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Louis Lunch

263 Crown St., New Haven, CT - (203) 562-5507
Posted By William on 5/17/2011 8:09:00 PM
Louis Lunch has been an evolving experience (I've been coming here for 35 years). Up until a few years ago, the original founder's grandson Ken Lassen was the maestro of this revered place.

He made it what it was best known for: the quintessential hamburger done medium rare. Yes, he used Cheez-Whiz, and damned if it wasn't good. He was a kind man and never, ever was snooty in any way or gave a newbie a hard time if he asked for ketchup, which as anybody knows is tacitly forbidden in this shrine. He always got my order right and the portions were good.

His son Jeff took over a few years back and, while things remained the same initially, over time the quality of the hamburger and the experience has declined. There are many more employees there now, and Jeff was not the cook the last few times I was there, so it is obvious any change in quality has to do with the hired help, who recently got my takeout order wrong. It is unfortunate, but the run has ended in terms of consistency. I think you can still get the quintessential burger, but not every time. And they ARE putting less Cheez-Whiz on each burger.

Hope they find their way back for us old-timers. Otherwise, I don't think it will matter any more, as those of us who were there when it was good will all be gone and the newbies won't know what they're missing. Time to take it up a notch, Jeff Lassen...

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Scorecard

2 - Overall: Good - Worth a Return
Overall: Good - Worth a Return
hamburger
Rate this place
One cheeseburger, with Louis's works, which are onions (grilled into the burger as it cooks) and sliced tomato.  Ketchup is forbidden at Louis lunch.
"One cheeseburger, with Louis's works, which are onions (grilled into the burger as it cooks) and sliced tomato. Ketchup is forbidden at Louis lunch."
Michael Stern





Louis Lassen III explained to us that he once tried to use a machine to make the burger patties, but it ruined their flavor and texture.  Today, as in the beginning, each hamburger is hand-formed.
"Louis Lassen III explained to us that he once tried to use a machine to make the burger patties, but it ruined their flavor and texture. Today, as in the beginning, each hamburger is hand-formed."
Michael Stern


Bread for burgers is still toasted the old-fashioned way at Louis.  Of course, there are no buns for burgers ... because hamburger buns had not yet been invented when Louis Lassen invented the hamburger.
"Bread for burgers is still toasted the old-fashioned way at Louis. Of course, there are no buns for burgers ... because hamburger buns had not yet been invented when Louis Lassen invented the hamburger."
Michael Stern


These metal broilers are what give Louis Lunch hamburgers a succulence inside their crunchy exterior. Note how a knife is used to keep the door latched on the left broiler.  That's been the technique for at least the three decades we've been eating Louis' burgers!
"These metal broilers are what give Louis Lunch hamburgers a succulence inside their crunchy exterior. Note how a knife is used to keep the door latched on the left broiler. That's been the technique for at least the three decades we've been eating Louis' burgers! "
Michael Stern


The original Louis Lassen at his lunch counter some time in the 'teens.  That's the SAME counter at which customers dine today.
"The original Louis Lassen at his lunch counter some time in the 'teens. That's the SAME counter at which customers dine today."
Michael Stern


Vintage graffiti scratched into a Louis table. Graffiti on the counter dates back almost a century!
"Vintage graffiti scratched into a Louis table. Graffiti on the counter dates back almost a century!"
Michael Stern


Freshly-painted Louis on a bright winter day. Jeff Lassen told us that the family now owns the property on which Louis sits, so no matter what sort of urban renewal happens around it, Louis is not going anywhere.
"Freshly-painted Louis on a bright winter day. Jeff Lassen told us that the family now owns the property on which Louis sits, so no matter what sort of urban renewal happens around it, Louis is not going anywhere."
Michael Stern


Louis Lunch is tiny.  Expect to wait for a seat during lunch hour.
"Louis Lunch is tiny. Expect to wait for a seat during lunch hour."
Michael Stern



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