National Cheeseburger Day
annually on September 18th
Hamburgers are pretty satisfying, but they are just a little bit better when they are topped with cheese and turned into cheeseburgers. Celebrated today, cheeseburgers can be made with many types of cheese—as long as it has good meltability. Fast food restaurants often use processed cheese, such as American, but cheddar, pepper jack, Swiss, mozzarella, and blue cheese are often used to make cheeseburgers as well. Cheese slices are usually placed on top of burgers right before they are done cooking so that the cheese begins to melt over them. Multiple patties and multiple pieces of cheese may be used in each cheeseburger. Some cheeseburgers even have the cheese inside of the burger, often being called a Juicy Lucy. Just as with hamburgers, many other toppings are often added to cheeseburgers as well, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, and bacon.
Adding cheese to burgers gained popularity late-1920s to mid-1930s. There are various stories to as how the cheeseburger came to be, and multiple people have claimed to have invented it. The most common story says that Lionel Sternberger invented the cheeseburger sometime between 1924 and 1926 while working at his father's restaurant, The Rite Spot, in Pasadena, California. One version of the story says he came up with the idea to drop cheese on a burger by himself, while another says a homeless person suggested to Sternberger to do so. Eventually, his burger was added to the menu as a "cheese hamburger." One reason some do not give Sternberger credit for inventing the cheeseburger is because his burger was not technically called a cheeseburger.
Three other places or people have been associated with the invention of the cheeseburger. In 1928, O'Dell's restaurant in Los Angeles added a cheeseburger topped with chili to the menu, which could be purchased for 25 cents. Charles Kaelin of Kaelin's in Louisville, Kentucky, claimed to have invented the cheeseburger in 1934, saying he wanted to give the hamburger a little tang. It is possible that if Kaelin wasn't the first to invent the cheeseburger, he may have at least been the first to come up with its name. But, in 1935, Louis Ballast of Humpty-Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado, received a trademark for the name "cheeseburger," so he is associated with the invention of the cheeseburger as well.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by eating cheeseburgers! Make some at home or get one at a nearby restaurant. Check for specials, as many places that sell cheeseburgers have them today. Most of the best burgers in the country are topped with cheese, and you could stop to have one of them as well. If you are up for even more traveling, you could stop at some of the locations where the first cheeseburgers are said to have been created, such as in Pasadena, Louisville, and Denver.