Tastes of the States

The Real Burger King

Today’s chefs jazz up patties with Kobe beef and foie gras, but at Louis’ Lunch on Crown Street in New Haven, tradition rules. Legend has it that in 1895, a customer needed his lunch to go. Owner Louis Lassen slapped a beef patty between slices of toasted bread, and voilà! The hamburger was born. While other diners began serving their own interpretations, Louis’ has never deviated from its early formula: grilled ground round on toasted white with cheese, onion, and tomato—no ketchup allowed. The spot now goes through 20,000 pounds of beef each year, or nearly twice as much as the state’s farmers can produce. (Louis’ has turned to the Midwest for its supply.) And though others may contend they had it first, the Library of Congress backs the claim that the Louis’ burger was the original.