Grab a Burger at Louis’ Lunch: The Birthplace of the Burger
If you’ve ever wondered about where the classic American hamburger originated, look no further than the historic Louis’ Lunch on Crown Street, New Haven.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of Connecticut as being a trailblazer when it comes to food. We discovered early how to make pizza the right way; we created the quintessential hot dog brand (Hummel); and we invented the hamburger. I think that makes us pretty important on the culinary scene.
History of the Hamburger
There are a number of claims to fame when it comes to inventing the hamburger, but the one that we Nutmeggers know to be true involves a small restaurant in New Haven called Louis’ Lunch.
According to legend, one day in the year 1900 a busy businessman walked into the restaurant in a rush and asked for something that he could eat on the go. The owner, Louis Lassen, grilled up a blend of ground steak trimmings and placed it between two slices of toast, and in an instant, an American tradition was born.
It’s impossible to know how many hamburgers have been sold by the restaurant since, but after more than 117 years you know it’s got to be a lot. I’ve had my fair share of meals there with my parents and grandparents who always claimed that they’re the best burgers you’ll find.
Interestingly, though the restaurant on Crown Street today is the original building, it isn’t the original location for Louis’ Lunch. In 1975, the restaurant was under threat of being torn down to make room for new construction. Just hours before the deadline, the building was cut away from the foundation, loaded onto a truck, and transplanted to the location on Crown Street where it sits today.
Louis’ Lunch Today
The restaurant is still owned and operated by descendants of the original Louis. Currently, Louis’ great-grandson Jeff Lassen hold the reigns of the business.
The burgers themselves haven’t changed much from that original burger served in 1900. The meat is ground daily and cooked to order in the same original cast iron grills that Louis used in 1898. Cheese, tomato, and onion are the only toppings you’ll find offered at Louis’: Condiments are forbidden, as they cover up the taste and quality of a simple, freshly ground and grilled hamburger.
The Louis’ Lunch Menu
The menu itself also hasn’t changed much since the restaurant’s beginnings. There are a grand total of eight items on the current menu: Aside from the original burger, you can order chips, potato salad, and homemade pie (by the slice) along with various drinks—that’s it.
Although the menu is simple, Louis’ Lunch has been recognized by numerous publications and television shows like Man vs. Food, the Food Network, and the Travel Channel. It has even been named “The Tastiest Place to Chow Down in America” and “The Tastiest Burger”.
- No ketchup—Louis’ Lunch is very particular with the condiments they allow on the original hamburger. Nowhere in the establishment will you find even a single packet of ketchup, as it is said to take away from the meat’s true flavor.
- No cards—Debit and credit cards aren’t accepted, so be sure to bring cash when you go or else you’ll need to scramble to find an ATM. The price of your meal will vary depending on your order, but a burger will cost you $6.25 without any sides or drinks.
- Louis’ lingo—Although this isn’t necessarily a rule, don’t be surprised if you enter the restaurant and have a hard time understanding what people are ordering. For example, regulars of the lunch spot can be heard ordering a “cheese works”, or a hamburger with cheese, tomato, and onion, on white toast cooked medium rare.
Louis’ Lunch is located at 261-263 Crown Street, New Haven. Hours vary by weekday. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday, is open from 11am to 3:45pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and is open from noon to 2am Thursday through Saturday.