It’s actually unknown where burgers came from. “Hamburger,” speaking of etymology, comes from Hamburg, Germany. It’s not because the burger is wedged with ham.

(Make a wicked good burger! Click here to find out how.)

However, the Library of Congress reports that the hamburger wasn’t invented until 1900 in America. The hamburger was born a mere 135 miles from Cambridge, Massachusetts in New Haven, Connecticut.

This legend says that Louis Lassen, the chef at Louis’ Lunch, didn’t have enough steak to satisfy a customer for a quick, hot meal. So instead of steak, Louis put together ground beef trimmings between two pieces of toast, and the rest is, well, history.

Shake Shack burgers  Harvard Square Best BUrger

Photo by Robyn Lee

There are other legends, though, such as:

  • Charlie Nagreen, who sold a meatball sandwich in 1855 in Seymour, Wisconsin. The meatballs resembled patties, and Nagreen reportedly called the meat a “Hamburg steak.” This made German immigrants comfortable.
  • Otto Kuase, who invented the hamburger, according to popular fast food restaurant White Castle. According to their story, Kuase cooked the patty with butter and an egg.
  • Oscar Weber Bilby, who allegedly founded the classic sandwich in 1891 on the 4th of July. This took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is why Tulsa is sometimes called “the birthplace of the hamburger.”
  • Frank and Charles Menches, brothers who reportedly sold the sandwich at a fair after their sausage supply went out. Legend says the name came from Hamburg, New York and not Germany.
  • Fletcher Davis, who says he invented the hamburger in the 1880s in Athens. Davis’s ground beef patty had mustard, bread, and a pickle on the side.

More about Cambridge burgers

Burgers were popularized by fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King. In Cambridge, you can get a burger at a fast food place like Shake Shack or Tasty Burger. And you can see our Shake Shack vs. Tasty Burger showdown here.

Looking for something a little more gourmet? Try Flat Patties or Flat Top Johnny’s for one of the greatest-tasting burgers of your life. Be sure to check out Mr. Bartley’s Burgers, too. They’re funny AND delicious.

Browse the links above and to the left to learn more about the burger places in Cambridge, MA.