Honoring Louis' Lunch on Its 15th Anniversary
Representative Rosa L. DeLauro
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to celebrate the 105th anniversary of a true New Haven landmark: Louis' Lunch. Recently the Lassen family celebrated this landmark as well as the 100th anniversary of their claim to fame — the invention and commercial serving of one of America's favorites, the hamburger.
A hundred years ago, Louis Lassen, founder of Louis' Lunch, ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches to local factory workers. A frugal business man, Louis did not like to waste the excess beef from his daily lunch rush. So, he ground up the excess, grilled it, and served it between two slices of bread — without ketchup. With a meat grinder and a streak of that infamous Yankee ingenuity, Louis changed the course of American culinary history, serving America's first hamburger. This is the story that each faithful patron will hear when they visit the small Crown Street luncheonette still owned and operated by the third and fourth generations of the Lassen family. Hamburgers are still the specialty of the house, where steak is ground fresh each day and hand molded, still slow cooked on the same turn-of-the-century gas grills, broiled vertically, and served between two slices of toast with your choice of three acceptable garnishes: cheese, tomato, and onion. Requests for ketchup or mustard are briskly declined. This is the home of the greatest hamburger in the world — a claim that is not easily contested — perhaps best known for allowing their customers to have a burger their way or not at all.
More than just another diner, Louis' Lunch has held a special place in the hearts of the residents of New Haven for more than a century. Thousands turned out in the 1960s and 1970s when the city announced plans to raze Louis' to make room for a new high rise building — testimony to its immeasurable popularity and special place in our City's history. After fighting City Hall for ten years, Ken Lassen, Louis' grandson, agreed to move the luncheonette to its present Crown Street location. To help with the reconstruction, patrons donated bricks for the new walls. Today, as he takes you on the "tour of the walls," Ken recounts each brick's unique story and can point to stones from Rome's Colosseum, paving bricks from Lisbon, Portugal, even a chunk of rock from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Designated an historic landmark in 1967, it was with great pride that I nominated Louis' Lunch as a part of the Library of Congress' "Local Legacies" project earlier this year. The Lassens and the community of New Haven shared unparalleled excitement when the Library of Congress named Louis' Lunch a "Connecticut Legacy" — nothing could be more true.
The Lassen family has left an indelible mark on our community's history — and our country's history. I know the New Haven community will join me as I stand today to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Ken Lassen and his family on the 105th anniversary of Louis' Lunch. My best wishes for another century of success.
[Taken from the Congressional Record, 27 July 2000, page E1377.]