History of the Patty Melt Sandwich + Recipe

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I discuss burger history and classification a bunch. One topic that comes up rather often is whether or not a Patty Melt is classified as a burger. I’ve always felt that a Patty Melt was a burger. I also think that it’s almost impossible to mess one up.

The OFFICIAL ingredients for a Patty Melt are relatively simple: Burger patty, rye bread, Swiss cheese & grilled onions. Patty melts are not just limited to these ingredients, though.

Below are two variations of Patty Melts, one being the traditional version and a non-traditional take on the famous sandwich.

I can’t say I ever remember eating a bad one anywhere, and I’ve had them in many cities and states. However, I do encounter variations in the cheeses (American cheese, cheddar cheese), the protein (ground turkey), the bread (Sourdough), and even some cheese-encrusted bread.

Another thing, most Patty Melt purists say that the rye bread is only griddled on the flat top, not toasted. The Patty Melt should taste like the child of a great burger & grilled cheese sandwich.

Hey, I’m all about that thought!

Patty Melt History

Unlike the burger or cheeseburger, where you’ve got many folks claiming to be the creators, the Patty Melt is a product of California. Tiny Naylor owned a chain of Biffs Drive-Ins and Tiny Naylor Coffee Shop restaurants from the late 1930s through 1957.

It was there that the Patty Melt made its debut.

Biffs & Tiny Naylors in the Los Angeles Mirror - June 14th, 1955
Biffs & Tiny Naylor’s in the Los Angeles Mirror – June 14th, 1955

Naylor put the beef patties between slices of rye bread as a Patty Melt. Although, the credit for this concoction belongs directly to Tiny Naylor’s restaurants in California during the 1950s.

The Tiny Naylor passed away in 1959, but his son Biff (the inspiration for the restaurant name) now owns the Du-Par’s chain (with a pretty mean Patty Melt on the menu). His granddaughter Jennifer was a former Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck.

While I haven’t come across the recipe for Tiny Naylor’s original Patty Melt, I did find one for Grampa Tiny’s Patty Melt which Jennifer served at Wolfgang Puck’s. But, remember, beggars can’t be choosers.

Cool Patty Melt Associated Fact

The Beastie Boy’s 1994 album Ill Communication’s cover was from Bruce Davison’s 1964 picture of Tiny Naylor’s for Esquire magazine.

Bruce Davidson's picture of Tiny Naylor's Drive-In from 1964
Bruce Davidson’s picture of Tiny Naylor’s Drive-In from 1964
Beastie Boys's Ill Communication on vinyl
Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication on vinyl

Jennifer Naylor’s Patty Melt Recipe

Patty Melt Ingredients

  • Two tablespoons of butter softened
  • Four slices of rye bread
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 pound fresh ground round (divided and shaped into two oval burgers)
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • One small red onion, peeled and sliced into rings
  • 2 to 3 slices of Swiss cheese

Patty Melt Instructions

  1. Melt butter over flat top griddle/sizable cast-iron skillet to toast rye bread slices.
  2. Season burgers with salt & pepper, then grill on a flat top.
  3. Cook the burgers to medium-rare or desired doneness.
  4. Put olive oil on the griddle and grill onions until caramelized.
  5. Melt Swiss cheese slices over each burger.
  6. Assemble Patty Melt by placing cheeseburgers over one slice each rye toast, top with caramelized onions, and then the remaining slices of rye toast.

7 Comments

  1. There used to be a bar by my mom and dad’s house that had a patty melt with double patties and put finely diced green olives on one side with yellow cheese and the other side with Swilss cheese and grilled onions and garlic on thick rye bread. Never had one like that since, but it was soooo good.

  2. Over the years, Friendly’s Restaurants were my go to place for Patty Melts. Recently I ordered one at a Friendly’s and was told it was removed from the menu, but the chef had the ingredients on hand and the know-how, so I could have it if I special ordered off he menu. Any idea why Friendly’s removed this iconic sandwich from their line up?

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