Hamburger Heaven was located in a misshapen
little building at 7001 Olive Boulevard in University City, at the
corner of Olive and Pennsylvania Avenue. It was the creation of Aaron (Ernie) Shriber
and his wife Ida. The structure was built in 1949 and the business
was registered with the State of Missouri as "Ernie's Hamburger
Heaven" on June 1, 1951
was already a "Hamburger Heaven" registered on the East Coast.
The cramped space housed an ordinary counter with a handful of ordinary barstools. One could place an order and wait, while burgers were flipped on an ordinary griddle. The burgers may have on occasion been served with ordinary ketchup or ordinary mustard. But what made Hamburger Heaven iconic was its extraordinary sauce.
Most everything at Hamburger Heaven was served with its special tangy-sweet barbecue sauce – double sauce and triple sauce. The burgers were drenched in it, their soggy buns adherent to the beef patties. The fries were thick and stubby – not the thin fries served at Steak ‘n Shake or McDonald’s. They came out swimming in sauce, in a rectangular white cardboard trough, and could be eaten with sticky fingers or a white plastic fork that came with each order.
From day one, customers tried to charm the secret of Hamburger Heaven's sauce out of its employees. In a 1985 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Mary Lee Guillory of Overland seemed to let the cat out of the bag.
However, Marilyn Comensky, the Shribers' daughter, contacted the Post-Dispatch and told them Ms. Guillory's formula wasn't quite right. But she was unwilling to share the secret recipe "because she might produce the sauce commercially someday."
Hamburger Heaven was initially a drive-in, with carhops. The Shribers daughter, Linda Shriber Collins, remembers working there with her siblings.
The Shribers actually opened three Hamburger
Heavens. In 1957, they purchased the "Moo Shop" at 10854 Manchester
Road in Kirkwood, just east of Clay Avenue, from the National Dairy
Association. They reopened it as their second Hamburger Heaven location,
complete with curb service. This location was closed by the Shribers
due to illness, and in May of 1961, the property and its
contents were sold at public auction by the Internal Revenue Service
for nonpayment of taxes by the original owner.
Some time after 1957, the Shribers opened their
third Hamburger Heaven at 1919 Woodson Road in Overland, just north
of Page. A present-day foodie remembers the drudgery of taking
inventory at his father's furniture store in Overland when he was a
teen. His reward was lunch from that Hamburger Heaven
– two burgers with double sauce and
two orders of fries with double sauce. Woofies
now serves hotdogs at the same location.
The Shribers closed Hamburger Heaven in 1973; Aaron (Ernie) Shriber died in May of 1974. His wife Ida remarried and lived until 2012.
In 1985, "Hamburger
Heaven" was opened at Chesterfield Mall. However, according to
the Shribers' daughter, Linda Shriber Collins, this Hamburger Heaven
was never sanctioned by her mother. Burgers and fries with sauce were served there
until the restaurant closed in 1995, but for those who grew up in
University City, the burgers and fries didn't taste the same.
The funny little building at Olive and
Pennsylvania in University City has outlived multiple businesses and
multiple owners. The property has been on the market many times, the
asking price in 2000 was $60,000. Perhaps one day someone will buy
it and once again sell burgers and fries drenched in tangy-sweet
barbecue sauce. It currently houses Chic Equipment, a women's
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