From accident to culinary icon
Pasadena restaurants gear up to celebrate second-annual Cheeseburger Week
By Nick Smith 01/10/2013
Without much dispute, it is widely believed that one of America’s favorite foods — the cheeseburger — was invented in Pasadena in 1924 by then-16-year-old Lionel Sternberger, who was working at Rite Spot café on Colorado Boulevard when he accidentally burned one of the beef patties he was preparing. Instead of frying a new one, Sternberger slapped on it a piece of cheese to cover up his mistake — hence, the cheeseburger.
It wasn’t until years later that Bob’s Big Boy restaurant introduced its “Big Boy” cheeseburger and McDonald’s its “Big Mac.” So even though Rite Spot no longer exists, Sternberger’s fortuitous invention lives on as an American culinary institution.
Last year, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little promoted a new campaign called Cheeseburger Week, celebrating Pasadena as the birthplace of the famous sandwich.
“It is important to focus attention on Pasadena as a dining destination,” said Little. “[O]ur city hosts haute cuisine and the best burgers in the world, and sometimes the two are the same.”
During last year’s event, more than a dozen local restaurants, bars and burger stands participated, with an opportunity afterwards for customers to rate their favorite cheeseburgers online. Some cheeseburger superfans even organized their own “cheeseburger crawl,” going from place to place, sampling several cheeseburgers to determine their favorites.
Everyone is invited to participate in this year’s celebration, which kicks off Sunday and runs through Jan. 18 as part of California Restaurant Month, a statewide “foodie celebration.”
A returning feature will be the Cheeseburger Challenge, wherein customers will be able to vote online for their favorite cheeseburgers in various categories starting Sunday. The categories include Favorite Traditional Burger, Favorite Slider and Favorite Ethnic Burger.
Also, the cheeseburger crawl will be an official feature this year, with suggested routes posted online at pasadenarestaurantweek.com/cheeseburger-crawl. With more than 40 participating eateries taking part this year, the options are endless for anyone wanting to experience a creative and delicious interpretation of Sternberger’s classic recipe.