, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Is Harry's still around?. As a kid we used to stop there on the way or home from our Niantic beach house. I loved those burgers. Apparently is secret in those was a small amount of red wine. Now I want one!!!!!
Jason Melnyk August 07, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Burger joint looks to have closed. Signs are gone and windows covered with brown paper.

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