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Food & Drink

We’re Getting a ‘Simpsons’-Inspired Steamed Hams Restaurant

Meet Hammies, the plussed-up slider operation with brick 'n' mortar ambitions.


A pair of Hammies burgers

For around 20 years, the term "Steamed Hams" lingered in semi-obscurity, a hilarious nugget cherished by Simpsons nerds but confounding to the general public. The concept came from former showrunner Bill Oakley, who, in 1995 during the show's seventh season, challenged his writing staff to draw character names from a hat and create "22 Short Films About Springfield," a loosely bound episode of personality-driven mini bits.

Oakley's contribution—a calamitous luncheon between Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers—would explode as the "Steamed Hams" meme in the mid-'10s, as explored by this wonderfully in-depth Hollywood Reporter feature. For two best friends in the Twin Cities, Brenson Johnson and Nick Valentine, the gag became the partial inspiration for a new business selling burgers they bill as steamed hams: Hammies.

“I’m a huge Simpsons fan, and my business partner is too," Johnson says. “The name is obviously a nod to one of my favorite Simpsons episodes.”

The Minneapolitan buddies have long griped about the lack of late-night food options and dedicated sandwich shops south of downtown. While living in Austin, Texas, a couple years ago, Johnson was "super bummed" to discover the absence of White Castle, his only reliable late-night spot back home. So the food aficionado started experimenting with his own cheffy riff on the fast-food burgers, and connected with an Austin food truck called Golden Castle that did the same.

“We started talking about legit opening a sandwich shop when I moved back in 2022: Let’s make this dream come true," Johnson says. They've been tinkering with the recipes for months now, and staging select pop-ups for friends and co-workers.

Observing from his home in the Pacific Northwest, Oakley approves of what he sees on Instagram.

“It is always a thrill to see this crazy cartoon sketch I wrote take on some actual physical form in the real world," says the TV writer/distinguished internet fast-food critic. "And these [Hammies burgers] are some of the most delicious-looking physical forms I have yet to see embody the phrase 'steamed hams.'”

Hammies offers two varieties of steamed hams, each literally cooked by steam coming off onions on a flat-top grill. Superintendent Chalmers couldn't poke any cooking-method holes in these badboys, which come served on locally sourced buns: a proprietary, hand-pattied 80/20 beef blend with American cheese and a vegan black bean option with pepper jack.

The menu items run $15 each; seasoned crinkle-cut fries cost an extra $5. Johnson predicts the six-slider, half-pound orders will often satisfy two diners.

The buddies behind Hammies

“We’re not trying to compete with some of these burgers around town we all love—this is a unique thing, an upscale version of White Castle," says Johnson, who hopes Hammies can one day expand to brick 'n' mortar. "I’m proud; it’s delicious.”

Hammies is currently scheduling pop-up appearances at breweries and events throughout the spring and summer. On 4/20 at 4:20 p.m. (haw haw), the concept will debut at Falling Knife Brewery Co. in northeast Minneapolis.

They've got a long-distance supporter in Oakley, whose Steamed Hams Society & Discovery Club brings together appreciators of "fast food, snack food, and hard-to-find edible delights" from around the world:

"I am delighted to see these perfectly cromulent burgers embiggening the world of delicious steamed hams."

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