Hamburgers are a great American invention. I try to be a healthy eater, but occasionally I give in to the urge to devour a delicious combination of bun, meat, cheese, veggies and the special sauce that drips down your shirt.
So where was this wondrous concoction invented? There are several claims to the creation of the hamburger. One is made by the restaurant Louis’ Lunch of New Haven, Conn., which happens to be one of 100 burger joints covered in George Motz’s excellent book Hamburger America.
Louis’ Lunch is the oldest continuously operating hamburger restaurant in the United States. It has been owned and operated by the Lassen family since 1885. According to the Lassen family, the hamburger sandwich was invented by Louis Lassen in 1900 by placing a hamburger patty between two pieces of white bread. The specially made hamburger bun didn’t come around for another 25 years.
None of the big chains are covered in Hamburger America, just locally owned restaurants serving good burgers. One of the examples is Seattle’s own Dick’s Drive In. An approximation of the recipe for the secret sauce on Dick’s burgers is included as well.
If you like your food to go, definitely check our Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern, which covers 700 eateries. All types of food establishments are covered including barbecue, seafood, ice cream parlors, roadside diners, and more.
One of the notable restaurants is Wiles-Smith Drugs in Memphis, Tenn., where you can sit at a boomerang-pattern counter, order a sandwich or a big helping of chili and know you are only steps away from Sun Records where Elvis Presley recorded many of his songs.
Continuing on the road, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives by Guy Fieri covers 60 eateries from coast to coast. Highlights include The Virginia Diner of Wakefield, Va., which is just down the street from the site where the first peanut crop in the U.S. was planted. More than a half-million pounds of peanuts are cooked and packed at the diner each year. A specialty of Virginia Diner is Peanut Pie. It is described as “a cross between a peanut cookie, peanut brittle, and pie.” The recipe is printed in the book.