Hamburger America: Gilley’s PM Lunch in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Eat up!

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20080725-hamambook.jpgGilley’s PM Lunch is an old Worcester diner. In the first half of the 20th century the Worcester Lunch Car Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, was the premier supplier of mobile lunch carts and prefabricated diners. Their distinct design set the precedent for all diners that followed in America.

Gilley's is now permanently situated on a lot donated by the City of Portsmouth, but prior to 1973 the cart was towed out to the center of town and served food to late night workers and other hungry people until the wee hours of the morning. There was a time in America, especially in New England, when carts like this were everywhere at night. Many of those carts were Worcester diners and very few exist today. Gilley's is one of the last.

"Isn’t that beautiful?" a customer said as he tilted his plate showing off his double cheeseburger. Both hamburgers and hot dogs are served at Gilley's, the hot dogs preceded the burgers by over sixty years. Starting in 1912, the first owners had a horse-drawn cart with wooden wheels that sold mostly hot dogs. Hamburgers were introduced soon thereafter and share equal popularity today.

The burger to order at Gilley’s is a bacon double cheeseburger. Gilley’s uses only fresh ground pattied chuck loin that is 85-88% lean. The patties are small, thin, and just under 3 ounces. The white squishy bun is toasted and no lettuce or tomato is offered.

"Portsmouth is the kind of place where things don’t change much," cook Bambi mused as I ate my burger. That’s a good thing, especially when it involves a historically significant slice of Americana like Gilley's. Thanks to people like owner Stephen Kennedy this tiny lunch cart may be around forever.

Gilley’s PM Lunch

175 Fleet Street, Portsmouth NH 03801 (map)
603-431-6343
gilleyspmlunch.com
Tues. to Sun., 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.; Mon., 11:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.

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