Richard Warner, D.D.S.
Warner Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs
Richard Warner, D.D.S. Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs, Iowa
There's plenty of disagreement over where hamburger originated. Many credit Hamburg, Germany with the invention of ground beef and attribute the latter's position between two buns to entrepreneurs at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
To track the history one needs to keep the vocabulary straight. Reference to "hamburger" today brings to mind a ground beef patty on a bun, but up until the 1960s the latter would have been termed a "hamburger sandwich," a designation lingering on the Council Bluffs school lunch menus until the early 70s. "Hamburger" referred to the ground beef itself, except during World War I when any references to German cities fell out of fashion and the term "Salisbury steak" came into use. Dr. Salisbury was an American who advocated a low carbohydrate diet for weight loss.
Quite possibly owing to the city's German immigrants and the transient nature of people that was common to railroad centers, hamburger was quick in its arrival to Council Bluffs. Grocery store ads in the early years of the 20th Century showed the product readily for sale at around seven cents a pound.
The hamburger sandwich had available in town by 1905, though its entry into the news wasn’t positive. A Daily Nonpareil report explained some girls working at Woodward’s Candy sent out for the new sandwiches and one of them fell ill shortly thereafter.
Though it gradually found its way onto restaurant menus, hamburger’s popularity didn’t soar until burgers became the staple of a new type of eatery— the drive-in. Adopted as the favorite food of teenagers with automobiles, burger consumption entered into the mainstream of American diets. Joe Ewald was at the forefront of this revolution when he started the D & E Drive-in at 1621 West Broadway and in 1957 opened Ewald's at 15th Street and West Broadway. Ewald sold the business to Ray Howell in 1968; Terry Howell took over in the 1980s. An Omaha company, Tiner’s, crossed the river to provide burgers at the western end of Broadway in 1958. In 1959 they purchased a Reed Ice Cream location on East Broadway at Union Street for a second location. If not its burgers, Tiner’s was memorable for it’s particularly distinctive sign that featured rising neon arrows that culminated in a bright spot-light flash at the top. The Derby found a niche on the south side. Opening in 1953 and lasting well into the 1980s the seasonal drive-in catered to those headed to Lake Manawa, offering folks who didn’t want to pack a picnic basket or fire up a grill at the park an opportunity to pick up refreshments on the way. Along with A&W on West Broadway the Derby was known for its root beer.
Carhops took orders and delivered the food, but the extra personnel added to the cost. The industry changed again when McDonalds arrived in 1963 and customers proved willing to walk inside for a fifteen cent hamburger. Red Barn popped up across the street the following year with not just hamburgers but a fifty-nine cent chicken dinner. Burger King countered with “have it your way” shortly after.
Though perhaps remembered more for their signature cheese frenchee, King’s Food Host was a popular downtown spot for burgers and fries. Taking over the old Broadway Theater in 1965, the restaurant split the difference between wait staff and self service by having the customer call in their order from a booth-side telephone. The order was delivered to the table when ready.
Over 120 years after its introduction, the hamburger today is more popular than ever. Nationally burgers account for forty percent of all sandwiches sold.
(Story by Dr. Richard Warner)
Council Bluffs and its Burgers