On Destination America’s United States of Burgers, Chef Todd Fisher takes a trip across America to fulfill his “burger bucket list,” and he begins at the very beginning: Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut.
There are different ideas about the birth of the hamburger, but many believe it began at Louis’ Lunch in 1900, with a quarter-pound patty of ground beef placed on white toast, topped with tomato and onion, by burger pioneer Louis Lassen. In fact, the Library of Congress inducted Louis’ Lunch as the birthplace of the burger in the year 2000, one employee revealed. But, many contemporary burger lovers would still balk at eating at this “cradle of civilization for the hamburger,” because of what is never offered at Louis’ Lunch: ketchup.
“Well, you wouldn’t put ketchup on a steak, right?” one customer rationalized.
“I feel like I’m on a history lesson, as well as this great eating expedition!” Chef Todd exclaimed.
Fair enough—but a lot of people today do still like ketchup.
Over the years, many changes have brought us the typical American burger. Buns, Chef Todd said, were invented about 20 years after Louis’ Lunch started putting their burgers on white toast. And, Lionel Sternberger is credited with creating the first cheeseburger in 1924, in Pasadena, California. Throughout the years, people have added everything from pickles and lettuce to avocado and jalapenos. And bacon—you cannot forget bacon.
The hamburger is America's signature sandwich, and Chef Todd only had the best of the best on his burger bucket list. His food journey began in Connecticut at Louis' Lunch, the home of the hamburger's creation, but it certainly did not end there. Chef Todd headed to Boston where Bartley´s Gourmet Burgers constantly adds a twist to the staple sandwich; found hamburger perfection in a New York City steakhouse; and hit Chicago for "cheeburgers," made famous by a Saturday Night Live skit but inspired by the grill masters at Billy Goat Tavern. One of the more heart-stopping burger joints on the bucket list was in Memphis, TN, where Chef Todd tried a mouthwatering deep-fried burger—fried in 100-year-old grease—from Dyer's On Beale. Finally, Chef Todd finished in Atlanta at Holeman and Finch, where the coveted "Burger Time" ritual offers 24 carefully assembled burgers each night.
Next week, Chef Todd takes off on a mission to cover his steak bucket list, from Texas to Michigan, to Boston, to Brooklyn, and to Mississippi, trying everything from T-bone to chicken fried steak. Don’t miss United States of Steak, airing on Destination America on Sunday, July 22, at 10 p.m. E/P.
Image: Destination America