The Untold Truth Of Kewpee Burgers

Fast food burgers are an iconic and well-loved American staple, easy and quick to get, while also being incredibly tasty. Wendy's burgers are known as some of the most delicious and tender of the bunch — and if you happen to be a fan of the burger/fries/Frosty giant, then there's a chance you have heard the name "Kewpee" whispered in regards to the franchise. Legend has it Wendy's was inspired by Kewpee, a burger chain that was located in the Michigan-Ohio area. Kewpee restaurants are still around today, though not to the extent that they formerly were.

If you've spent time in Ohio without trying a Kewpee burger, then you've really missed out. However, if you have ordered from the eatery, then we'd be willing to bet you finished every last bite of those hamburgers. What's more, this burger chain has a rich, interesting history, and with it, lots of facts and trivia that even the most confident of burger lovers might not know. Keep reading on to discover the untold truth of Kewpee Hamburgers.

Kewpee began in the 1920s

Kewpee burger restaurants have been around for a long time. In fact, it is one of the oldest fast food restaurants in the United States. As far as age goes, it falls just behind White Castle, Nathan's Famous, and A&W. Kewpee has been a burger staple in Ohio for almost 100 years, and it is a legend in fast food history.

A man named Samuel V. Blair launched a little burger joint called Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs in Flint, Michigan, in 1923, per Atlas Obscura. The first Ohio-based shop, according to the store's history page, began flipping hamburgs in 1928. Located in Lima, Ohio, Kewpee Hamburgers was opened by the husband Hoyt and Julia Wilson.

More history regarding the start of Kewpee can be found on the Halo Burger website. Before Halo was Halo, it was Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs — as in the original Flint, Michigan, Kewpee. Eventually, there was a split and Halo became its own chain. 

Yes, Kewpee is based on the Kewpie doll

The name "Kewpee" might be a bit strange to some, and you might be wondering why the burger chain chose such a strange moniker. The name happens to be a reference to the Kewpee mascot: the Kewpie doll. Yes, Kewpee was inspired by Kewpie (per Nation's Restaurant News). According to The Spruce Crafts, the pudgy-faced, baby-eyed figurines were first created in 1912 by Rose O'Neill, who initially drew them as cartoon characters for comic strips.

The word "Kewpie" draws from "Cupid," as in the god of love and, ya know, the cute little Valentine's Day angel. Bearing that in mind, it makes all of the sense that Kewpee the burger eatery's mascot is a cherubic baby in a chef's hat. If you check out the restaurant's online merchandise store, you'll find the cute little kewpie holding what seems to be a spatula, ready to flip burgers. The iconic little cherub is all over Kewpee hats, mugs, t-shirts, and baby bibs. 

The burger patties are square

If you've ever chowed down on a burger from McDonald's, In-N-Out, or Burger King, then you are familiar with a certain corner-less shape in patty. Whether you're picking up burgers at the grocery store to grill up at home or ordering one at a restaurant, there's a good chance you're getting a circular beef patty. Whether they be formed by a hamburger patty press or cut by a jar lid, a round burger is the typical burger style. As for why that is? It could be because the shape helps the patties cook more evenly; perhaps the burger meat is just easier to work with in this form.

While this is the case, numerous burger chains still do square patties. White Castle and Wendy's are among the most well known restaurants that do this, with the reasoning that when they make burgers, they don't "cut corners," in the business by using less meat. As Atlas Obscura notes, rumor has it that the inspiration for the geometric shape of a Wendy's patty was actually the square hamburger meat of a Kewpee burger, which also doesn't cut corners. While franchises such as Five Guys and Whataburger may have made a circle beef patty more common, Kewpee truly kicked off hamburger history with a fair (and square) burger shape.

Kewpee keeps pie fans happy

When you order a burger from a fast food joint, and you're thinking of getting a side to go along with it, your order will likely look a little something like this: Burger, fries, and a milkshake. While we love a chilly Frosty or Shake Shack shake, Kewpee has an exciting, unique sweet treat to pair with their burgers and sandwiches. In addition to the frosted malts and frozen yogurt on their side menu, Kewpee has pie. Yes, pie! And a fabulous list of flavors, at that.

Alongside a delicious sugar cream and pecan pie, Kewpee also has amazing seasonal pies that they offer for a limited time, such as a pumpkin pie during the fall, and a French silk pie during the month of March, or as they call it, Marchocolate. They do the same thing with their cherry pie during "Febucherry," though they still have cherry listed on their menu during the year. Regardless, any pie is good pie, and this special addition to the Kewpee menu is a sweet surprise for anyone who visits the burger chain.

Was Wendy's inspired by Kewpee?

The Kewpie doll inspired the Kewpee restaurant. And Kewpee might've inspired Wendy's. Founder Dave Thomas established the first Wendy's in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969. While their mascots are markedly different, Wendy's and Kewpee have one major thing in common. If the rumors are to be believed, Wendy's burger shape was inspired by Kewpee's meat patties (per Atlas Obscura).

The facts seem to line up for this fast food theory. According to Wendy's history, the first burger store under the brand's name was run in Ohio, which happens to be where Kewpee is located. Many speculate that Dave was inspired by the Kewpees around the area, and thus went on to create a hamburger chain of his own. This is all further backed by the already noted shape of the Wendy's patty. If this is all to be believed, and it appears highly likely, then we have Kewpee to thank for one of the greatest burger chains that exist to this day.

The Kewpee dolls have been replaced

Whether you're charmed or creeped out by the giant doll atop each Kewpee location, you surely won't forget the mascot of this burger joint. While the Kewpee figurine won't come to life and go on adventures like the action figures in "Toy Story," it can be moved around and transported to new locations. Hey, if you had to stand out in the rain, snow, and shine for years, then you'd want a break as well.

After standing guard for decades, original Kewpee dolls in Lima, Ohio, were taken down and swapped out with fiberglass replicas. As manager Scott Shutt told after the Elizabeth Street location's Kewpee was replaced in 2018, "We needed it because it was falling apart. The doll is important to us and to people who enjoy that type of architecture and we are proud of the building and we want to make sure that it always looks nice."

In August 2018, the brand posted on their Facebook page that they would be giving a doll to a local museum. "Rather than lose a piece of our history forever, we saw an opportunity to donate her to the museum for everyone to enjoy for many years to come," the company wrote. So while the doll you see at the store might not be the original, you can still visit it in the Allen County Museum nearby.

There used to be hundreds of Kewpee locations

Many of the most successful fast food restaurants have a lot of stores, with some not just across the country, but all over the globe. According to WorldAtlas, McDonald's has over 35,000 locations around the world. On the flip side, there are only three Kewpee Hamburger locations, and they all happen to be in Lima, Ohio. (There are five total if you count the two Kewpee Sandwich Shops that are still kicking, per Wide Open Eats.) With a great burger, fry, and malt menu, it may come as a surprise that the chain is so small. If you dive a bit deeper into Kewpee's history, however, you'll find a surprisingly deep, and somewhat tragic history.

According to Atlas Obscura, Kewpee was a much bigger burger chain than it is today. In fact, as the restaurant grew, it had nearly 400 locations during the 1940s. However, due to the beef rationing in WWII, Kewpee had a difficult time keeping so many stores afloat. And so, they had to cut down on their store count, until they were left with the handful that exist today. While Kewpee was unable to become a burger behemoth like McDonald's or Burger King, we're still happy there are locations to travel to today and still get some of their classic food and treats.

Their recipe hasn't changed one bit

Kewpee has been around for almost a century. Its menu, while shorter than the extensive burger menus of Burger King and Shake Shack, features grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, hamburgers that are all so great they'll only leave you wanting a second burger (and they have a double burger for that). In fact, many Ohioans will argue that the menu's lineup is so incredible and delicious, that it's the reason that the recipes for the brand's burgers and sides haven't changed at all (per

You read that right. For almost a century, Kewpee has used the original recipe for their beefy burgers. And for a good reason. Ohio Kewpee fans consider this one of the must-visit restaurants for nothing, and if something isn't broken, why try to fix it? At other locations, you might find some products tasting better or worse due to a recipe change, but you don't have to worry about that with Kewpee. You'll find rotating specials and menus at chains such as McDonald's, but Kewpee does this with their sweet pies instead, while you can count on them to give you the same classic Kewpee burger every time.