The Great White Castle DebateJune 16, 2011
Today’s post is inspired by one of the youngest MHK staff members’ recent enjoyable experience with a certain well-known hamburger company. There has been raging dispute in the MHK over the years, and I think it’s high time we hashed it out in the blogosphere. The issue centers on a certain hamburger establishment, serving their trademark burgers since 1921. That establishment is known as White Castle. They have been polarizing burger fans for decades – some people are in love with those little steamed patties stuffed inside soft, fluffy buns, topped with tiny onions and tangy pickles. Others, like one of the MHK staffers, think the burgers are nothing more than “steamed horse meat.” (Not that she would know what horse meat tasted like, but whatever.)
Perhaps the pro-White Castle feeling is genetic. My first exposure to these hand-held pillows of deliciousness was in the early 1980’s in Verona, New Jersey. We were visiting family, and my dad and grandpa took us to this cool little restaurant that looked like a castle. I had never seen burgers that looked the way WC’s do, and I think I enjoyed the novelty as much as the taste.
To illustrate how much my dad liked those little sliders, I’ll relate the events of his 40th birthday party. We lived in CA, a place completely devoid of White Castles (much to my mom’s delight). There was for a brief period a place called West Castle, which was just a rip-off of White Castle, and not surprisingly, it didn’t last. It was during the 70’s that White Castle started their “Hamburgers to Fly” program, which allowed customers to receive their burgers packed in dry ice and shipped across the country. So for my dad’s party, my mom – in one of the most generous acts I had ever witnessed and probably will ever witness – had 100 sliders shipped to our house in CA. My dad was bowled over with delight, I was happy to be in on the surprise, and my mom was somewhat embarrassed to be serving those things to the party guests (some were excited, some not so much). But it was an event that will always stick with me.
Fast forward to 2001 – it had been ages since I’d had White Castle, and my wife had never had the pleasure (or displeasure). We were visiting friends in NYC, and following a Yankee game, we had the opportunity to patronize the WC in Yonkers. I was giddy with excitement, and wolfed those sliders down with reckless abandon. I suppose I wasn’t too shocked when my wife nearly spit hers out – it seems that women more than men are anti-White Castle. But I was so happy I didn’t care.
When we moved to Albany 6 years ago, I was disappointed that the nearest WC was 2 hours away. But we have managed to go there a couple of times, though it’s been a few years now. My wife seems to be able to stomach their chicken slider, and she’s ok with their fries. So in order to satisfy the occasional WC craving, I have purchased the frozen variety available in the supermarket.
And that brings up a debate within a debate, if you will. Some of the die-hard WC fans detest the fact that the sliders are available frozen, and refuse to even try one. While I of course concur that the frozen ones are not nearly as good as those fresh off the line, I think they are good enough to placate the hankering once in a while, especially when the nearest restaurant is 120 miles away.
So where do you stand on the Great White Castle Debate? There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground – people either hate it or have a fanatical passion for it. Do you turn your nose at those 5-hole stamped, steamed meat patties of delectableness? Or do you cram 4 of them in your mouth at a time, your taste buds exploding in ecstasy? Regardless of your own opinion, I think we can all agree that this scene from “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” is awesome: