Part of why I love burgers so much is that they are so diverse across the United States. There are Oklahoma onion burgers, smashburgers, mom’s at-home White Castle sliders—the joy is endless. But that’s the thing. There are so many out there that some regional burgers, unfortunately, remain underappreciated. One such burger that needs some love is the olive burger, which hails from The Mitten State, Michigan.
I first ran across an olive burger in my home state of Illinois, of all places, at a fast food restaurant. The chain is called Beef-A-Roo (yes, that’s really its name). I’d never seen one before, but I absolutely had to give it a shot, even though Beef-A-Roo is mostly known for its Arby’s-like roast beef sandwiches.
I was greeted with a burger topped with Swiss cheese, a pile of green olives, and mayonnaise, and I wondered why it was even on the menu. I mean, it sounded simple to the point of almost being boring. But after taking a big bite I immediately rescinded my thoughts.
The olives on top of the burger cut straight through the richness of the cheese, adding a briny, slightly bitter, and tart note to supplement the red meat. And the mayo added a silky creamy buffer that kept the olives from being too overwhelming. My next thought was, “I need to make one of these at home.”
As I mentioned, the olive burger isn’t much of a thing outside the Midwest, and after I did some research, it’s fairly rare even in Illinois. It actually hails from the Flint and Lansing area in Michigan, and though its true origins are a little hazy (just like all the best food), most signs point to it being from a place called Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs, which started in Flint. Eventually it would become a chain called Kewpee Hamburgers, one of the first burger chains in America. The Lansing State Journal has a deep dive on the local favorite, which I highly recommend you read.
The burger is popular in Flint and Grand Rapids, per The Gander, but Lansing seems to be the unofficial home of the olive burger now. Some Lansing burger joints serve the burger with a mayo heavy sauce with the olives incorporated in it, while others simply use a pile of olives and some mayo added on top. But no matter how you make it, it’s mainly just a simple but delicious combination of olives and mayo on a burger.
Considering it’s such an easy concoction, I really do recommend you try making one at home sometime. Cheese and other toppings are optional, but all you really need to experience a true olive burger are mayo and green olives. You’ll thank me later.