Rene G wrote:
There was no question about ordering a Galley Boy, their signature burger (or hamburg to use the local lingo).
Peppy Grill in Indy calls their burgers "hamburgs" as well
Kewpee's also calls their burgers "hamburgs."
I should have chosen my words more carefully so as not to suggest the term hamburg
is specific to Akron. It's a older version of hamburger
, derived from Hamburg steak
, once a common name for a chopped beef patty (before that patty made its way onto a bun).
Da Beef wrote:
Good stuff, another great post on another regional eat I was unaware of.
You're not alone. I don't think many from outside Ohio know much about Akron's hamburger culture and its distinctive burgers (I know I didn't). When I was preparing for my talk at the Beef Symposium
last October, I read quite a few books and articles on hamburgers etc. Most mentions of Akron are in connection with Frank Menches, the supposed inventor of the hamburger who I mentioned in my original post. Here's a little more of that story.
In October 1951, The New York Times wrote:
Frank Menches who is credited with "inventing" the hamburger died here [Akron] today at the age of 86. He had retired in 1938.
Before the turn of the century, Mr. Menches, a brother, Charles, and a nephew, Robert, entered the concession business. At the Summit County (Akron) Fair in 1892, Mr. Menches ran out of sausage. In an effort to please his customers, he ground up a sausage and sold it as a ground meat patty. It was unexplainably named "hamburger" some two years later.
Other than the Menches brothers, there are several claims for inventing the hamburger—Charles Nagreen in Seymour, Wisconsin in 1885, Louis Lassen in New Haven in 1900, Fletcher Davis in St Louis in 1904. The common feature of these claims is they all lack supporting documentation. It is probable that cooked patties of minced beef served on a roll were not uncommon toward the end of the 19th century and it will never be possible to name the sandwich's sole creator. For a concise, well-researched summary of hamburger history see Andrew Smith's Hamburger: A Global History
I didn't realize it while I was in Akron but the are two Menches Brothers Restaurants around Akron. It seems that Frank's great-granddaughter found his original recipe in 1991 and opened Menches Brothers Restaurant 4 years later.
Sometime between Menches' obituary and the creation of Menches Brothers' website
, significant details of the story changed. Now it is said the brothers invented the hamburger seven years earlier (making them first) and there is a convenient (though unconvincing) explanation for the sandwich's name.
Menches Brothers website wrote:
The year was 1885...
The place was Erie County, New York. Tiny amusement parks dotted the country and Americans spent their summers at the fairs. And when they are at those fairs and parks the sausage sandwich was high on their list.
Two brothers, Frank and Charles Menches, made a business of helping to feed those fairgoers. The summer of 1885 was a tough one. It was too hot to butcher hogs and the sausage supply was running low. Their meat supplier, however, offered to provide them with ground up beef.
They agreed, and the fried-up beef was not bad, but it was too bland. So the brothers added a little coffee and a little brown sugar. Soon the crowds were raving and craving for more. Frank and Charles Menches christened their new sandwich, the hamburger, after Hamburg, N.Y. The Erie County town where that first patty was made.
Although I find parts of this story very suspect (and no documentation has been provided) it seems pretty clear that the Menches brothers were early sellers of something close to the modern day hamburger.
Also on the Menches Brothers' website, it is claimed that Frank and Charles invented the ice cream cone.