Louis’ Lunch

by KaytRacz

What better place to start our Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives tour then the birthplace of the Hamburger sandwich–Louis’ Lunch — in New Haven, CT. One of the members of the Triple Divas (Lauren) also lives conveniently close to Louis’, so this seemed to be the best spot to kick off our awesome adventure.

After a bit of research, we realized that Louis’ Lunch never actually appeared on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, but lets be real–it will be on VERY soon. This place is INSANE good and has all the mixings of an establishment that belongs in the Triple D Hall of Fame. Walking up to the building, it doesn’t look like much, but after entering you realize that Louis’ has been around for a long time–over 115 years!

The building itself is quite small, but I couldn’t tell if it was because the structure was small or because there were so many people packed into the place! I mean, this place was hoppin’! We arrived around 4pm thinking that it would be slower– but oh, how we were wrong. There were people everywhere!

After somehow managing to get the two seats at the counter, we quickly placed our orders. As I looked up and took a closer look at the menu, I noticed that everything written at Louis’ is spelt wrong–this can’t be a coincidence. After meeting the owner (I will get there), we learn that it is because of their  proximity to Yale. Louis’ chose to poke fun at all the Ivy League kids around. He then tells us that some kids have actually said, “You know Strawberry is spelt with a “y” not an “i”.” Oh kids these days–doesn’t anyone get jokes anymore?

Anyway, on to the food. Our full order consists of:

(2) Water: $3.00

(2) Potato Salad: $4.00

(2) Burger w/ the Works*: $5.25

(1) Piece of Canoli Pie: $4.00

*For those of you that don’t know what “the works” are, it is tomato, onion and cheese.

In about 20 minutes a hamburger arrives in front of me. I will warn you, if you go to Louis during lunch or dinner time, it could take upwards of an hour to get your burger–and it is not because the staff isn’t working. Jeff Lassen, the owner, was hand-making the patties right in front of our eyes. The reason the burgers take time to make is because you can only make about 12 at a time.

Louis’ runs on its original grills. That’s right–the same grille that made the first hamburger over 115 years ago is making the hamburger that you order. It takes three easy steps to create a mouth-watering Louis’ burger:

Step 1: Toast the bread (on the original toaster)

Step 2: Prepare the fixings

Step 3: Grill the burger (this contraption can only hold 6 burgers at a time)

There is one last unique component to a Louis’ burger–NO CONDIMENTS. There is absolutely no ketchup allowed in Louis’ Lunch. Jeff told us this tradition dates all the way back to the early 1900’s, when his great-grandfather open the joint. The original Louis took years the put together the perfect blend of meats. He didn’t want the world to cover up the taste with ketchup, so he banned ketchup from the restaurant.  At first I was hesitant–I’m a big ketchup fan. But after I took my first bite of the burger I knew there was no need.

This burger was everything you would want a burger to be. It was juicy. It was salty. It was AMAZING. Add the in the fact that instead of classic American cheese they use some sort of cheese whiz and this–I believe–is the perfect burger. Now I remember why we started this tour–to sample the best of the best–and that is what we did at Louis’ Lunch. If this is the way all of the places are I cannot wait until the next!

Before we left Louis’ we had a nice chat with the Jeff and his staff. Turns out they are Red Sox fans (+1), great people (+1), and they run a great establishment (+1).

Kayt and Lauren with the owner of Louis' Lunch, Jeff Lassen