Memorable | One of the Best
Review by: Michael Stern
A small brick building with school-desk seats and an ancient wooden counter with years’ worth of initials carved into it, Louis Lunch cooks hamburgers in ancient metal broilers. A handful of freshly-ground steak is hand-flattened into a patty and placed inside a wire holder inside a vertical iron oven that holds the meat suspended between two heat sources. As the patty cooks, the grease drips off it and the meat sears. When it is done, the hamburger is removed from its wire holder and placed between two pieces of toasted white bread.
Hamburgers come on toast at Louis Lunch because when Louis Lassen began serving them in his little lunch wagon over a hundred years ago, there was no such thing as a hamburger bun. In fact, it is possible that there was no such thing as a hamburger. Some culinary historians believe that this is where the hamburger was invented. There are those who attribute it to the tartars or to the Earl of Salisbury or to sailors from Hamburg, Germany; but Louis Lunch devotees contend that it was born of Louis Lassen’s thrifty nature. The hamburger was his way of doing something useful with the leftover trimmings from the steak sandwiches he sold at his lunch wagon.
Whichever origin is true, Louis Lassen is an essential stop on America’s burger trail. The hamburgers are moist and crusty, available with a schmear of Cheeze Whiz, if desired; and the place itself, now run by a fourth generation of the Lassen family, is a vivid taste of culinary history.
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