September the 18th is National Cheeseburger Day.

Cheeseburgers have always been my burger of choice. I love the melted cheese flavor, preferably with mustard, ketchup, and onions. I will still have a cheeseburger but have cut out the classic french fries since I have diabetes.

The cheeseburger is a beloved American sandwich that combines a hamburger patty with cheese, typically served on a bun. By the late 19th century, the vast grasslands of the Great Plains[1] had been opened up for cattle ranching. This made it possible for many Americans to consume beef almost daily. The hamburger remains one of the cheapest forms of beef in America.

Its origins are a subject of debate, but there are a few prevailing stories about its creation. The Lionel Sternberger Story (Pasadena, California, 1924): One popular claim attributes the invention of the cheeseburger to Lionel Sternberger, a young chef working at his father’s sandwich shop, The Rite Spot, in Pasadena.

According to this account, Sternberger experimentally added a slice of cheese to a hamburger patty, coining the term “cheeseburger.” Louis Ballast’s Trademark (Denver, Colorado, 1935): In 1935, Louis Ballast applied for a trademark for the name “cheeseburger” at the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado.

This suggests an earlier commercial use of the term, but the exact origin remains uncertain. Other restaurants also claim to have invented the cheeseburger. For example, Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, said it invented the cheeseburger in 1934. According to Steak ‘n Shake archives, the restaurant’s founder, Gus Belt, applied for a trademark on the word in the 1930s.

Cheeseburger Varieties
  • Classic Cheeseburger: A ground beef patty, typically seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with a slice of cheese (commonly American, cheddar, or Swiss), lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard, all served on a bun.
  • Bacon Cheeseburger: Similar to the classic, but with the addition of crispy bacon strips, enhancing the flavor with a smoky, salty kick.
  • Mushroom Swiss Burger: This variation features sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese, adding a rich, earthy flavor to the burger.
  • Jalapeño Cheeseburger: For those who enjoy some heat, this burger includes jalapeño slices or jalapeño-infused cheese, providing a spicy kick.
  • Gourmet Cheeseburger: Upscale restaurants often offer gourmet cheeseburgers with unique toppings like truffle aioli, arugula, or caramelized onions, elevating the burger experience.
  • Pimento Cheese Burger: A delectable burger featuring a juicy beef patty topped with a creamy and tangy pimento cheese spread, offering a harmonious blend of savory and slightly spicy flavors.

An A&W Restaurants franchise in Lansing, Michigan, is credited with inventing the bacon cheeseburger in 1963, putting it on the menu after repeated requests from the same customer. The steamed cheeseburger, a unique and lesser-known regional specialty originating from Meriden, Connecticut, distinguishes itself by its cooking method.

The Vortex is an Atlanta Eatery, well known for its burger dishes. They opened on April 20, 1992, and were an instant hit, soon to begin winning “Best Burger” awards in local publications.

Instead of grilling or frying, the burger patty and cheese in a steamed cheeseburger are cooked by trapping them in a stainless-steel cabinet with a small amount of water, allowing the steam to melt the cheese and cook the meat simultaneously. The result is a juicy, tender, and flavorful burger topped with molten cheese, often served with various condiments and fixings.

Popular Cheeseburgers
  • McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese: McDonald’s iconic cheeseburger featuring a quarter-pound beef patty, cheese, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard.
  • Burger King’s Whopper/Double Whopper: Burger King’s flagship burger, the Whopper, boasts a flame-grilled patty with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and mayonnaise.
  • In-N-Out Double-Double: A cult favorite on the West Coast, In-N-Out’s Double-Double consists of two beef patties, two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and the chain’s signature spread.
  • Five Guys Cheeseburger: Known for its customizable toppings, Five Guys offers a simple yet delicious cheeseburger with two beef patties and a choice of cheese and toppings.
  • Wendy’s Dave’s Single/Double/Triple: Wendy’s Dave’s Single features a square beef patty topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mayo.
  • Shake Shack’s ShackBurger: Shake Shack’s ShackBurger includes a high-quality beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and the signature ShackSauce.
  • Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Famous Star with Cheese: This burger consists of a charbroiled beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and special sauce.
  • Sonic Drive-In’s SuperSONIC Cheeseburger: Sonic’s SuperSONIC Cheeseburger comes with a beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and mayo.
  • Whataburger’s Whataburger with Cheese: A Texan favorite, Whataburger’s offering features a beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mustard.
  • White Castle’s/Krystal’s Cheese Slider: White Castle is famous for its small, square sliders with a beef patty, onions, and a slice of American cheese.
  • Red Robin’s Royal Red Robin Burger: Red Robin’s burger comes with a beef patty, American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
  • Culver’s ButterBurger Cheese: Culver’s ButterBurger is made with a buttered and toasted bun, a beef patty, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo.
  • Smashburger’s Classic Smash: Smashburger’s Classic Smash includes a smashed beef patty, American cheese, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles.
  • Steak ‘n Shake’s Double ‘n Cheese Steakburger: This classic steakburger features two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and the famous Steak ‘n Shake sauce.

The Juicy Lucy

Sometimes cheeseburgers are prepared with the cheese enclosed within the ground beef, rather than on top. This is sometimes known as a Juicy Lucy or (Jucy Lucy). Two bars about three miles from each other on Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis both claim to have invented the burger: Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club. Matt’s credits the bar’s former owner (and namesake) Matt Bristol.

One account claims it preceded his purchase of the bar in the 1950s, but that Bristol formally added it to the menu and thus popularized it. Another version is that the burger was invented by a customer in 1954 who remarked “Oooh, that’s one Juicy Lucy!” after biting into it. The 5-8 Club does not provide a particular origin story, but the bar itself was originally a speakeasy dating to the 1920s.

The burger is prepared by putting cheese between two patties of meat, and then sealing both patties around the cheese to create a single patty with a cheese core. As the burger cooks, the cheese inside melts. This has the effect of keeping the meat near the center of the burger very juicy.

It also separates the cheese from the bun, resulting in a slightly different texture than the usual cheeseburger. Burger toppings such as condiments, onions, and pickles may be added. I had mine while on a work trip to Eagan, Minnesota, and it was as good as advertised!

  1. The Great Plains, often referred to as the “American Prairie” or “High Plains,” is a vast and flat region located in the central part of North America, extending from Canada’s southern provinces through the United States to northern Mexico. Characterized by its sweeping grasslands, low-lying hills, and minimal tree cover, the Great Plains have historically played a significant role in agriculture and ranching, with the region being a crucial part of the American breadbasket. Stretching over 3,000 miles and encompassing diverse ecosystems, from the shortgrass prairies in the west to the tallgrass prairies in the east, the Great Plains holds a unique place in North American geography, history, and culture, with a rich legacy of Native American heritage and pioneer expansion during the westward expansion era. [Back]

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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