Is Denver, Louisville or Pasadena Home of the Cheeseburger?

Kaelin's restaurant in Louisville claimed to have invented the cheeseburger in 1934.
Image: Flickr

There are a few cities that claim to have invented the cheeseburger, one of America’s most popular foods, between the 1920s and 1930s.

National Cheeseburger Day is September 18th, and it’s is not to be rivaled by National Hamburger Day on May 28th. That’s because 39 percent of the time an American eats a hamburger, it’s a large one with cheese, according to Beef2Live.com.

So, which city actually invented the cheeseburger?

Louis Ballast of Denver, Colo., was awarded the “cheeseburger” trademark in 1935. Downtown Denver has a stone marker at the site of the Humpty Dumpty Barrel, Colorado’s first drive-in, that claims Ballast created the beef-and-cheese sensation there in 1935. But according to the Van Alstyne Leader, there’s several legal claims against Denver’s cheeseburger stake.

The popular National Day Calendar website notes many theories on the dawn of the cheeseburger, dating back to the 1920s:

  • In 1926, Lionel Sternberger tried dropping a slice of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger while working at his father’s Pasadena, California sandwich shop, The Rite Spot.
  • The 1928 menu at O’Dell’s in Los Angeles listed a smothered chili cheeseburger for 25 cents.
  • Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, Ky, boasts inventing the cheeseburger in 1934. It closed in 2004, but a recent report teases a restaurant regaling the site’s cheeseburger legacy will reopen by next summer.
  • Gus Belt, founder of Steak n’ Shake, also applied for a trademark on the word “cheeseburger” in the 1930s.

We’re not sure in which city cheeseburger truth lays, but we do believe that the city of Albuquerque officially invented the green chile cheeseburger. Mayor Richard J. Berry recently declared June 16th Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburger Day

The hot green burger is “one of the truly iconic culinary aspects of this community,” said Berry.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.