A History of Ollie’s Trolley & LUMS Restaurants

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I can not even quantify the excitement I had when I knew I’d be eating at Ollie’s Trolley in Louisville. But before I continue, 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 made multiple attempts to buy the burger recipe, 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?

While this was happening, 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, the idea of 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

My friend John was driving our rental car with my wife Marcela 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.

Now it’s finally right in front of my eyes after years of just seeing pictures.
I walked up to it, just 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 inside with a menu board located on the farthest right wall when you step inside.

Next to the menu was the order window, and then to the left was the pickup window. So I’d say that tops, 6 or 7 folks fit in there comfortably, and that might even be a slight exaggeration.

Ready to eat!

I get my sack of food, 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 Burger Locations

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

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.

Ollie Burger description on Flashback Diner Menu
Ollie Burger description on Flashback Diner Menu
Flashback Diner's Ollie Burger
Flashback Diner’s Ollie Burger

One crucial tidbit for those of you who would like to relive your Ollie Burger fantasies and can’t make it to any of the last locations: The Ollie Burger and Ollie Fry Seasoning is available to purchase from Ollieburger Spices USA.

Check out Ollie:

Ollie’s Trolley
978 S 3rd Street
Louisville, Kentucky


Ollie’s Trolley
1607 Central Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio


Ollie’s Trolley
425 12th St NW
Washington, DC


or maybe you want to check out the

Flashback Diner
1450 N Federal Highway
Boca Raton, Florida


*Flashback Diner
4125 Davie Road
Davie, Florida


*Flashback Diner
220 S Federal Highway #5569
Hallandale Beach, Florida

*former LUMS restaurant locations

What Happened to LUMS? Video

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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