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Raywell's Hamburgers

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Ed 
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 9:29 AM
Subject: RE: raywells hamburgers in pittsburgh

i was trying to find how raywells cooked their burgers. there was finely 
chopped onions and a lite red liquid they were fried in. do you have any 
thing on this?
thank you

Hello Ed,

I was able to find an article that mentioned how good Raywell's hamburgers were, but no clue as to how they made them. Sorry.


A reader sent this:

I noticed that Ed had asked about Raywell's Hamburgers in Pittsburgh back in Feb 2010
Raywell's was a narrow Counter Style Hamburger shop on Forbes Ave.  My grandmother took 
me there 54 years ago.  The burgers were the best and my grandmother asked how they were 
They were fried on a large flat commerical griddle (flat grille)  they put diced onion 
and seasoning.  The seasoning was a lot of McCormick SeasonAll.
I used this for the last 50 years...but now Season All is almost all salt and little Season. 
So you won't get the taste today unless you spice up the Season All with lots of extra 
onion powder.


Note: the below post/recipe is not to be altered without Albert Johnson's permission.

From: "Albert Johnson" 
Subject: Raywell's hamburgers
Date: Sunday, January 15, 2012 1:54 AM

Phaedrus:  when I was a kid in Pittsburgh, my Mom used to take me to
Raywell’s for a burger at lunch.  

Raywell served the burgers on egg buns from Rhea’s bakery.  He kept them
ready to serve in what my kid brother ( see
 &feature=share )
likes to call “hotel pans.”

Basically the Raywell burgers were braised then held in the broth.  Holding
them in the broth let Raywell sell them before they dried out.  They were
“fast food” in that they could be served hot and fresh (well, fresh enough)
without a lot of fancy equipment or space.  I was told he actually cooked
them in the early morning each day.  And yes, I remember that reddish-orange

To prepare them for my wife (who also remembers Raywell’s) here is a recipe
I developed that gets ‘em done:


1 lb +/- ground beef, quality chuck or better (80% or 85% beef, you need the
fat I will explain)

a medium size yellow onion 

ketchup (preferably Heinz) 

Black pepper

Optional: an egg and ½ cup or so of bread crumbs (the fattier the meat the
more bread crumbs you use)

Burger buns (duh)

I make 6 to 8 patties from the beef, and I slice the onion into slices.
(Raywell did not make quarterpounders and the onion is **real** important).
Using a cast iron skillet (Raywell had a steel griddle) over medium heat I
sprinkle onto the patties both sides a dusting of pepper, then cook the
burgers about a minute, flip, cook about another minute, flip, then put in
the onions (for softer onions start them at the first flip of the meat).
Finish cooking the burgers… what you do is keep the heat up until the onions
brown a bit in the burger grease then reduce heat to medium-low, turning
burgers occasionally until at least medium-rare done. At med-rare burgers
will be browned but the juice coming out won’t run clear.   Then – add 1/3
cup or so of ketchup to the skillet, and same amount of water, then simmer
over medium-low to medium heat (it’s a fast simmer) until burgers are medium
to medium well done (and the sauce will have thickened… this is the braising
and sauce that lets them keep until sold).  Serve burgers, one per bun, with
some of the sauce and onions (you could hold the onions).   

If you want to get closer to what Raywell used to serve then you might need
to add an extender to the meat before you patty it.  Most likely bread
crumbs mixed with an egg, in the proportion you’d use for meatballs or
croquettes (I don’t bother).  The bread crumbs would add volume and tend to
absorb the beef grease, giving the burgers more tender texture. My guess is
with the added ingredients he could make 10-12 patties per pound.  Also, you
need to find egg rolls or potato-egg rolls if you want to get anywhere near
the taste of the buns, what I think were Rhea’s or Jenny Lee’s Bakery buns,
Raywell used. (Rhea’s was at Market & Fifth, Jenny Lee in Market Square, and
Raywell’s at Forbes & Smithfield IIRC).  The other thing – Raywell made a
whole lot more sauce (with the first batch of burgers that day) for the
burgers to sit in so the meat would not dry out. Later batches of burgers,
IIRC he’d just griddle them and add them to the sauce in the hotel pan.
Making them at home, you don’t need all that sauce; you can park the
leftover burgers (if any) in it and put them in the fridge for later.    

Comments on the ingredients: 

* I read on your site where someone wrote that Raywell used Season-All.
Maybe so but all that salt along with the already-salty ketchup, well, no
good can come of that combo. Would’ve made your lips burn.  I think you will
find that in the Heinz ketchup, the spices in it (I mean, you can taste the
cumin for instance, it does not have to be written on the label) combined
with the caramelizing of the onions get you to that Raywell flavor – the
bread crumbs and egg get you to the texture – and the braising also means
you can prepare these things *well* ahead of time (days) and freeze them,
and reheat in microwave or on stovetop, in the sauce,  later.  

* The grease from the burgers gives you something to fry the onions in so
they brown and caramelize right.  It also carries the flavor of the pepper
and ketchup back thru the meat when simmering during braising. 

* I don’t know where or how to get burger buns anything like the yellow ones
Raywell used to use. Those old-line bakers (Rhea’s, Stagno’s) are long gone.

If you use this on your web site please cite me as source (Albert Johnson,
of Painted Post, NY), it’s 100% OK to post it but I claim copyright so ask
me first about selling it to others or making the post shorter if needed. 

Albert Johnson

On 01/15/12, Phaedrus wrote:

Hello Albert,

Thanks for the info! When I post it (as-is) below the previous post about Raywell’s hamburgers,
I’ll make it clear that you own the copyright to it and that no one may re-post it without obtaining your permission.


OK - I don't mind it reposted, I just don't want it abused or butchered. 

The "sauce" Raywell used was typical of the time is not that un-like the Sabrett's hot dog sauce or other onion sauces.  
Typically these sauces have a base of tomato sauce or maybe ketchup, with grilled onions.  If you put "ketchup onion sauce" 
into Google a bunch of recipes will pop up, all somewhat similar.    The idea that Raywell was using seasoned salt alone is a bit much.  
That said, an onion sauce for grilled (burger) or smoked (hot dog) meat is not exactly novel, just not done as much as it used to be. 
Basically he did it in part because it gave a way to prepare and sell way more burgers from that stand than he could if he tried to cook them to order. 

more on that onion sauce - it was typical that each proprietor would vary the onion sauce somewhat.  Some might add fruit juice, 
typically lemon or lime - some might use a pinch of baking soda to temper the acid - some might add liquid smoke - 
some might add cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, hot sauce -- hey,  it varied.  In some areas the Raywell-type sauce is just called "pushcart sauce." 

Put another way, only the uninitiated would want to "buy" this recipe. 

A little more - as for my "Raywell" burger recipe in practice a cook may add more water than just 1/3 cup, then simmer the burgers to thicken the sauce. 
With my recipe the sauce is ready pretty much as soon as it releases the pan drippings from the pan, which takes half a minute to a minute.  
The onions and browned pan drippings - basically beef grease, beef blood,  and pepper - give Raywell's twist of flavor to the otherwise unremarkable sauce. 

All that said, hope it makes someone happy. 

Albert Johnson
From: Raywell
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 7:43 PM
Subject: (no subject)

Hi, I' am the original Raywell. I read the comments and was flattered how much people was still interested in my Hamburgers. 
But uncomfortably that wasn't quite right. Very interesting how they came up with there own. One thing was right was the onions. 
Raywell R.

Hello Raywell,

Your comments are interesting, but why not tell us the real recipe? Lots of people fondly remember the burgers. Why not give the secret to posterity? Don’t let it die with you or end up in someone’s old papers, never to be tasted again. If you’ll let me post it, then it will live on...


-----Original Message----- 
From: Cindy 
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 3:53 PM
Subject: Did you really own Raywell's

I have been looking for the recipe or resturant that sold these hamburgers 
for years. Did anyone open a resturant when you closed? Why did you close ? 
I thought you were the best place in the whole world.

Would you share your recipe ? Is it of Greek origins ? Did you make it up or 
was it a family recipe.

Please answer me.

Thank you for you help and time.


Hi Cindy,

You may be confused by the posts above. I, Phaedrus, do this website. I do not claim to have owned Raywell's and I cannot answer any of your questions.

I did receive the above e-mail from someone called "Raywell" in 2012. However, the writer did not respond to my request for the recipe. Due to a computer problem, I no longer have the writer's email address.


Matt's Arm Lickin' Shark Shack Sauce

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Suzanne 
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 10:59 AM
Subject: Matt's Shark Shack Sauce

Matt's Arm Lickin Shark Shack Sauce

I've done a search on the internet and have come up empty handed. 
I'm hoping a reader might have personal knowledge.

I purchased a bottle of sauce in PA.  Came to learn later it was from 
a NC fair grounds stand. It appears that neither the bottled sauce or 
the fair ground stand are still around.

If anyone has a recipe, I'd be grateful. 

Thanks, Suzanne 

Hello Suzanne,

The only real information that I can find is this:

"On Monday, February 07, 2000, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for Matt's Shark Shack Arm Lickin'. This trademark is owned by Matt's Shark Shack, Inc., 9512 Center Cress Ct., Raleigh , 27613 ."

The Trademark Registration was filed but never issued because the applicant failed to respond to follow-up.


BBQ Pork Chow Mein

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Linda 
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:31 PM
Subject: BBQ Pork Chow Mein

I have done a lot of "digging" on this subject but I still thought maybe you could 
help me. Growing up we always ordered BBQ Pork Chow Mein when we went to Chinese 
food.  We ate at Mi Hung Lo in San Luis Obispo, CA and Bill Fongs Rice Bowl in 
Bakersfield, CA.  I have tried numerous times to closely replicate this 
no avail.  Something is missing.  I want to make the wet clear version (meat, onions, 
celery, a little dry sherry, a tiny pinch of sugar, water chestnuts, cornstarch and 
broth) and serve it over the old style crunchy noodles (mein gon).  When I make it, 
it's OK but it just doesn't have that old American style chow mein flavor.  Do you 
suppose you could help me figure out what I'm missing?  My 85 year old mother and I 
would sure appreciate it.  No Chinese food of today was as good as that (with fried 
rice, fried prawns dipped in ketchup, egg foo yung, etc...!).
Thanks so much, I love your stuff.  Linda 

Hi Linda,

I wish that I could help, but i was not able to find a recipe that fit your description. Sorry.

You might join in the discussion of char siu chow mein here:

Perhaps someone who posts on that forum can help.


Sweet Potato Seasoning

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Robin 
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 3:51 PM
Subject: recipe request for sweet potato seasoning

In 1994 until last year Dawson Farms in Delhi Louisiana use to package a 
Gourmet Sweet potato seasoning. Paul Prudhomme sold it with his seasonings 
and just lately the person who made it stopped working there. I would like 
to know if their is a recipe out there similar. Some of the ingredients are 
sugar, salt granulated onions, granulated garlic, yellow mustard seeds, paprika 
and some other spices. This is the only way my kids will eat sweet potatoes.


I had no success with a recipe. They still have this product on their website. See:
Dawson Farms


Morrison's Syrup Pecan Pie

Previously requested.

Morrison's Karo Syrup Pecan Pie


10 lbs		sugar
1lb 12 ozs	bread flour
3 ozs		salt
5 lbs		boiling water
5 lbs		eggs
5 quarts	Blue Label (dark) Karo Syrup
1 lb 4 ozs 	Wesson oil
2 oz		vanilla
51 oz		pecans (3 oz per pie)

Put first 3 ingredients in mixer on low speed. When mixed, add boiling water 
and beat at 2nd speed for 5 minutes. Add eggs and beat on second speed for 
5 more minutes. Add Karo and continue beating. Add oil and continue beating 
on low speed. Add vanilla and pecans and continue to mix on low speed until 
thoroughly blended.

Fill 17 pie shells and bake at 360° until brown. 

Pies can be made ahead, refrigerated, and used when needed.

More Morrison's Recipes

"Almost everything on it was from the nearby sea: a marinated salad of shrimp and octopus; mussls baked with olive oil and bread crumbs; thin, fried cakes made of tiny, transparent fish complete with heads and tails;fresh tuna, fresh sardines; sea urchins in the shell...."
A Glancing Light - Aaron Elkin

Copyright (c) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Phaedrus