Louis' Lunch Landmark building
|Current owner(s)||Lassen family|
|Head chef||Jeff Lassen|
|Street address||263 Crown Street|
|Other information||Credit cards not accepted|
Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, advertises itself as the first restaurant to serve hamburgers and as being the oldest hamburger restaurant still operating in the U.S. Opened as a small lunch wagon in 1895, Louis' Lunch was also one of the first places in the U.S. to serve steak sandwiches.
Louis Lassen, a butter dealer, operated a lunch wagon on Meadow Street as early as 1895 and served steak and ground steak hamburger sandwiches, made from scrap trimmings, to local factory workers. The population of New Haven doubled between 1870 and 1900. Tens of thousands of European immigrants flocked to the city to find work in the many factories located there at the time.
According to family legend, one day in 1900 a local businessman dashed into the small New Haven lunch wagon and pleaded for a lunch to go. Louis Lassen, the establishment's owner, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way, so the story goes, with America's alleged first hamburger being served.
In 1907, Lassen moved the business to Temple and George Streets. After a decade there, he left his lunch wagon for a square-shaped little brick building that had once been a tannery. Forced to move to make way for development in 1975, Louis' Lunch moved a fourth time, relocating the tannery building to its present location, 263 Crown Street in New Haven, CT. The fourth generation of Lassens owns and operates Louis' Lunch today.
Louis' Lunch 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 vertical stoves use hinged steel wire gridirons to hold the hamburgers in place while they cook simultaneously on both sides. The gridirons were made by Luigi Pieragostini, of New Haven, who applied for a patent in 1938.
Louis' Lunch makes their hamburger sandwiches from ground steak made from a blend of five cuts of beef. The hamburgers and steak sandwiches are then flame broiled vertically. The hamburgers are prepared with cheese, tomato or onion and mustard the only condiments or garnish; never any ketchup or mayonnaise. The hamburger sandwiches are served on two square pieces of toasted white bread.
- The Library of Congress web site states that the first hamburgers and steak sandwiches in U.S. history were served in New Haven, Connecticut, at Louis' Lunch sandwich shop established in 1895 .
- Referring to the hamburger, James Trager wrote in his Food Chronology, "the popular sandwich made its American debut in New Haven, Connecticut in 1900: Louis Lassen grinds .07 cent/LB lean beef, broils it and serves it between two slices of toast (no catsup or relish) to customers at his 5 year old three-seat Louis' Lunch".
- Referring to Louis' Lunch, Earl Steinbicker in his Daytrips New England: 50 One-Day Adventures, claims this is the place where the American hamburger was invented.
- The episode Hamburger Paradise on the Travel Channel's show, Food Paradise, features Louis' Lunch.
- A New Haven-focused episode of Man v. Food Nation includes a segment at Louis' Lunch.
- Louis' Lunch was rated #1 in Travel Channel's 2010 Chowdown Countdown also called 101 Tastiest Places to Chow Down.
- Heston Blumenthal travels to Louis' Lunch looking for the perfect hamburger in his series "In Search of Perfection".
- Louis' Lunch was featured in an episode of Burger Land in 2013.
- The original customer, Gary Warden, was said to have ordered by saying "Come on Louie! Give me a grease paddle between two planks and put some zoom in it, why dontcha?" Thus, the special lingo of Louis' Lunch was also born.
- Allen, Beth and Westmoreland, Susan (2004). Good Housekeeping Great American Classics Cookbook. Hearst Books. ISBN 1-58816-280-X.
- Elliott, Richard Smith (1883). Notes Taken In Sixty Years. R. P. Studley & Co.
- Price and Lee (1899). New Haven (New Haven County) City Directory. Price and Lee Company.
- Riccio, Anthony V. (2006). The Italian Experience In New Haven : Images And Oral Histories. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-6773-2.
- Romaine, Lawrence B. (1990). A Guide To American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-26475-0.
- Steinbicker, Earl (2000). Daytrips New England: 50 One-Day Adventures. Hastinghouse/Daytrips Publishers. ISBN 0-8038-2008-9.
- Trager, James (1997). The Food Chronology: A Food Lover's Compendium Of Events And Anecdotes, From Prehistory To The Present. Owl Books. ISBN 0-8050-3389-0.
- State of Connecticut official website list of firsts retrieved on 2009-05-20 
- Local Legacies website retrieved on 2011-04-04
- Library of Congress Local Legacies website retrieved on 2009-04-23
- Price & Lee's New Haven (New Haven County, Conn.) City Directory, 1899, page 375
- New York Magazine May 16, 1977
- U.S. Patent #2,148,879