The History of Louis’ Lunch
Serving New Haven, CT & Beyond Since 1895
The beginnings of the hamburger sandwich as we all know it today was really quite simple. One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis’ Lunch and told 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.
Today, Louis’ great grandson, Jeff Lassen, carries on the tradition. The hamburgers have changed little from their historic prototype and remain the specialty of the house. Burgers are made fresh daily; hand-rolled from a proprietary blend of five meat varieties and cooked to order in the original cast-iron grills dating back to 1898. The Lassen family hold firm on their desire not to offer any condiments. The Louis Lunch experience is about the taste and simplicity of a fresh burger grilled to perfection. Cheese, tomato, and onion are the only acceptable garnish.
More than just another eating place, Louis’ Lunch has held a special place in the hearts of New Haveners for generations. It was threatened with demolition in the early 1970’s to make room for a new high rise. Scores of devoted patrons from all over the world took up the cause for its preservation. Plans for the restaurant’s safe relocation were finalized just hours before the deadline. The historic building was loaded onto a truck and made a 30-minute journey to its final resting place on Crown Street. In an effort to help with the reconstruction, friends and supporters sent thousands of bricks to rebuild its revered walls from every corner of the globe. Each one has its own unique story.
Louis’ Lunch is steeped in history and tradition. Your dining experience will be much the same as it was generations ago.
If you are visiting Louis’ for the first time, you may want to learn a little of the “Louis’ Lingo”. For example, a Louis’ regular might walk up to the counter and say, “Give me two cheese works, a salad and a birch”. This translates to, “May I have two hamburgers with cheese, tomato and onion, cooked medium rare on toast, an order of potato salad and a birch beer”.
There are many other examples of Louis’ Lingo to be learned, but we suggest learning them first hand from the regulars. After all, we don’t want to give away all our secrets!