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:
- green-wood cemetery, which might have actually come in handy were we to consume too many burgers in one sitting, and ...
- 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.