11 States in the USA
Review by MaceVindaloo
To some, this may conjure up images of glorious Bavarian castles with gilded halls and ballrooms, jewels and crystals, unicorns and fair maidens ... To me, however, it's a white and blue institution which exists not in Europe, but in only about 11 states across the east and Midwest US. As for the jewels and treasure ... they are little crystals of oniony goodness that burst in your mouth as you eat them! They are far better than any stinkin' jewels!
If you haven't guessed by now, I am talking about the first-ever fast-food hamburger chain, [cue choir of angels] White Castle.
White Castle started flipping burgers over 80 years ago in a way that is sill unique. Rather than directly broiling, grilling or frying their burgers (all dry heat methods, by the way), they steam their burgers. It's not as weird as you might think: They start by sautéing the onions on the grill plate. When they are almost done, the cook spreads the partly caramelized onion pieces evenly over the whole grill plate, then place the 1 oz burger a square patty with 5 holes drilled through it to let the steam through in rows, right on top of the onions. Over that they place the bun ... both sides on top. This way, the buns trap the steam emanating from the onoins, and the holes in the burgers allow steam to go through and warm up and soften the buns. A case of fast-food symbiosis!
The layers of onion, patty, and bun sit that way for a few minutes till everything is deemed to be "done," then the burgers are assembled with a dollop of ketchup (see hose next to the grill station) and a single pickle chip. Then rather than wrapping them in waxy paper, the burgers are placed in a little box that is just the right size and shape for it. They just slide right in ... They also slide right out into your hand when you are ready to eat them ... They also slide right down when you do eat them. That's probably why they have the nickname of Slyders® (notice it is a registered trademark!!). Also, because of their petite size, you normally, "buy them by the sack," which sounds kind of gross, but it just means that when they sell four at a time ... rather than say "buy four at a time," they decided to come up with a catchier term, and "sack" it is. (It's a little confusing because instead of small and large fries or onion rings, etc., they refer to the bigger size as "a sack," too.)
Lately, White Castle has branched out from its original Slyders®-only roots. They also now serve alongside the original burger Cheeseburgers, Chicken Burgers, Jalapeño Cheeseburgers, Doubles on all of the above, and Fish Nibblers. Believe it or not, all are great and commendable; the Nibblers in particular are a very pleasant surprise. Also, White Castle has partnered with Church's Chicken, a southern-style fried chicken joint, and the deal seems to have been a good one for both parties. It boosted White Castle sales, and gave a storefront to Church's without huge expenditure. Win-win in my book, because the chicken is great as is the honey-topped biscuits and mashed potato!
But one comes to White Castle for the original Slyders®. I asked for extra boxes and bag to take my leftovers home (I got too excited and ordered too much), and the counter people came over to show me how to assemble the box and how to put them together so the burgers will keep warm for as long as possible. Cute, eh? Oh, and if you order "for here" instead of "to go," they'll simply put your burgers on a plate instead of boxes. So tell them "to go," just so you get the experience of the little boxes.
While it's true that Slyders® tend to figure in many college road trips, especially when the trippers are drunk or stoned or have the munchies (like in the movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which, by the way, is way funnier than the title, believe it or not), the burgers are an institution and are worthy of a visit. Even if your last memory of them was a story someone told you about being so drunk they woke up at a White Castle surrounded by empty Slyders® boxes ... hundreds of them!
They are not like other burgers, and hey, you can spend the 50¢ for the one-burger trial, right? At 140 calories apiece, you can fit the little buggers into many diets, too. And if you must, the have the "crave case" of 30 burgers ... or frozen burgers for you to stash in your 'fridge for unexpected cravings. You can get 100 of 'em for $49.00. Remember that for your next cocktail party!
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