Food history is fascinating for me, and not just because of the recipes it offers up, either. It’s a good look at how our culture evolved. When you look at a culture’s gastronomic history, restaurants regularly get their mentions. It makes sense. Food trends usually start in restaurants and upscale dining groups.
Sometimes, it’s due to a scandal that happened in a restaurant setting. Other times, it’s due to a business model that made restaurants better than ever. The most intriguing stories that restaurants hold are the stories behind dishes now known around the world.
You might be shocked to find out the stories behind some of your favorite foods to order, and where they originated from. The fascinating stories in this series will make you rethink what you know about food, and how much restaurants contributed to history’s flavors.
Crunchy Tacos – Taco Bell
It’s hard to imagine a world where tacos always come in a soft tortilla, but that world wasn’t too long ago. It actually existed up until an entrepreneur by the name of Glen Bell decided to invent a unique way of serving up tacos for his new restaurant, Taco Bell.
Rumor has it that Bell wanted to create a faster, easier way to make tacos. So, he made the shell hard in order to avoid food spilling out from the sides as it was prepared. The preformed taco shells were an instant hit with locals and launched Taco Bell’s rise as a major fast food chain.
During the first years of Taco Bell’s existence, people had a different name for our favorite crunchy treat. They called it the “anglo taco,” but that moniker quickly faded away as popularity spread throughout the country.
Hamburgers – Louis’ Lunch
You might assume that hamburgers were invented in Germany due to their name, but you’d be wrong. The first real hamburger was made in New Haven, Connecticut at a small lunch wagon called Louis’ Lunch.
Louis Lassen got the idea from a hamburger-like sandwich sailors in Germany ate featuring beef, cheese, egg, lettuce, and onion. He just removed the egg portion of it, and sold it as a portable, filling meal. The rest was history, or so they say.
Unlike other dishes on this list, this food invention has been claimed by multiple other restaurants and people. The fact is that no one knows which restaurant did it first, but for the most part, people still credit Lassen with the iconic sandwiches’ invention.
Slushies – Dairy Queen
Not all restaurants seek out to create something grand. The invention of slushies was a total accident. According to historians, a Dairy Queen franchise owner was having a hard time with his soda machine and decided to stick his soda in the freezer to keep them cold.
When he went to serve the sodas, they were partially frozen and had a slushy consistency. To the owner’s surprise, they were a hit with the locals. He went on to make slushies as a business that still runs today.
Caesar Salads – Hotel Caesar’s
Surprise! Caesar salads aren’t named after the famous Roman emperor, nor are they even European in origin. It’s actually a dish that originated in Tijuana, Mexico and it’s named after the creator.
The salad was made be a chef named Caesar Cardini, who left Italy to work at the Mexican hotel at the time. The salad became so popular, the hotel changed its name to Hotel Caesar’s and continues to celebrate its contribution to culinary history today.
Cheesesteaks – Pat’s King of Steaks
We all know that the cheesesteak was made in Philly, but not many people know what restaurant is credited with it nor do they know how it came about. The folks at Pat’s originally were hot dog stand owners.
They decided to mix things up by creating sandwiches with steak strips, cheese, and onions. It only took a couple of hours before they realized they had a winning recipe. The hot dog stand got replaced with a full service restaurant which is now a major food tourism hotspot.