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Pasadena Revels in Its Title as the Birthplace of the American Cheeseburger, Marks the Site with a Plaque

Published on Thursday, January 5, 2017 | 8:42 pm

A special plaque commemorating the invention of the juicy and delicious American staple many have come to love as the cheeseburger was unveiled Thursday morning on the grounds of LA Financial Credit Union on Colorado Boulevard — the site of where a teenage cook reportedly whipped up the first of its kind nearly 100 years ago for hungry patrons.

The ceremony featured gourmet cheeseburgers from Pasadena’s iconic Pie N’ Burger food truck to celebrate the culinary history and to kickoff Pasadena’s annual Cheeseburger Week.

“We are dedicating a plaque that commemorates the invention of the cheeseburger in Pasadena back in 1924. This it the first instance anyone ever recorded of a cheeseburger being served to a customer,” said Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Little. “We’re now here very grateful that LA Financial Credit Union which is on the site now has decided to partner with us in installing a plaque that commemorates that very achievement.”

In 1924, a teenager named Lionel Sternberger put cheese on a hamburger and sold it to a delighted customer at his father’s roadside stand called The Rite Spot located at 1500 West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, according to the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.

The cheeseburger, known as the menu item ““The Aristocratic Burger,” is the first recorded instance of a hamburger with cheese being cooked and served to a customer.

“For whatever reason, Sternberger put a piece of cheese on a burger and served it to a customer. There are lots of different stories about how he did that or why he did that, but we’re here to commemorate it and we are following on verification,” explained Little.

That verification has a breadth of coverage from local publications over the years. The invention of the cheeseburger at the Rite Spot has been documented by the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine,, “Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger,”,The San Gabriel Valley Tribune and CNN, according to the Pasadena Restaurant Week website.
An undated menu that was found by Anuja Navare, reading room manager for the Pasadena Museum of History, and was printed by the Trapp Printing Company in Glendale which closed in 1939 and featured “The Aristocratic Cheeseburger”.

It locates the Rite Spot at 1500 W. Colorado Blvd., at Avenue 64, with a second location at 606 E. Colorado in Glendale, both operated by a L.C. Sternberger.

“Being an iconic cheese burger seller here in Pasadena and around the L.A. area—it’s great to be a part of it. For me, the cheese burger is one of the key components of the whole process. Without the burger I probably wouldn’t be standing here and the food truck wouldn’t be here either. It’s a big deal,” said Michael Osborn, Owner of Pie N’ Burger who donated twenty percent of proceeds from the day’s cheeseburger sales to the Ronald McDonald House Pasadena.

The cheeseburger’s simple ingredients prove to be more important than some may think.

“Hospitality and restaurants have become a mainstay of Pasadena’s economy. So for that reason, while we can still have some fun with this event and lay our claim to this great American institution of the cheeseburger, it does have a serious purpose in terms of recognizing the role of the restaurants and all their employees and owners play in the business health of Pasadena,” said Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek.

The plaque unveiling was the perfect venue for the The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce to kickoff its fifth annual Cheeseburger Week and Cheeseburger Challenge that will start on Jan 8 and go through Jan 13.

he tasty week will feature forty of Pasadena’s favorite restaurants, lounges and burger joints offered their signature burgers, some special creations and lots of deals.

“We ask all of our Chamber members who are restaurants that serve cheese burgers, or something vaguely related to a cheeseburger, or something reflective of a cheeseburger, or something antithetical to a cheeseburger — to join us in this promotion to exalt the fact that the cheeseburger was invented here and also to at the same time try to get people to go out and try a different place, different cheese burger and experience that they might normally have,” explained Little.

Aside from voting in the Cheeseburger Challenge, the Pasadena Chamber is promoting CheeseburgerWeek through its annual Cheeseburger Crawl, which friends of four or eight can organize. Each team picks four restaurants to visit, order a cheeseburger, cut it into quarters and each friend tastes it.

After four restaurants, each team member will have tasted four burgers.

“Rather than do the traditional three course meal kind of program we thought, ‘why not have a little fun with it and do something a little bit different?’ ” explained Little.

For details of the restaurants and offers included in each crawl, visit

More detailed information about Pasadena’s Cheeseburger Week is available on

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