Who Invented the Cheeseburger

Many have asked the question, “Who invented the cheeseburger?”  It’s a cheesy question that has been debated within the circles of food enthusiasts for decades. While the exact history of this beloved burger sandwich is still up in the air, several individuals have laid claim to being its creator. Let’s take a look at some of the possible inventors and how they each contributed to turning the plain hamburger in the cheeseburger, and thus, an American classic forever. 

Who Invented the Cheeseburger

Theory #1: Lionel Sternberger & his Dad Invented the Cheeseburger

The most widely accepted story about who invented the cheeseburger is that of Lionel Sternberger and his father, who ran a lunch wagon in Pasadena, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) in the 1920s. According to legend, one afternoon Lionel had an urge to experiment with food and decided to slap some cheese between two hamburger patties. The result was so delicious that he added it to his menu and called it “The Aristocratic Burger”. Eventually, he shortened it to “cheeseburger”, which became a local favorite food. 

Theory #2: Otto Kuaswueller Was the Inventor of Cheeseburgers

Another potential inventor of the cheeseburger is Otto Kuaswueller, who owned a restaurant in Denver, Colorado in 1935. He also claimed to have created the cheeseburger by putting cheese on top of a burger patty. Even though his version of the burger wasn’t as popular as Sternberger’s at first, the cheeseburger eventually caught on and became one of his restaurant’s best-selling food items.  

Theory #3: The Cheeseburger was Created in Kaelin’s Restaurant

A third contender for inventing the cheeseburger is an eatery in Kentucky; a Louisville restaurant called Kaelin’s. Established in 1934, the Kaelin restaurant is said to have made burgers with cheese melted on top since then – it is said that Charles Kaelin invented cheeseburgers a full year before Sternberger or Kuaswueller supposedly invented their versions of the cheeseburger! However, due to lack of evidence there isn’t much support for this particular claim.

Ultimately we do not feel it matters who invented the cheeseburger, what state it was first eaten or what day it was first served..  The answer may unfortunately be lost to the history of food.  Whoever created cheeseburgers should be proud – it has become an iconic American food that can be found in restaurants (drive-in, fast food, casual and even gourmet) all over the world today! Whether you prefer your burgers plain or loaded up with all sorts of toppings and condiments, you can thank these three men (and potentially many others) for bringing us this delicious invention we all know and love.  Now dust off your favorite cheeseburger recipes, slap a patty of beef (or any meat I guess) on the grill and prepare to melt on it slice of your favorite cheese!