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The Appetizer: The Official Blog of DiningIn

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The History Of The Burger


Etno Village Grill, burger, ChicagoThe burger seems to be firmly embedded in American culture permanently. It’s like every living restaurateur is deeply lodged in an incessant competition against other burger connoisseurs to see who actually makes the best burger. Just in Boston alone, every day I seem to see a new place that claims to serve “Boston’s Best Burger.”

But what is it with this preposterously negative stigma currently floating around claiming that burgers are primarily a form of “fast food?” Yeah, you can cook ‘em quick, and if you have a big enough mouth (or a small enough burger) you can eat ‘em quick, but whatever happened to savoring the flavor? Can’t a burger be as flavorful as any other piece of meat – more than just another form of mass to fill the never-ending, bottomless pit that is the human stomach?

I beg to say yes – but the problem is, the history of the burger tells us different. See, burgers, for better or worse, were invented to fill the demand of people who didn’t have hours upon hours to cook their meals at home. They were created to simplify peoples’ lives (sort of like DiningIn) and give them a quick and simple meal (unlike DiningIn) to fill themselves up with the needed energy to proceed with their day-by-day activities.

But why must burgers be looked at that way, as such an effortless, fast, unhealthy and non-gourmet culinary item? In order to answer this, we must investigate exactly where the burger came from – but this question is harder to answer than most think. Truth be told, there have been many variations of salted, processed meat that has made its way all across the world. 

See, until the last 100 or so years, minced meat was once considered a specialty food only for the upper class. Compare that to nowadays, where consumers are feigning for dollar burgers and expecting to be properly fed for less than half of an hour’s worth of pay on minimum wage. The easier question to answer, compared to “Where did burgers come from?” is “Where were burgers popularized?” – and the simple answer to that is the United States.

Yes, burgers immigrated to this country following the invention of the Hamburg steak (essentially hamburger formed in the shape of a steak) in good ol’ Hamburg, Germany. Beef, like now, was the primary meat source from which burgers were made back in the old country. Of course, this has changed significantly since then (we’ll discuss this in a bit). But when exactly did the burger become popular?

Well, no one really knows. Those early burger-eaters clearly didn’t see the need to formalize the name of their food: It was just brotein to them. Also, as stated before, people had been eating salted, processed meat for a long time before the term “burger” was coined. So, who is officially credited as the first burger-maker?

That award goes to Louis Lassen – the owner of the old Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, CT – where the first burger was OFFICIALLY created in 1900. Louis’ Lunch, “The Birthplace of the Hamburger Sandwich,” is still open to this day.

Louis Lunch, burger, burger birthplace, New Haven

So that’s it, right? Burgers were made and, since then, they’ve been (and can) made out of buffalo, kangaroo, turkey, salmon and even (wait for it…) vegetables! They can even be made out of horse, as we’ve recently learned in the European Union scandal… Crap, I shouldn’t have mentioned that. I don’t want you all to lose your appetites.

If you did choose to journey on, well, it doesn’t get any better. Upton Sinclair published the novel The Jungle in 1906 – a fictional telling that exposed the meatpacking industry so insanely that the United States subsequently created the Food & Drug Administration to monitor the processing plants in the same exact year because of it. Yikes.

original McDonalds, McDonalds

Delving deeper into “yikes” territory, as far as fast food chains go, White Castle staked its claim in the burger world first amongst the rest in 1921. Jack In The Box was next in 1951, and Burger King followed in 1954. McDonald’s was originally founded in 1940, but Ray Kroc wasn’t affiliated with the company until 1955. Wendy’s came later in 1969, and we’ve seen our unfair share of imitators since then.

Truth be told, it seems like this country is fed up with subpar burgers. National Geographic recently ran a special on the ten best burgers in the world, and the majority of them came from two distinct American cities: New York and San Francisco. Ladies and gentlemen, contrary to what we’ve seen from the inferior burgers released by many of the aforementioned fast food joints, THE BURGER IS NOT DEAD. It is still alive and only getting better.

Proof lies within the multitude of burger toppings we've been exposed to in the last few years. We've moved on from lettuce, tomatoes and bacon to sautéed onions and mushrooms, avocados, grilled capicola and even fried eggs. 

More proof lies within the delectable burgers available from Busker’s Burger Bar, John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House, Joe’s American Bar & Grill, Met Back Bay, and B.Good in Boston; Burger House, Burger Island, Wild About Harry’s and Hoffbrau Steaks in Dallas; Butcher & The Burger, Etno Village Grill, Rockit Burger Bar and M Burger in Chicago; Spencer ETA Burger, Village Whiskey, Paddy Whacks and Bierstube German Tavern in Philadelphia.

delivers for all of these “burger joints" in each of their respective cities, and if you want to have a REAL burger, then we recommend that you avoid the Hamburglers of the world and let us do all the work for you.