Louis’ Lunch in New Haven Connecticut is about as unique of a burger restaurant as you are going to find. Their claim to fame is that they made the first ever hamburger sandwich. From their website, the story goes…
“One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis’ Lunch and told the proprietor Louis Lassen he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run. In an instant, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way. And so, the most recognizable American sandwich was born.”
The restaurant is still owned and run by the Lassen family though it is in a different location. In the 70s Louis’Lunch was threatened with demolition to make way for a new high rise building.
Louis’ Lunch fans from around the world took up the cause of saving the national icon. They helped ensure that the original building was safely moved to it’s new location on Crown Street, New Haven.
I first went to Louis’ Lunch back in 2007 when I was in Connecticut for my brother-in-law’s wedding. His marriage lasted about as long as it took me to wolf down my burger, potato salad and beer but that’s another story.
I loved the experience. This burger is about as basic as they come. It’s just sharp cheese spread, an onion, a tomato and a large steak mince patty between two pieces of toasted white bread.
What makes it so good is that the emphasis is on the meat. Louis’ Lunch have their own secret recipe which consists of a combination of five different cuts. I’m not sure which they use but I used 400g sirloin, 400g rump, 800g skirt, 200g beef rib meat and 200g brisket. I think it’s pretty close. I had my butcher grind the meat together for me. It was roughly a 80% meat 20% fat mix.
I remember the sharp cheese spread used at Louis’ Lunch being quite basic but good. You could of course purchase this but I made mine blending 400g finely grated sharp Cheddar with one teaspoon English mustard and 2 tablespoons Champagne.
Don’t be tempted to add anything else. Just enjoy this one as it is. Ketchup, mayo and mustard are a big no no!
- 2 kilos ground steak mince - See my blend above
- 12 pieces of homemade sliced white bread
- Sharp Cheddar cheese spread
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 onion - finely sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a large frying pan.
- Toast your bread and keep warm.
- Divide the beef mince into six equal sized balls. They will be about ⅓ pound each.
- Flatten each patty until they are slightly larger than the bread pieces.
- Season the top of each patty generously with salt and pepper.
- Push a piece of the sliced onion into the top of each patty.
- Now place the patties onion side down into the frying pan. (Note, at Louis' Lunch they still use the same fire grills they used back in 1900. You aren't going to be able to find these but you could cook these burgers on the BBQ if you want to get even closer to the Louis' Lunch taste.)
- Fry the burgers for about three minutes and then flip over.
- Fry for a further three minutes or until the burgers are medium rare. The meat should still be pink in the centre.
- To build your burger, spread the sharp Cheddar cheese over the bottom pieces of toast.
- Place your burger on the cheese spread with the onion slice on top.
- Place one or two tomato slices on top of the burger and then cover with the top piece of toast.
- That's it! Simple but amazing.