The Rite Spot, a Pasadena diner now long out of business, may have been the source of one of the United States’ most quintessential foods: the cheeseburger.
According to local legend, a teenage cook at Rite Spot by the apt name of Lionel Sternberger was the first person to put cheese on a burger. Some claim it wasn’t an invention so much as a cover-up, as Lionel had burned one side of the patty one fateful day in 1924. To hide his mistake, he slapped a new ingredient on top. Regardless of the circumstances, the cheeseburger was a hit. It later appeared on the menu as “The Aristocratic Burger: The Original Hamburger With Cheese.”
Other towns across the country have their own apocryphal cheeseburger stories, but that didn’t stop the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce from officially honoring the combination in 2017. They installed a plaque where the old Rite Spot once stood, laying claim to the title of “original home of the cheeseburger.”
With the diner long gone, the roadside plaque remains as tribute to Sternberger’s ingenuity, as well as a place for the burger enthusiasts of the Los Angeles area to pay their respects.
Know Before You Go
The plaque is located outside the LA Financial Credit Union building.