Saturday, December 2, 2023


The history of the cheeseburger: Almost as satisfying as a burger itself!

Believe it or not, there are three places that all claim to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger. How can this be? Sometimes, similar ideas are thought of around the same time in history. These “coincidences” sometimes lead to arguments over who had the idea first, as is the case with the cheeseburger.

The Cheeseburger, I

2776 Speer Blvd.
Denver, Colorado

Photo Credit: Old Images of Denver, Facebook

Smile and say “Cheeseburger.” In 1935, Louis Ballast, owner of the Humpty Dumpty drive-in in northwest Denver, put a slice of cheese on a hot burger, and the rest is hamburger history. At least that’s what they’ll tell you in Denver! The world’s first “cheeseburger” – a term patented by Ballast – is honored with a small memorial at 2776 Speer Boulevard, now the parking lot of Key Bank.

The Cheeseburger, II

Kaelin’s Restaurant (now 80/20 at Kaelin’s)
1801 Newburg Road
Louisville, Kentucky

Photo Credit: @louisvillebites, Instagram

Cheeseburger controversy! Carl and Margaret Kaelin may have beaten Louis Ballast by one year. Shortly after opening their new restaurant in 1934, Kaelin was cooking a hamburger when he decided to add a slice of American cheese. Why? Well, it seems he liked the extra “tang” from the cheese and thought it made the burger more unique. He christened his new creation the “cheeseburger” and so today a proclamation from the mayor of the city of Louisville designates every October 12th (the date the cheeseburger was invented) as Kaelin’s “Cheeseburger” Day in Louisville. You can still eat a burger at Kaelin’s today, now known as “80/20 at Kaelin’s.”

The Cheeseburger, III

Rite Spot
1500 West Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena. California

Okay, here is the third place associated with the first cheeseburger. There are those who believe that a man named Lionel Sternberger came up with the “cheese hamburger” first back in 1926 while working the grill at a place called the Rite Spot (which is no longer there). In 2017, the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce unveiled a plaque that was inserted into the sidewalk outside of the LA Financial Credit Union at 1520 W. Colorado Blvd., honoring the late Lionel Sternberger.

The Hamburger

Louis’ Lunch
261-263 Crown Street
New Haven, Connecticut

Photo Credit: @louislunch_ct, Instagram

And, of course, as we have covered before, this is arguably where it all started. Thankfully, they are still open. 203-562-5507

Do you know the story about the creation of the hamburger? One day back in 1900 a man entered this small New Haven luncheonette and asked for a meal that would be both speedy and portable. Thinking fast, Louis Lassen, who owned the small restaurant, placed a freshly broiled beef patty between two slices of bread. The customer was satisfied with the simple “meat sandwich” and left happily with the new creation. And believe it or not, that was it – the first hamburger!

The birthplace of the burger remains today

Today, this tiny restaurant remains world-famous as the birthplace of the burger, and the same traditions from back then are maintained today. Louis’ grandson, Ken, now runs things and he makes sure that each burger is made just like back in 1900. That means the beef is ground fresh each day, the burger patty is broiled vertically in the original cast iron grill and served between two slices of toast. They’ll let you have cheese, tomato, and onion if you’d like, but, please, no mustard or ketchup! (The originators of the burger feel that they get in the way of the delicious taste.) People visit from all over the world to taste the classic, original burgers, which may have simply been the result of some quick thinking by an enterprising man named Louis Lassen.

Hungry yet? Go have yourself a burger!

Read more from wonderful Chris Epting here

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books include James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site,



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Neal Davis (@guest_256479)
1 month ago

Thank you, Chris!

Tommy Molnar (@guest_256058)
1 month ago

I remember my FIRST cheeseburger. I was really young. My mom took me to this basement-like eatery and ordered our “cheeseburgers”. This was on the north side of Chicago. I remember the bun being wonderfully greasy, and juice ran down my arm as I chomped into this bit of wonderfulness. I was hooked! This was across the street from Sears, where my mom always shopped. As I got older, and had money from a paper route, I would visit this “greasy spoon” (as my dad called it) for an occasional cheeseburger. When the owner changed, he (in my opinion) ruined that wonderful burger and I quit going there.

Bill Byerly (@guest_256138)
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy, your story belongs right up there with Chris’s pretty cool article, thanks for sharing it.

Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Byerly

I agree, Bill! Thanks for your wonderful story, Tommy! Made me hungry for a big juicy drippy cheeseburger!!!🍔 You both have a great day. 😀 –Diane

Tommy Molnar (@guest_256212)
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Byerly

Thanks, Bill (and Diane too). I had totally forgotten about that burger until I read the article. Now I can picture that greasy bun on the cheeseburger as if it was sitting here in front of me – and I wish it were!

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse (@guest_217667)
10 months ago

I am trying to visualize how the  burger patty is broiled vertically in the original cast iron grill 

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