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Patty Melt: The Last American Burger

Filed under Burger, Burger Bar, Slider

Patty melts are retro, old school, classic. The simplicity of a thin burger patty with cheese or cheese sauce between slices of bread, toasted or not, is the epitome of diner fare. That’s why you’re most likely to find a true melt at throw-back diner concepts such as Steak ‘n Shake (which menus five melts), Waffle House (four), Shoney’s (one) and Ruby’s Diner (one). The Culver’s fast-casual burger chain markets its patty melt (beef, grilled red onion and Wisconsin Cheddar on toasted sourdough) as “100% nostalgia-inspiring.”

Culver's Patty Melt

Culver’s Patty Melt

Where you’re not likely to find a true patty melt, however, is overseas. Classic burgers have been exported to just about every nation on the planet, but the patty melt has stayed home. It may be the last all-American burger as the burger boom continues its global trek. Check the menus of such American-style concepts in the UK as The Diner, Ed’s Easy Diner and Jamie Oliver’s Diner, for example, and the straight-up patty melt is missing.

That said, the patty melt is going through some changes here. Like every other burger style, patty melts are getting smartly dressed up at many burger bars and chains. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s has been among the devoted patty melt champions: Carl’s Jr. introduced the Southwest Patty Melt in 2012; Hardee’s came up with the Bacon Velveeta Patty Meltdown two years later. The burger bars regularly contribute new ideas.

Here are a few recent attempts to rethink the classic American patty melt:

Rockit Porky MeltRockit Burger Bar, Chicago
Porky Patty Melt

Pork patty, fried egg, spicy ketchup and bacon on rye toast with malt vinegar chips.

Walburgers_The MeltWahlburgers, multiple locations
The Melt
Beef, government cheese, bacon, house-made pickles, mustard and caramelized onion.

DMK MeltDMK Burger Bar, Chicago
The Patty Melt
Beef patty, smoked bacon, charred balsamic red onion, Leroy’s Rémoulade and smoked Swiss on griddled rye.

Kooper's Paddy MeltKooper’s Tavern, Baltimore
Paddy Melt
Black Angus beef, Guinness Cheddar, bacon, onion and corned-beef jam and Dijonnaise on marble rye.

Rok Brgr MeltRok Brgr, Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Pastrami Melt
Rye bread, caramelized onions, pastrami, house-blend prime beef patty and Russian dressing.

The Rail Hog MeltThe Rail, Canton, Ohio
Hog Melt
All-Ohio beef, pulled pork, white cheddar, house-made red-pepper barbecue sauce and slaw on thick Texas toast.

Yeah Burger MeltYeah! Burger, Atlanta
Patty Melt
Grass-fed beefy patty topped with melted organic white Cheddar cheese, caramelized organic red onions and house-made Thousand Island dressing on griddled local Pullman bread.

The Rail Smoked CheddarThe Rail, Canton, Ohio
The Smoked Cheddar Melt
All-Ohio beef with smoked Cheddar sauce, red pepper mayo and lettuce on thick Texas toast.

5 Responses to Patty Melt: The Last American Burger

  1. Paul Kilduff

    Hey BB … Can you confirm.whether LA-based Norm’s Family Restaurannts, where apparently “life happens,” invented the patty melt? They claim that founder Norm Rorbach concocted the sando but I’ve never been able to corroborate this. Thnx.


  2. I can’t yet. Wikipedia claims “It is unclear when the actual patty melt was invented, but records exist of them being served as early as the 1940s.” Norm’s opened in 1957, I believe. But it still could have invented the name.

  3. Paul Kilduff

    Thnx. As you may know there’s a reference to the Norm’s patty melt in a Tom Waits song so Its definitely in the running for most famous patty melt. A true honor.

  4. “Eggs and Sausage” by Tom Waits
    I was always eh, kinda want to like consider myself kind of a pioneer of the palette,
    a restaurateur if you will.
    I’ve wined, dined, sipped and supped in some of the most demonstrably beamer
    epitomable bistros in the Los Angles metropolitan region.
    Yeah, I’ve had strange looking patty melts at Norm’s.
    I’ve had dangerous veal cutlets at the Copper Penny.
    Well what you get is a breaded salsbury steak in a shake-n-bake
    and topped with a provocative sauce of Velveeta and uh, half-n-half.
    Smothered with Campbell’s tomato soup.
    See I have kinda of a uh…well I order my veal cutlet,
    Christ it left the plate and it walked down to the end of the counter.
    Waitress, ? she’s wearing those rhinestone glasses with the little pearl thing clipped on the sweater.
    My veal cutlet come down, tried to beat the shit out of my cup of coffee.
    Coffee just wasn’t strong enough to defend itself.

  5. Paul Kilduff

    Thanks for the complete lyrics. I have a friend in LA who always brings this song up for some reason but I’ve never actually heard it — I have had several Norm’s patty melts and while I wouldn’t call them strange, they were unique. Some might say burnt but I’m not going to go that far. Well done? Sure.