A History of Ollie’s Trolley & LUMS Restaurants

I can not even quantify my excitement when I knew I’d eat at Ollie’s Trolley in Louisville. But before I continue, here is some background on Ollie’s Trolley.

Ollie’s Trolley History

Ollie’s Trolley was an offshoot brand of the restaurant chain LUMS. Brothers Stuart and Clifford Perlman purchased a 16-seat diner in Miami Beach from its founder, Burnett Carvin, in 1956. LUMS’ hot dogs steamed in beer cemented their now legendary status.

The brothers would grow LUMS to over 300 locations throughout the United States. Then, after purchasing the Caesars Palace Casino (Las Vegas) in 1969, they turned around and sold LUMS to John Y. Brown in 1971.

The Colonel of Burgers?

If that name seems familiar, it’s because he was the governor of Kentucky at one point and, most importantly, the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Company. He purchased the Kentucky Fried Chicken concept from Colonel Sanders and helped build an iconic brand worldwide.

Brown was looking to spruce up LUMS a little bit with the best burger recipe around. So, in 1971, the burger from Ollie’s Sandwich Shop (which seated about 20 folks) was brought to his attention. He ate the burger and loved it.

Brown tried to buy the burger recipe multiple times, but Ollie Gleichenhaus (the owner) turned him down each time. He even offered to make Ollie more famous than Colonel Sanders.

After working on his ego, Brown eventually wears him down, and after 37 years of running his shop, Ollie closes up. He works on streamlining the 32-spice burger recipe with the LUMS folks.

A Trolley for Ollie

While this happened, Brown worked on a separate concept involving a trolley car that would only serve take-out food. These trolleys would easily fit in 3 car spaces. At some point, merging the Ollie Burger with the trolley concept happened.

In early 1973, the first Ollie’s Trolley opened in Louisville, Kentucky, and within three years, there were almost 100 locations. But, unfortunately, Ollie’s Trolley concept never really caught on. By the early 1980s, they were rapidly disappearing across the U.S. landscape.

October 29, 1981, Classified Ad in the Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky)

Current Ollie’s Trolley Restaurant Locations

Today, there are 3 Ollie’s Trolleys still in operation. However, the location in Washington D.C. has a more extensive restaurant-style menu and is the only one of three not to be housed in a trolley but a corner building.

The Cincinnati, Ohio Ollie’s Trolley is still in an original car, but the menu features BBQ/Southern comfort food and has outdoor seating. The Ollie’s Trolley in Louisville, Kentucky, is closest to the original concept created by LUMS and Ollie.

I suggest you read this great story about Ollie’s Trolley by Keith Pandolfi: He Could’ve Been a Colonel: The Story of Ollie’s Trolley.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Ollie’s Trolley in Louisville

Ollie's Trolley in Louisville, Kentucky
Ollie’s Trolley in Louisville, Kentucky

John was driving our rental car with my wife in the passenger front seat. Me? I was sitting on the passenger side, in the middle row of the vehicle.

John turned the corner, and I remember this clearly in slow motion, seeing Ollie’s Trolley sitting in that parking lot. It’s finally right before my eyes after years of just seeing pictures.

I walked up, stood there, and took it all in. I was thinking, who knows if I’ll ever make it back here again?

A few folks were in line, so John and I joined them. It’s pretty tight quarters when you step inside with a menu board on the farthest right wall.

Next to the menu was the order window, and then to the left was the pickup window. So I’d say six or seven folks fit in comfortably, which might even be a slight exaggeration.

Ready to Eat!

I get my food sack, and we walk back to our rental. After the first bite of the Ollie Burger, I thought that a lot was going on flavor-wise. It was a much larger patty than I expected. This sauce could not have been the original version of the Ollie Sauce served in Ollie’s Sandwich Shop.

My final thoughts on the Ollie Burger are yes, it’s excellent, it’s different, and yes, it’s not for everyone. However, the seasoned fries were highly addictive and went well with the spiced-up thousand island-ish Ollie’s Sauce.

Ollie's Trolley Menu Board
Ollie’s Trolley Menu Board
Ollie's Trolley Ollie Burger with Cheese
The Ollie Burger with Cheese
Ollie's Trolley Ollie Fries
Sack of Ollie Fries

Ollie’s Trolley
978 S 3rd Street
Louisville, Kentucky
(502) 583-5214

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/OlliesTrolley

Monday 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Tuesday 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Wednesday 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Thursday 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Friday 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday CLOSED

Other Ollie Burger Locations

Ollie’s Trolley
1607 Central Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio
(513) 381-6100

Ollie’s Trolley
425 12th St NW
Washington, DC
(202) 770-8614

Flashback Diner

Unfortunately, I never had a chance to eat an Ollie Burger from Ollie’s Sandwich Shop, LUMS, or Ollie’s Trolley back in its heyday. I did visit the Flashback Diner in Davie, Florida, for an Ollie Burger.

Ollie Burger description on Flashback Diner Menu
Ollie Burger description on Flashback Diner Menu

They have 3 locations in South Florida, but this one, in particular, was the last LUMS open down here, which closed in July 2009. The Flashback Diner version of the Ollie Burger was delicious but not similar to the one I ate in Lousiville, Kentucky.

Flashback Diner's Ollie Burger
Flashback Diner’s Ollie Burger

Flashback Diner
1450 N Federal Highway
Boca Raton, Florida
(561) 750-2120

*Flashback Diner
4125 Davie Road
Davie, Florida
(954) 321-3400

*Flashback Diner
220 S Federal Highway #5569
Hallandale Beach, Florida
(954) 454-8300

*former LUMS restaurant locations

What Happened to LUMS? Video

One crucial tidbit for those who would like to relive your Ollie Burger fantasies and can’t make it to any of the last locations: The Ollie Burger recipes can be found HERE.

10 thoughts on “A History of Ollie’s Trolley & LUMS Restaurants”

  1. I would love to purchase one of the trolleys buildings to put in Pittsburgh…does anyone know who was the main contractor who built them? I had lums in Pittsburgh area and served many Ollie burgers..they were superb.

  2. I worked for Ollie’s Trolleys from 73 to 75.
    Managed numerous stores in Louisville including 3rd and Kentucky and 5th and Main. Eventually was sent to Memphis to be Director of Operations for 4 stores there. Then to Atlanta to assist the Director of Operations for 7 or so Ollie’s and I think 4 Lums. One potential franchisee flew me to Ocean City, Maryland where he wanted me to manage a possible franchise. He was going to pay me a full year’s salary even though the restaurants would only be open about 8 months of the year. Was hugely disappointed when the plug was pulled on the whole concept. During that time I had a female manager trainee that worked a month or so and quit to join another new chain, Wendy’s. A year later she was a regional manager for them, I was out of a job. The Ollie burger was medium rare. When made properly and was fresh, it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. But today they wouldn’t let you serve ground beef medium rare. Being a third of a pound and cooked from both sides at the same time in a special grill, sometimes the blood would gush out on the first bite.
    I remember it was one of the first hamburgers to go over a dollar and I thought no one would pay over a dollar for a burger no matter how good it was. But of course they did.
    I thought the whole thing was a great concept. Low overhead and moveable if it didn’t succeed where it was put. The store at 5th and Main in Louisville cranked out product day and night. Perfect place for such a restaurant. High pedestrian traffic from daily business lunch crowd and then at night from the Belvedere across the street. I would think it was a highly lucrative location.

  3. My name is Sheryl and I remember when it was in downtown Atlanta the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. Please bring back the burgers and fries nothing like Ollie’s burgers.

  4. I took my then girlfriend to an Ollie’s Trolley shortly after they opened in 73. While standing in line, she says to me “do you think this is an actual old trolley?” It was obviously a new construction so I stared at her to see if she was joking. Finally I said “no, Gretchen.” But I could see she was unconvinced. After we ordered I grimaced as she asked the burger guy the same quest.He also stared to see if she was serious. Finally he said “sweetheart this couldn’t possibly be an actual old trolley.” Great burgers and fries though

  5. The Ollie Trolly in Washington DC should just close its doors. Every time that I go there the items that I ask for “ is not available.” “ The fries no longer come with the spices.” Just loaded with salt. The staff are dry and unfriendly

    I am tired of being treated this way so I have decided not to go to your restaurant ever again. In addition, I will stop telling people about the food as there is nothing to tell. The food is no longer great tasting and it’ is not made with the same style and ingredients.

  6. There was a Lum’s in Streamwood IL, about 35 miles nw of Chicago. Im talking about the 1970’s-1980’s. Great place!! Miss the beer steamed dogs and large frozen carraffs of draft beer.

  7. I can assure you that the original Ollie Burger had the sauce slathered all over the hamburger. The spices were also mixed with water and mixed into the uncooked beef, grilled, topped with a slice of mozzarella and delivered with the “Ollie’s Sauce” on both sides of the bun – the same spices mixed into a mayonnaise / Miracle Whip base.

    I lived in Louisville when the chain was founded and had Ollie Burgers at all of the Louisville area locations. I still have an occasional Ollie Burger at the last remaining Louisville location and it isn’t exactly the same – now cooked overly well done instead of Ollie’s signature medium rare and the remaining flat top seems to hold lots of grease, making the finished burger very oily. Ollie’s original burger came of the flat top with a crispy, seared exterior and medium rare interior. The current version burger patty seems almost steamed by comparison.


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