07 July 2021
A Father’s Day visit to the Orlando White Castle and other burger reflections.
For my 2021 Father’s Day dinner I decided to try the newly opened Orlando White Castle. Since it’s been over 15 years since I’ve had one of their famous sliders, I wanted to confirm that the burgers still had the same flavor that I’ve come to “Crave” since childhood. I remember it was a major treat when my father would take us to the White Castle in E. Orange, NJ. In those days, carhops would come out to take your order and then deliver it on a tray that would hang from your car’s window like what was depicted in the movie American Graffiti.
Some people might find it a little unusual to pick a fast-food burger joint for a Father’s Day outing but I’ve eaten at many so-called high-end restaurants that were often disappointing. I’m also not intimidated by the restaurant’s lack of snob appeal since I’ve victualed at many famous eateries in NYC such as Sparks Steak House, La Côte Basque, Carnegie Deli, Katz’s Deli, Tavern on the Green, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, among others.
Nevertheless, White Castle it was! We arrived at lunch time and were expecting a long wait to get in. As it turned out, we were able to park close to the entrance which featured a canopied waiting line with a cold air misting fan blowing near the front of the queue like the ones used at Disney World. The expected wait time was 60 minutes when we arrived but I believe we were inside the restaurant within 45 minutes or so.
There is a proper way to order your hamburger if you want to experience the original taste. If so, then request they hold the ketchup and the cheese. For a side, I recommend the onion chips or french fries, maybe both and for a drink, try the strawberry-banana smoothie. The last few times I ate at a White Castle in NJ, my preferred order was the double slider without the cheese.
White Castle advertises its hamburgers as “The Original Slider® Since 1921” but I don’t remember ever referring to them as sliders, As I recall, we just called them hamburgers or more affectionately, “Castles.” If you think about it, the White Castle hamburger is a tribute to American ingenuity. Burgers today are normally round but the White Castle slider is square which allows them to utilize the entire grill surface. In addition, Castle sliders have holes which allows them to cook simultaneously on both sides, I believe this process also allows the burger to be infused with flavor and you will never get a dry slider at White Castle. Speaking of flavor, I believe part of the secret is in the onions; just the right amount of caramelization necessary to produce the best result. (Pictures in my Photo Gallery Florida folder.)
Okay, so you’re too embarrassed to tell your friends you ate at White Castle, well there are a few alternatives…
The most ubiquitous choice would be the McDonald’s double Quarter Pounder® with Cheese. Here is a case where the added ketchup and cheese works well.
Another favorite of mine is the Route 66 burger with an “Original” vanilla shake at Johnny Rockets.
During my time living in northwest Atlanta, the nearby Steak ‘n Shake was one of my go-to choices. In addition, the burger and garlic fries served at the downtown Atlanta Gordon Biersch near our former Bell South office was one of my favorite workday lunches. If you try to look up Gordon Biersch now you will find that they have relocated their downtown location to the airport.
Can’t decide whether or not to take a Carnival cruise? Guy’s Burger Joint should be all you need to know.
Sometimes you find the best things where you least expect them, such was the case with the White Rose System hamburger. I was introduced to the “Rose” by a co-worker during my tenure at Dun & Bradstreet. We frequented the Highland Park, NJ (the town across the river from New Brunswick) location situated in a quirky, unassuming place that looks like something from days gone by. As I recall, the location was run entirely by ex-convicts. The grill is located right at the entrance…you place your order as you walk in and by the time you plant your ass on a seat at the counter your burger arrives hot off the grill. Back in the day, my favorite was a “double cheese with a chicken,” interpreted to mean a double cheeseburger with a fried egg. If I ever make a trip back to the NJ area, I’ll definitely visit the “Rose.”
White Rose System
154 Woodbridge Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904
Again, sometimes the best burgers can be found in unlikely places. In the local Leesburg, FL area a good burger is served at the Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill and surprisingly a decent burger is available at the Golden Corral©.
The hamburger seems pretty basic, ground beef on a bun but you have to consider the type of bun, toppings, and condiments. Personally, I prefer the following toppings and condiments if there’s a fixin’s bar available: mayo on the top bun, raw onion, sliced tomatoes, jalapenos, and mustard on the bottom bun (Gulden’s or French’s yellow is fine).
Some burger establishments don’t match the roll with the toppings and condiments served, for example, the Burger King Double Whopper® is too wet for the bun used. There’s nothing I hate more than to have the bun disintegrate before I finish eating the entire sandwich. Notice that I use the term “bun” instead of “roll” because no one living below the Mason-Dixon line knows what a real hard roll is. Now, this is not a problem at White Rose since they serve their burgers on a hard roll which they probably procure from a local baker. (I believe this is the case since I’ve noticed the cook taking rolls from a large freestanding unmarked brown bag next to the grill.)
Speaking of hard rolls, the Publix here in Florida offers a decent multi-grain sub roll which I always ask for when ordering one of their fresh made subs.
When we were growing up in Bound Brook, we frequently cooked on the grill. Unless you’re using the highest quality ground beef (not lean) you know that it’s very easy to overcook burgers on the grill. My father had a way to get around this problem and that was in how the ground beef was mixed. The following is the recipe from memory:
Add 1 or 2 raw eggs along with some plain breadcrumbs; then add finely chopped onions; then take 2 or three slices of 1 or 2-day old white bread (e.g., Wonder Bread) soak the bread with water and then squeeze out the excess moisture; pull apart small pieces of the bread and add to the mixture; finally, mix everything together with your hands until all ingredients are completely incorporated.
The aforementioned recipe guaranteed the burgers wouldn’t dry out on the grill and the flavor was enhanced by both the breadcrumbs and white bread. I’m sure no one today would mix their hamburger meat with their hands since most people now have a mixing machine, but we weren’t that affluent in those days.