Everyone has their life defining moments. For some it's the first time they told someone 'I love you'. For others it's the first time they managed a whole large Domino's by themselves, or when they became good enough in Call of Duty to call someone else in multi-player a 'fucking n00b'. To each their own.
If you build it, they will come
For me, it was a crispy January evening back in 2005. The first time I watched 'Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle', a DVD bought purely on the premise that it looked like a sequel to 'Dude, Where's My Car?' Not only did it become one of my Favourite Movies Of All Time, but it also started a food obsession that would plague me for SEVEN LONG YEARS: what is this fantastical place? Why are their burgers so tiny? Will I meet Doogie Howser if I go there? Why did they feel it necessary to change the movie's title for the non-domestic market?
I MUST go to White Castle.
Fast forward to the present, and finally, I fucking made it. Add that to the 'defining moments' column, Life. Box. Tick. T-shirt.
Picture the scene. Brooklyn. Last day of a New York trip. Time allocated. Restaurant nearest the apartment located. On an unusually hot day in May, two valiant travellers brave the elements, traversing the wild streets of Prospect Heights. Two brave knights of the ground (beef) table, traversing block after block, on a pilgrimage along the vast expanses of asphalt into the increasingly shady and taxi-less unknowns. A couple of car-less morons.
Then, it finally appeared. Our Meaty Camelot. Our Magic Kingdom of fast food. Our slightly grubbier, ghetto-ier version of exactly what we thought it would be. A building that looks something akin to an obstacle on a Crazy Golf course, like visiting Medieval Times without having to sit through that show in Las Vegas.
Kick ass. White Castle.
The menu is a cornucopia of awesome shit. An assemblage of every different style of slider, loaded fries, fish sticks, mozzarella sticks... If you don't want onions in that totally passé ring shape, they'll give you straight ones. True fact. Nothing is hidden here - the grill is front and center next to the counter, with a glass screen so you can see all that going on. Looking through we could see a pile of onions just waiting to steam cook our future patties. And pretty much no sooner had we ordered, and poured our drinks, our order was ready.
The sliders arrived in little colour-coded cardboard houses, and they are cheeky, dinky little steam-glistened numbers. The steaming creates squishy, soft, nicely moist buns that are the right side of pulpy.
If you're a patty zealot then you're probably going to want to look away from the meat, which resembles slices of lethargic corned beef at first glance. They are super thin, processed curve-edged squares. But they are, the website professes, 100% beef like any other fast food chain. You can quibble about 'quality' all you want, it doesn't matter really as, combined with the onions, they give a uniquely savoury, peppery flavour that mingles into the bun. They taste great.
And the food...
The cheese on the cheeseburger is melted perfectly into the patty.
The bacon on the bacon cheese are small, crispy pieces adding flavourful crunch. The mustard, ketchup and pickle add the classic piquance. They are easily devoured in 2-3 bites, and are moreish as fuck. We straight up ordered seconds before we'd finished swallowing our last mouthfuls of order #1.
We also tried their chicken rings. Yep, you read that right. Where McDonalds feel compassionately obliged to take their meat from the traditional nugget of the chicken, the Castle say screw it, have rings, they're more fun. They are nice too - nicely breaded with a hint of cajun paprika spice.
And the price?
Put into context what you're paying as well.
An original slider cost 76¢.
Seventy. Six. Cents.
What can you buy for that nowadays, sweet naff all is what. And it's 140 calories, which is practically fucking health conscious. A cheeseburger weighs in under a dollar. At these prices, you could buy a whole bunch. Of course, it's designed for that. You can buy Crave Cases of 30 sliders. That's a cardboard suitcase of sliders. You can pretend that you're a proper grown up business man, but be carrying awesome food instead. IMAGINE. You can also get Crave Crates of 100.
The mind boggles.
For a place that is open 24 hours, has an actual sense of humour, and even gives you instructions on how to freeze and reheat the sliders that you don't immediately eat, this is hands down one of the greatest drunk 'n hungry establishments ever created. And frankly, It is not fair. Why should I have to end up stuck between a shish and a fried place at two o'clock in the morning, when I could be staggering into the Castle, buying a Case for just over twenty bucks, and then going home to eat myself silly to re-runs of the Cosby Show. You Americans are lucky as hell.
Take into account we were sober when we went, these things must taste incredible after a bunch of Miller Lights. ✪
N.B. We highly recommended everyone watch the Harold and Kumar trilogy.