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Thursday, November 10, 2005

speaking of steaming offal ...

"I dig White Castle 'cuz it's the best,
but I'm fly at Fatburger when I'm way out west"

- The Beastie Boys

"Went up to White Castle for a chocolate shake
thinkin' bout a hundred thousand that I'd soon make"

- L.L. Cool J

it recently occurred to your hero that he had lived in new york city for more than three years (and visited the place on numerous occasions before that) and never once been to white castle! not once! despite a lifetime of exposure to the mythology enveloping this burger valhalla -- despite countless paeans from L.L., the beasties, jonathan lethem and so on -- this west coast boy had never gripped one of those wee sliders in his grubby mitts. not once, that is, UNTIL NOW.

last week i decided it was time to pop my white castle cherry. but somehow it seemed almost too easy to hop on a subway and head deep into brooklyn, so, first order of business: i added a certain little film to my netflix queue and bumped it up to the top. you know what i'm talking about.

minions of mine, i had never seen Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle before. let me put it this way -- roll over Citizen Kane and tell Godfather the news: there's a new cinematic sheriff in town! what a chef d'oeuvre this is! has ever a finer movie been made? let me answer that question with a one-word answer: probably. but who cares!? goddamn it if Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle isn't a shining example of the picaresque tradition -- easily in league with Barry Lyndon, Easy Rider, Sideways, Tom Jones. genius, i tell you!

and man, did it ever give me a hankering for a burger.

so on tuesday, a buddy of mine who i shall refer to only as Christo (who works for the city and therefore got an entire day off to do his civic duty, vote, and eat twee cheeseburgers) and i -- and baby nice guy, strapped to my unsuspecting cardiac cavity -- ventured forth. deep into brooklyn we went (sure there's a newish white castle on the fulton street mall in downtown brooklyn, but that just doesn't seem white castliscious enough, now does it? i mean, what would L.L. do?). to make this a true white castle experience we hopped on the worst subway line in the city, and plunged deep into the bowels of the borough.

as with any good road trip we suffered setbacks: when we got to the white castle on 31st street and 4th ave, we were stunned to realize that it was drive-thru and take out only! alack! no tables! where were we to eat our delicious bounty? we went into the parking lot to brainstorm. a cursory glance up and down the block revealed that there was easy access to:

  1. green-wood cemetery, which might have actually come in handy were we to consume too many burgers in one sitting, and ...
  2. an elementary school, empty for the day because it was serving as a polling station wherein no one was voting. so we decided to eat in the school's playground. the baby was a perfect beard -- if anyone bothered us for "loitering" we could say that we were taking the kid to the swings!

and so into the WC we went. we ordered 12 cheeseburgers, 2 fries, onion rings AND 2 commemorative white castle 85th anniversary coffee mugs -- which, along with our colorectal bleeding, would make lovely souvenirs. we sat on the stairs in the playground. the baby, who had hitherto been flapping her arms and smiling suddenly began channeling her mother: she scowled a look of profound disappointment for the duration of our brunch. the resemblance was uncanny.

and we ate! for those of you fortunate enough to live nowhere near a white castle, let me tell you something about their burgers: they are fucking disgusting. the apotheosis of nasty. WHY are these steamed dung-pucks so lionized? i mean, they're legendary! a whole folklore has evolved around them.

Christo, who attended columbia and has lived in new york at several points in his life, had been to white castle a few times yet couldn't seem to clearly remember a single experience: he had only been while stinking drunk. his theory is that these tiny, slimy abortion burgers taste just marvelous with a few drinks in your system. i sort of understand this, but in all honestly, i would have to be unprecedentedly shit-housed and then slip into some epic blackout in order to wipe the horrid stain of memory from my cortex. the "meat" is about as thin as a fingernail and half as nutritious. it's sweaty. it's brown on one side and bluish-grey on the other. there is a mucusy cluster of brown onion sludge atop a sliver of toe-cheese that velveeta would be too embarrassed to lay claim to. the best part of the burger was the ketchup.

i could only eat four.

as i mentioned above, i grew up on the west coast. we know a little something about burgers out in southern california. we have this thing we like to call In-N-Out. ah, delicious In-N-Out, i could use one of your thick double-double cheeseburgers (animal style, natch) right about now ... if only to clear the trauma out of my mouth. but it is unfair to In-N-Out to even mention their sainted burgers while sitting here in the same city where i ate at unholy white castle.

ok, so the beastie boys equate white castle to fatburger. let me tell you something, Mike D and Ad Rock and MCA (if those are your real names): i grew up with fatburger; i know fatburger; fatburger was a friend of mine and, white castle, you are no fatburger. just imagining one of those delicious bacon cheeseburgers, slathered with chili and topped with a fried egg -- eaten to the tunes of one of their in-house Rhino Records jukeboxes -- makes me long for home. and then, for the true connoisseur, there's Carney's -- the burger joint in a 1920s vintage railroad car. if anything out west can be anywhere closely compared to white castle, it's probably tommy's ... which is an egregious insult to the eponymous tommy. anyway, DON'T GET ME STARTED.

ah, well, i suppose i will always have Harold and Kumar, gods of celluloid. and you know what? it occurs to me there's probably a reason white castle's initials are WC.


Blogger Erin said...


I have a saying about White Castle, which my Hubs loves.

It is: "There is something fundamentally wrong with consuming steamed meat!"

11/10/2005 1:24 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

White Castle does NOT equal In-n-Out. I grew up around WC (we call the burgers "sliders", BTW) and your analysis is correct: they're PERFECT post-alcohol food.

But nothing beats the In-n-Out. I wish they'd come east.

I do, however, LOVE LOVE LOVE the onion chips at the WC.

11/10/2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

phew, not only did you just kill any possible burger cravings, you just wiped out the ice cream jonze your earlier post caused.
thanks, MNG.
day saved.
oh yeah, the DMB earworm has now been beaten down by the quiet riot earworm, mercilessly implanted by one of my students.
and he was born after quiet riot broke up.

11/10/2005 1:45 PM  
Blogger MommaSpaz said...

ummm steamed meat???? I don't dare think I will EVER try a White Castle burger now if I ever go down to the US... UGH

11/10/2005 3:04 PM  
Blogger DesertJade said...

Now the infamous WC is one thing I am thankful we don't have to deal with on the West Side! I was in Jersey a few years ago, with my mom, and she wanted a flash-back and we went to the WC. I would rather die than eat one of those things, and yes, your description is perfect.

Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with In-n-Out on a road trip to Cali... so I could care less that they have franshised into AZ...

11/10/2005 4:40 PM  
Blogger bernalgirl said...

I had WC for the first time after a wedding and thought they were rockin'. We went back the next morning on the way to the airport because, well, because we don't have WC in Cali. They were a very different thing in the morning. Suffice to say we ate breakfast at the airport.

11/10/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Well well well. I have had white castle before... and not quite having an opinion of it... have come to a conclusion. White Castle is something so repulsive my brain has chosen to block out any memory of what it tastes like.
Me, living in Minnesota, have been raised without much for fast food. I mean... the normal mc D's, burger king, wendy's, DQ, but otherwise, all I can think of is Culvers. Oh culvers is so deliciously disgusting. I can only consume one buttery dripping burger a week, so delicious, but so repulsive. Any one else ever experience a culvers burger? or their sweet sweet custard?!
Man. This is an era I hate to admit I embrace.

11/10/2005 6:23 PM  
Blogger Huggy Duff said...

We don't White Castle out here in Sunny ol' England; fancy sending me a double cheesburger by air mail?

11/11/2005 3:53 AM  
Blogger zoe said...

See man? That ain't right! I live in Texas. My hometown, however, the gloriously colorful San Francisco Ca. Out here, good bread is fresh Wonderbread. Back home, it's warm, tangy, sourdough on a Wednesday morning.

If you've never eaten a Raintree Cafe sourdough burger...boy, you have not lived.

....I miss bread!

Ah well, at least we can make our own frybread out here.

11/11/2005 5:47 AM  
Blogger beth said...

Ah, White Castle...such fond memories of college. But yes, I believe you're right - they're really only tasty after large quantites of alcohol.

And, while WC is not In-n-Out (boy is it not) it IS the same as Krystal for those southerners in the reading audience. Think steamed meat is nasty in the north? Try it in Atlanta where the air is so thick regular meat verges on steamed just by virtue of being. Not even alcohol helps Krystal taste good.

11/11/2005 11:01 AM  
Blogger DesertJade said...

Kind of off the subject, but as I was being thankful about the things we DON'T have in AZ, I was thinking about the chains that I wish we DID have.

Has anyone been to Cosi's? I would fly to NY, JUST for Cosi's ... Now THAt is some good bread.

11/11/2005 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

I have no doubt that I will be broadly admonished for posting this information, but no joke: police once fed a thief they had in custody a bunch of WC burgers because he had swallowed some valuable stolen jewelry that they needed to reclaim and they wanted to "speed things along". Sadly, from personal experience, I can imagine they were wildly successful...

11/11/2005 4:38 PM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

kim -- sadly, from personal experience, i find myself nodding in agreement.

11/11/2005 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Dutch said...

You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.
---Charles Kuralt

11/11/2005 5:23 PM  
Anonymous lil said...

Ahhhh...In-N-out I knew thee well. I pine for the days of the sun beaten drive-thu. I yearn for your pickles. But alas, Michigan has but Checkers to offer, and that palest in comparison. My memories far sweeter than my reality. :)

11/11/2005 8:53 PM  
Anonymous sunflowerlin said...

Hmmm... I have never heard of White Castle (execpt for in the movie title obviously, and I didn't know it was a fast food place... so go figure) and I have also not heard of most of these other places people have listed off!!! Here in Wyoming we are far from all those things. But don't worry everyone because of course we have the basics!!! (MacD, Burger King, Wendy's, Hardees, DQ and A&W)

11/12/2005 10:26 PM  
Anonymous kate of salt lake said... There are approximately 10 between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe and I think I've been to every single one. But alas, Salt Lake City is devoid of the double double. It makes me weep.

BUT as for Harold and Kumar - one of the funniest movies ever made.

11/13/2005 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those that are WC deprived, did you know that chicago area grocery stores actually sell them in a box, frozen? yep, it's true. Personally, having eaten them "fresh" from the drive thru (yuck) I wonder if one needs a cast iron stomach to down them fresh from the home microwave? I'd feel safer with a Boca Burger than "slider."

11/13/2005 11:22 PM  
Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

I love White Castle, and I'm a frequent patron. Usually drunk, yes.

You got the regular castles, I'm assuming, not cheeseburgers. Either way, both have pickles, a major setback, and both pale in comparison to the holy jalapeno burgers, which are the supreme king of semi-wet fast food.

They can be purchased by the briefcase. I buy briefcases of 30 jalapeno cheeseburgers and eat them for an entire weekend. They taste even better once oven-dried.

Sure, my bathroom and kitchen smell exactly the same, but I don't mind. It just makes me hungry when I'm pushing a poopie.

11/18/2005 9:49 AM  
Anonymous ShotgunDaddy said...

I'm there with you on In-N-Out, but there is a higher form of the hamburger out here in SoCal -- Tommy's. The chili double cheeseburger is pure bliss. Your arteries actually start hardening while you're waiting in line, and every Tommy's is open 24 hours a day. What more could you want?

11/24/2005 1:04 PM  

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