I can not even quantify the level of excitement I had when I knew that 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. 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. The burger from Ollie’s Sandwich Shop (which seated about 20 folks) was brought to his attention in 1971. 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. Brown eventually wears him down after continuing to work on his ego, and after 37 years of running his shop Ollie closes up. He goes to work on streamlining the 32 spice burger recipe with the LUMS folks.
While this is happening, Brown worked on a separate concept that involved 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. Unfortunately, Ollie’s Trolley concept never really caught on. By the early 1980s, they were rapidly disappearing across the U.S. landscape.
Ollie’s Trolley Food
Today there are 3 Ollie’s Trolleys still in operation. The location in Washington D.C. has a larger 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. There were a few folks in line, so John and I join them.
It’s pretty tight quarters inside with a menu board located on the farthest right wall when you step inside. Next to it was the order window, and then about 5 or 6 steps to the left of that is the pickup window. 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. My thought after the first bite of the Ollie Burger is that a lot is going on flavor-wise. It was a much larger patty than I expected. I’m pretty sure that this Ollie Sauce was not on the original version of the burger served in Ollie’s Sandwich Shop.
My final thoughts on the Ollie Burger are…yes, it’s great…yes, it’s different…and yes, it’s not for everyone. The seasoned fries were highly addictive and went well with the spiced up thousand island-ish Ollie’s Sauce.
Ollie Burger Locations
I never had a chance to eat an Ollie Burger from Ollie’s Sandwich Shop, LUMS, or Ollie’s Trolley back in its heydey, unfortunately. 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.
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 can be purchased from Ollieburger Spices USA.
Check out Ollie:
978 S 3rd Street
1607 Central Avenue
425 12th St NW
or maybe you want to check out the
1450 N Federal Highway
Boca Raton, Florida
4125 Davie Road
*former LUMS restaurant locations