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.
History of Ollie’s Trolley & LUMS Restaurants
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.
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
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.
978 S 3rd Street
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
Other Ollie Burger Locations
1607 Central Avenue
425 12th St NW
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.
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.
1450 N Federal Highway
Boca Raton, Florida
4125 Davie Road
220 S Federal Highway #5569
Hallandale Beach, Florida
*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.