Take a big bite of burger history By Katrina Brown Hunt
These lunch counters and pioneers of fast food can boast of shaping American culture, one patty at a time.
As Memorial Day kicks off the summer season, the Great American Burger comes into its own yet again, both at cookouts and as a key part of family road trips. On your summer travels this summer, give the kids a cultural education by way of the burger, showing them how much the fabled sandwich predates the Happy Meal. Here are eight family-friendly burger joints where you can take your hungry ones for an education in burger history:
Louisâ Lunch (New Haven, CT)
For many burger-philes, the history of the American hamburgers starts here in the year 1900, when a customer asked the owner for a quick lunch that he could take to go, and got an improvised sandwich of steak trimmings between two pieces of toast. The hamburger patty sandwich still looks roughly the same todayâand you can even see the cool vintage toaster in action. Order it with a side of potato chips or potato salad. The Original Burger costs $5.75.
Dyerâs Burgers (Memphis)
This Memphis burger joint dates back to 1912, and its âsecret sauce,â as it were, seems to be the so-dubbed âageless,â strained-daily cooking grease in which the burgers fry. Even as the restaurant has moved over the years, so has the grease, with armed police escorts, no less. At the current Beale Street location, you can get a single for $3.99 or a Triple Triple (three patties, three slices of cheese) for $6.99.
(MORE: Looking for other kid-friendly attractions in Memphis?)
White Castle (Indianapolis)
The oft-maligned chain gets the last laugh in burger history: When the first location opened in 1927, it was the first to offer a hamburger bun as Americans know it today, as opposed to just sliced bread. The third-ever location dates back to 1927 and is still standing in Indianapolisâat the intersection of Ft. Wayne, Walnut and Delawareâthough itâs no longer a restaurant. Luckily, the city has nine other locations to choose from, alongside still-thriving White Castle locations in 11 other states. A single slider is $.69.
Mattâs Bar and 5-8 Club (Minneapolis)
In the Twin Cities you can try dueling versions of the locale legend, the Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy, a burger with the cheese melted inside the patty. The two leaders are Mattâs Bar and 5-8: Mattâs claims to be the first creator of the Jucy Lucy (with the more streamlined spelling) while the 5-8 is a former speakeasy that also offers a Saucy Sally, a $5.99 half-pounder with the house secret sauce stuffed in the pattyâs center. Juicy Lucys start at $8.99 at 5-8 Club and $5.99 at Mattâs Bar.
Umami (Los Angeles)
For a lesson in 21st century burger science, head to this L.A.-based chain that now has nearly two dozen locations, including San Francisco, NYC and Las Vegas. Chef Adam Fleischman took burger science to a new level in 2009 when he embraced the concept of âumami,â or savory in Japanese; the medium-rare patties are infused with a secret sauce and placed on a toasted brioche bun. Kids may initially balk at the notion of the accompanying âtruffledâ cheese or fries, but they are still great cheese and fries. A basic burger starts at $12.
(MORE: Find great kid-friendly hotels in Los Angeles.)
The Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago)
This burger joint in the Windy City canât claim any major contributions to burger technology, but it still has have a firm place in burger pop culture: This was the place that inspired the famed Saturday Night Live skit in which John Belushi famously shouted, âChee-borger, chee-borger, Pepsi, Pepsi! Cheep! Cheep!â The Billy Goat Tavern also has a complicated relationship with the cityâs sports mythologyâbeginning in 1945 when the Tavern’s owner tried to take his pet goat to a Cubs game and, after the goat was turned away, issued a curse that has been hard to lift ever since. Curse or no curse, your basic chee-borger there sells today for just $2.85.
Katrina Brown Hunt contributed this to www.MiniTime.com.