New Haven, CT 06511
Louis’ Lunch was the first to serve hamburgers and steak sandwiches. According to family legend, one day in 1900, a local businessman rushed into this small New Haven lunch wagon and pleaded for a quick lunch to go. Louis Lassen, the establishment’s owner, placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the businessman on his way. And with that, America’s alleged first hamburger was served.
In 1907, Lassen moved his business to Temple and George Streets. After 10 years at that location, he left his lunch wagon for a little brick building that had once been a tannery. In 1975, forced to move due to development, Louis’ Lunch relocated the tannery building to its present location at 263 Crown Street in New Haven, CT.
Today, Louis’ great grandson, Jeff Lassen, carries on the tradition. The hamburgers have changed little over the years and remain the specialty of the house. Burgers are made fresh daily; hand-rolled from a special blend of five meat varieties and cooked to order. Louis’ Lunch still flame broils the hamburgers the original way, in antique 1898 vertical cast iron gas stoves manufactured by the Bridge and Beach, Co., St. Louis, Missouri. The Lassen family are unyielding in their desire not to serve any condiments. The Louis Lunch experience is “about the taste and simplicity of a fresh burger grilled to perfection. Cheese, tomato, and onion are the only acceptable garnish.”
Four generations of the Lassen family have been running this diner continuously since 1895, making Louis’ the oldest burger joint in the nation. The creation story goes like this: One day in 1900 a customer asked for a quick meal to go, so Louis piled some ground-steak trimmings on toast for him—and made history. Be forewarned: you won’t find any condiments—just toppers such as onion, tomato, and cheese.
–Yankee Magazine, May/June 2011