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 Big Top Shoppes

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Coaster Dog

  • Total Posts: 19
  • Joined: 12/20/2004
  • Location: Milford, CT
Big Top Shoppes Wed, 12/29/04 1:42 PM (permalink)
While going to grad school in New Haven, CT, my dad would talk about a White & Black Checkered roof-topped burger place he would frequent on the way back home from class called "The Big Top". The place was a mini-chain in CT with a huge gas fired char-broiler that would send huge plumes of grilled meat fumes into the air, and they had the greates burger ever known in my house. I think they had one in Riverside Greenwich (now a Firestone tire place) and one in Westport somewhere.
The meat patties were excellent quality beef and were placed on the grill while still frozen and then they wound up on a soft and lushious bun somewhere at the fine line between Med-rare and Medium. They were so juicy, that my dad would order 3 burgers with nothing on them and perform a complicted dissection:
He would put two of the patties between one bun and eat them over the open top bun of the third burger, which would capture the juices (not grease!)
Then he would eat the third burger with those juice-soaked burger buns over the un-used bun which would in turn soak up those juices. Then he would eat just the bun that was leftover from the first process which soaked up all of those yummy juices. Very difficult to explain, and moreso to watch! But delish just the same.
I would add ketchup to the second burger myself (I would only have two), and I want one right now! But they all closed their doors by sometime in the late 80's or early 90's.
Does anyone out there remember Big Top?
 
#1
    shen

    • Total Posts: 150
    • Joined: 5/26/2004
    • Location: New York, NY
    RE: Big Top Shoppes Mon, 01/3/05 3:35 PM (permalink)
    There was one in monroe on rt 111 and also one in westport on the post rd where the mcdonalds now is. has been gone at least 15-20 years
     
    #2
      Michael Hoffman

      • Total Posts: 17855
      • Joined: 7/1/2000
      • Location: Gahanna, OH
      RE: Big Top Shoppes Mon, 01/3/05 4:50 PM (permalink)
      I remember a Big Top on Whalley Avenue, way up near the Wilbur Cross Parkway, but that was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They had the most God-awful ribs, though.
       
      #3
        vegas

        • Total Posts: 82
        • Joined: 1/16/2004
        • Location: not vegas (SW CT)
        RE: Big Top Shoppes Mon, 01/3/05 5:05 PM (permalink)

        the Whalley Ave Big Top was there through the early 1980's
         
        #4
          Michael Hoffman

          • Total Posts: 17855
          • Joined: 7/1/2000
          • Location: Gahanna, OH
          RE: Big Top Shoppes Mon, 01/3/05 5:46 PM (permalink)
          quote:
          Originally posted by vegas


          the Whalley Ave Big Top was there through the early 1980's

          Ah, well, I wasn't.

           
          #5
            shen

            • Total Posts: 150
            • Joined: 5/26/2004
            • Location: New York, NY
            RE: Big Top Shoppes Tue, 01/4/05 11:14 AM (permalink)
            ahhh i thought the ribs were good. but then again what did i know, I was 11 at the time.
             
            #6
              Michael Hoffman

              • Total Posts: 17855
              • Joined: 7/1/2000
              • Location: Gahanna, OH
              RE: Big Top Shoppes Tue, 01/4/05 11:26 AM (permalink)
              quote:
              Originally posted by shen

              ahhh i thought the ribs were good. but then again what did i know, I was 11 at the time.

              A lot of people in Connecticut thought they were good. Of course, those were the people who'd never had ribs anywhere else.
               
              #7
                Burgermeister

                • Total Posts: 73
                • Joined: 2/2/2006
                • Location: Fairfield County, CT
                RE: Big Top Shoppes Fri, 02/3/06 2:27 PM (permalink)
                The Big Top Shoppe in Westport, Conn. was located at 701 Post Road East (on the corner of Roseville Road and Route 1).

                It was interesting to hear on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno about 10 years ago Jay talk with Michael Douglas about going to The Big Top in Westport back in the late '50s / early '60s as teenagers with their hot-rodded cars (The Big Top was a local "greaser" hangout). Michael lived in town and Jay drove all the way down from Springfield, Mass.

                Having grown up in the area myself I never forgot about this interview. So when I was fortunate enough to attend the famous Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance car show in Pebble Beach, CA last summer and saw Jay Leno there, I could not help but walk up to him and introduce myself by saying "Greetings from Westport, Connecticut" to which Jay immediately responded by snapping his fingers, pointing his index finger at me, and saying "Big Top Hamburgers!"

                I guess there are certain things from your youth -- even if you're a celebrity -- that you never forget.

                 
                #8
                  wingmanBBF

                  • Total Posts: 49
                  • Joined: 3/17/2008
                  • Location: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
                  • Roadfood Insider
                  RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 9:36 AM (permalink)
                  Once again, My Roadfood brethren gift me the solution to my failing memory....After college, in 1972 my first wife lived in an apartment in New Haven on Whalley in the old Pegnataro mansion. We explored and ate as only starry eyed newly independent kids with vigorous metabolisms could...and our favorite burger destination was Big Top..near the Wilbur Cross on Dixwell in Hamden.
                  The burgers had more charcoal taste than charcoal itself..The fries were heavenly. I think I remember sweet red relish that made the burger all the more decadent....
                  Our Blowout dinner spot was Valle's twin lobsters....Our belly clam/dog stop was Jimmies....but our go-to no-worries everyday burger was always Big Top.
                  Old as this topic is, it still serves...Thank you, Roadfooders....
                   
                  #9
                    Michael Hoffman

                    • Total Posts: 17855
                    • Joined: 7/1/2000
                    • Location: Gahanna, OH
                    RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 11:08 AM (permalink)
                    The Pegnataro mansion? I went to school with Joe Pegnataro.
                     
                    #10
                      wingmanBBF

                      • Total Posts: 49
                      • Joined: 3/17/2008
                      • Location: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
                      • Roadfood Insider
                      RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 5:52 PM (permalink)
                      The mansion was Georgian style set back up on a sweeping hill, on the Northeast corner of Whalley and either Fitch or what is now Ella Grasso....divided even then into five or six apartments....directly across Whalley from a Pegnataro's supermarket which is now gone as is the mansion...Maybe someone else remembers it and can expand....
                      Ironically, years earlier, my first job at age fourteen was bellhop and bus boy at the Castle Inn in Old Saybrook, owned at the time by the Pegnataros...
                       
                       
                      WingmanBBF
                       
                      #11
                        Michael Hoffman

                        • Total Posts: 17855
                        • Joined: 7/1/2000
                        • Location: Gahanna, OH
                        RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 6:02 PM (permalink)
                        wingmanBBF


                        The mansion was Georgian style set back up on a sweeping hill, on the Northeast corner of Whalley and either Fitch or what is now Ella Grasso....divided even then into five or six apartments....directly across Whalley from a Pegnataro's supermarket which is now gone as is the mansion...Maybe someone else remembers it and can expand....
                        Ironically, years earlier, my first job at age fourteen was bellhop and bus boy at the Castle Inn in Old Saybrook, owned at the time by the Pegnataros...
                         
                         
                        WingmanBBF

                        It was just Boulevard back then. But what is amazing to me is you working at the Castle. First I never knew the Pegnataros owned it. But, it was while delivering meat to the Castle in 1951 that I met Katharine Hepburn. I was lost tying to find the place and stopped at a house in Fenwick to ask directions. Katharine Hepburn came to the door, ended up inviting me in for some ice tea, and did point me in the right direction.

                         
                        #12
                          Wintahaba

                          • Total Posts: 109
                          • Joined: 7/12/2011
                          • Location: Fox Valley, WI
                          RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 6:49 PM (permalink)
                          MH, That is an amazing story, Katherine Hepburn is my wife's favorite actress...more thank likely why our daughter's name is Kate...not Katie, my wife always made that clear. 
                           
                          #13
                            Michael Hoffman

                            • Total Posts: 17855
                            • Joined: 7/1/2000
                            • Location: Gahanna, OH
                            RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 7:08 PM (permalink)

                            After that first meeting I used to stop by whenever I was in the area. She was a very nice woman. Many years later (around 1995) my daughter was living in Old Lyme and used to shop for meat at Walt's, a small market in Old Saybrook. One day she there and ran into Katharine Hepburn, who was a regular customer. She introduced herself and explained about how I used to stop by, and was astounded when Miss Hepburn remembered me.
                             
                            #14
                              wingmanBBF

                              • Total Posts: 49
                              • Joined: 3/17/2008
                              • Location: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
                              • Roadfood Insider
                              RE: Big Top Shoppes Sat, 01/25/14 10:46 PM (permalink)
                              Michael Hoffman



                              After that first meeting I used to stop by whenever I was in the area. She was a very nice woman. Many years later (around 1995) my daughter was living in Old Lyme and used to shop for meat at Walt's, a small market in Old Saybrook. One day she there and ran into Katharine Hepburn, who was a regular customer. She introduced herself and explained about how I used to stop by, and was astounded when Miss Hepburn remembered me.

                              Spot on...She was a regular at Walt's. My 90 year-old English teacher mom and she used to commiserate in the counter line about the death of the language. Although most people called my mom, Dot, Miss Kate would only call her Dorothy because, "A woman with so powerful an intellect should have a name with many syllables."...making it all the more ironic that she preferred to be called Kate. She was a beautiful woman with incredible wit, zero affectation, undeniable dignity, and a flawlessly unbeatable BS detector.
                               
                               
                               
                              #15
                                Michael Hoffman

                                • Total Posts: 17855
                                • Joined: 7/1/2000
                                • Location: Gahanna, OH
                                RE: Big Top Shoppes Sun, 01/26/14 11:35 AM (permalink)
                                Beautiful!
                                 
                                #16
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