Simsbury has a . Farmington has one, too, in addition to a . There's the in Canton, and Avon has a . 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.