Cheeseburger Week Spirit Fills the Air

More than 40 burger spots throw open the doors to celebrate Lionel Sternberger. Who? Read on, hungry ones.

Published : Monday, January 7, 2019 | 5:58 AM

Will Del Frisco Gille's cheeseburger this year top their masterful creation of 2018, seen above?

Is there anything that brings the family together like Cheeseburger Week? The craziness of the holidays is past us, the wrapping paper is tossed out of the house like so much flotsam, the batteries have all died, the receipts have fulfilled their role as we exchanged what we got for what we wanted, your New Year’s resolutions are history, and now, the smell of sizzling burgers is in the air.

Smells like victory.

Every January, the city of Pasadena celebrates the 1924 invention of the cheeseburger, right here in Pasadena at a place called the Rite Spot.

As legend has it, a 16 year-old Lionel Sternberger burned one side of a hamburger patty at his father’s Pasadena roadside stand, and rather than throw away the spoiled burger, he masked his mistake with a piece of cheese and served it to a very appreciative customer—the first verified instance of someone serving a hamburger with cheese.

Since that fortuitous placement of a slice of cheese onto a grilling patty, 40 restaurants, burger joints and more, now take part in the citywide celebration.

And it all starts today. Pasadena Now staff will be dining at somewhere different each day this week, and our features will begin Tuesday morning, running through next week.

In the spirit of the cheeseburger season, many of the participants in the 2019 Cheeseburger Week celebration and Cheeseburger Challenge are offering special meals and deals to tempt you as well.

Peep these deals:

  • El Portal Restaurant and Yahaira’s Cafe is offering the Zacatecas Burger: Ground beef, ground pork and chorizo with special flavorings in a telera roll with tomato cheese, ham and secret chipotle sauce. Comes with fries;

  • Pie ‘n Burger has a special Cheeseburger Week deal commemorating their 55th anniversary. Download the coupon at the Pasadena Restaurant Week website (

  • Du-par’s offers the Original Patty Melt (invented by Tiny Naylor in 1932) with a side of choice, a slice of Key Lime Pie and a soft drink (for $16);

  • Dog Haus and Dog Haus Biergarten offer the K-POP Hero with 2 smashed Creekstone beef patties, kalbi glaze, white American cheese & KPOP 1000 island; served on a grilled King’s Hawaiian bun (for $6.99);

And there are new players this year, including Trejo’s Cantina in the Playhouse District, the 1919 Café at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, The New School of Cooking in downtown Pasadena, and Foothill in east Pasadena.

Want to really get into the spirit of the season? Organize a Cheeseburger Crawl!

Simply pick four restaurants to visit, order a cheeseburger and cut it into quarters, then each friend tastes it. Move on to the next place and do the same. After four restaurants, you each will have tasted four burgers, sort of, and a ton of fries.

Here are some suggested Cheeseburger Crawls:

  • Playhouse District Cheeseburger Crawl

    • Start at Yahaira’s or El Portal for their famous and amazingly delicious Zacatecas Burger made with a delicious combination of beef and chorizo;

    • Down Green Street and up El Molino, across from the Pasadena Playhouse, you’ll find The Stand, winner of the Cheeseburger Challenge favorite burger in 2018. Try one of their delicious burgers on the patio and enjoy Southern California in the winter;

    • Across El Molino, in the shadow of the Pasadena Playhouse, try the Cheeseburger Tacos at Trejo’s Cantina;

    • Up El Molino and across Colorado, head west to the New School of Cooking for their lunchtime burgers,

    • Or stop in at Roy’s Hawaiian at El Molino and Colorado for their tasty Wagyu Burger.

  • South Lake Avenue Cheeseburger Crawl

    • Start at 140 Shoppers Lane for The Counter’s Chipotle Turkey Burger

    • Next door enjoy a drink and a couple of Green Street Restaurant’s gourmet burgers.

    • Across Lake Avenue and past Macy’s find Paul Martin’s American Grill (455 South Lake in the Shops on Lake) where you can enjoy a classic burger or a veggie burger paired with a glass of beer, fine wine or craft cocktail.

    • Across the street and up a block, you find Del Frisco’s Grille (55 South Lake Avenue) for a Butcher Cut Bacon Cheeseburger, delicious with a cocktail, beer or soft drink

  • How about a more traditional Cheeseburger Crawl?

    • Begin at Pasadena’s favorite burger stand, Pie ‘n Burger at 913 East California Boulevard for a classic grilled burger

    • Stop by Du-pars at 214 South Lake Avenue for one of their great burgers

    • then head up to Dog Haus (105 North Hill Avenue) for their traditional Cheeseburger (or something more dramatic);

    • finish up at Clearman’s Galley (the Boat) at 7215 Rosemead Boulevard in nearby San Gabriel;

  • Old Pasadena Cheeseburger Crawl

    • Begin at Dog Haus Biergarten (93 East Green Street) for a craft cocktail or local craft beer with a This Burger or a That Burger;

    • Then cross Raymond and around the corner at Colorado to Umami for one of their off the hook burgers. (Try one of the Impossible Burgers for something really special) ;

    • Keep going west to DeLacey Avenue and cross diagonally down to White Horse Lounge for a terrific craft cocktail and their delicious Arroyo Burger of Apple Brie bacon Burger.

    • finish up at Lucky Baldwin’s Pub at Colorado and Raymond for a delicious craft beer and one of Lucky’s signature burgers.

  • How about an upscale White Table Cloth Cheeseburger Crawl?

    • Head to Old Pasadena and Vertical Wine Bistro at 70 North Raymond Avenue to hit the bar for sliders (and a great glass of wine to go with),

    • next visit Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar at Marengo and Colorado for some truly delicious Prime Burger that you’ll find on the bar and lunch menu,

    • Check out the deliciousness at Mi Piace at Colorado and Fair Oaks in Old Pasadena.

    • finish up at a new Pasadena favorite: The Great Maple in The Paseo Colorado shopping complex.

  • Dedicate a Driver or two, for a Craft Beer and Cheeseburger Crawl

    • Start out at Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue at Lucky Baldwin’s  for a burger and beer in a traditional pub setting

    • Next stop is Dog Haus Biergarten Old Pasadena for a Big MC and an awesome selection of craft beers on draught

    • then head west down Colorado Boulevard to King’s Row Gastropub where some special burgers and great beers await

    • finish up in Old Pasadena at Lucky Baldwins just south of Colorado on Raymond where you can savor delicious burgers while enjoying a great variety of brews

  • The East Pasadena Cheeseburger Crawl

    • Start at Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste Pub at 1770 East Colorado Boulevard for a terrific burger (and maybe a beer) in a great pub setting

    • then head east on Colorado to Sierra Madre and Plate 38 for a tasty burger

    • Newly opened on Foothill Boulevard east of San Gabriel Boulevard is Foothill, where the 1/2 lb. burger pairs perfectly with a craft cocktail or glass of wine;

    • finish up at Clearman’s Galley at 7215 Rosemead Boulevard in San Gabriel.

  • Make up your own Cheeseburger Crawl (and let us know where you went, so we can encourage others to follow in your footsteps).

You can find a full list of participants and more specials at

Voting in the 2019 Cheeseburger Challenge opens January 6, 2019, and ends January 12, 2019. Finally, an election we won’t mind losing.

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