And No, Crystal Burgers Are NOT The Same. Don’t Even Joke About A Thing Like That.

They just closed my local White Castle and I am NOT OKAY.

White Castle has always been a favorite of mine, and I have eaten them since I was a child. My family would get them on a fairly regular basis for lunch or dinner. I ate many a meal there as a young man as well, during my “young and broke” phase. At that time you could go in with two dollars and eat like a king. Now it’s more like five dollars, but still. As much as I like fancy dinners and good home cooking, White Castle provides true comfort food that is always there when needed.

I know some people don’t like White Castle, and it is admittedly an acquired taste. There can also be a few unpleasant side effects at first, but once you build up a tolerance it’s really no big deal. For those who have problems in this area after several visits, I recommend the chicken rings or chicken with cheese sandwich. They have also added breakfast a few years back, and I gotta say the bacon sandwiches are legit! All are still yummy, but not nearly as full force as the White Castle burger.

Ah yes, the burger. The slider. The belly bomber (or gutbombs as my family and friends have always called them) is a true American classic. Though one can certainly dress it up with condiments or a variety of cheeses it is perfection in and of itself. Beef patty (small, square, holes in the middle for…something), onions and pickles. Basic, simple, beautiful. You don’t even need to eat the pickles, (I take them off, myself), but you have to get your burgers with the pickles cooked on or they just don’t taste right. Yet taste right they most certainly do, especially after midnight following a good night out.

They also make a great party food. Next time you have or are invited to a gathering of seven or more people, order up a Crave Case. Some people will hem and haw about it saying ridiculous things like “Oh, I can’t eat those things…” or “Oh, no, the smell alone, just…” or whatever nonsense they think will make them look good. I guarantee you the case will be gone by the end of whatever it is you are doing.

This brings to mind a story which may help illustrate how much White Castle means to me and how intertwined it is with my life.

After my mother died, there was a get together. It has recently been brought to my attention that it was a sort of funeral “after party”, for lack of a better description, but I always thought this took place during the Summer, and Mom passed in early Fall. But I digress.

Anyway, there were a lot of people there, and, as tends to happen, a lot of drink. Now there’s one thing that happens at every party when people begin drinking heavily-they get hungry. At this point, there are only two options: you order pizza or go get White Castle. Naturally, we all chose the latter.

A collection was taken up, and the money presented to myself and my best friend Tim. It was decided that we should be the ones to go get the White Castles, since we were obviously the most sober. We weren’t anywhere near sober, not even on the same street, but that just shows you how well everyone else was doing. My Dad commissioned us by handing me money and saying “Here’s eighty dollars-go get us some gutbombs.” With a clear mission (if not clear heads) and the sacred trust of everyone in attendance, we began our quest.

I decided to pull up to the drive-thru, since walking seemed to be a little bit perilous. Here’s how that convo went down.

WHITE CASTLE LADY: Welcome to White Castle can I take your order?
ME: Yeah, I need eighty dollars worth of burgers.
WCL: (slight pause) A hundred of ’em will be seventy eight ninety three.
ME: Okay, gimme that…and a small diet coke.
WCL: Come around.

We pulled up to the window after waiting for the cars in front, because late night is always packed, and I handed her my money, plus a few extra cents for tax. She handed me my Diet Coke, and then got a look of concentration on her face. She studied the size of the monster box of burgers building up behind her, and then the size of the relatively small window they were supposed to be passed through. “Y’all gonna have to come inside.”

So we parked the car in a space (kind of) and went in. I dutifully sipped my Diet Coke and we both did our best to hold up the walls by leaning on them. For support. The box was soon filled. Tim carried them back to the car, since I was driving and already had a Diet Coke in my hand. I think we put them in the trunk, but maybe they were in the back seat. I don’t remember which, but I do know my Dodge Shadow smelled like Castles for like a week.

Upon returning to the party, the box was demolished in record time. Somebody had the nerve to ask if we’d actually spent all the money or if we’d pinched some off the top, but I spent it all and then a little more. So I could get my Diet Coke. The reason the burgers were gone so fast was not because we shorted anyone on supply, but because White Castles are just THAT GOOD. I also firmly believe they are a vital source of nutrients to the inebriated party goer, but official tests have remained inconclusive.

So as you can see, White Castle and I have a long history together. When I became a father, one of the things I couldn’t wait to do was introduce my kids to the pleasures of White Castle. My wife isn’t exactly a fan, but I don’t blame her. It’s my fault, I go to her late. The kids have mostly taken to them, though the boy just eats the chicken and the eldest daughter was a little slow to come around.

However, my youngest daughter loved them right away. Daddy’s girl, she is. In fact, one of the things we like to do is to get Castle burgers together whenever the two of us are out and about on our own. Sometimes we let the others come with, but it’s a bond we share, being the two in our family unit who really love the burgers.

And now, our neighborhood White Castle is gone. I haven’t told her yet. These conversations are tough and need to be handled gently.

But just how the heck am I supposed to tell her that our spot no longer exists? And where the heck are we supposed to go when we crave that special taste?

Probably to the one that’s down the way a bit. I mean, there are still two more within driving distance, but it’s not the same. Most of my life I have had a White Castle within about a 5-10 minute drive. I am now looking at nineteen. Okay, so maybe that makes the trip more special, but it’s harder to just pick up a sack of ten on my way home, or to get WC for me and youngest, while everybody else gets whatever inferior thing they choose.

Without my neighborhood Castle I feel a little lost and out of place. It is a dark day indeed, but as a proud, longstanding member of Craver Nation I will rise above this turn of events. For White Castle isn’t just food, it is a way of life. It is a cherished gift to man from the Heavens above.

This I promise: I shall overcome this obstacle, and once more feast upon the very food of Olympus itself!!!

And a small Diet Coke.

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