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“White Castle” Arguably America’s First Fast Food Burger Joint

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

They Now Serve Breakfast

One of the original White Castle restaurants.
An Original White Castle (media by JC)

I drive by a White Castle every day at approximately 5 am and marvel at the line-up of cars in the drive-thru line. It was about this time I realized White Castle must be offering breakfast or people like the burgers this early in the morning. I was happy it was the former, and breakfast was on the menu. Why so excited for breakfast in the morning from White Castle?

For those of you not from the midwest, White Castle was started in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921 with the first restaurant opening in 1924. A few years later, they decided to move to a more central part of the United States, and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio became the locations of choice. Holding to the White Castle name, the building facade looks like that of a white-colored castle. This general design is still being used to this day.

Someone with gloves preparing White Castle slider burgers.
Preparation of the burgers (media by JC)

White Castle, to me, was always considered a lower-caliber type of burger. I worked for a boss that would often offer to buy lunch if we performed an out-of-the-ordinary task. Lunch, in his opinion, was best when he could buy it from the “low cost” White Castle. Burgers were cheap because they were so small. A trip home from a bar often warranted a run through the White Castle drive-through for a sack of ten.

The burger had the signature five holes in the middle which allowed for the burger to cook faster. The five holes were a suggestion from a burger flipper in 1954 by the name of Earl Howell. His suggestion not only improved cooking times, but by most accounts, it improved the burger’s flavor allowing the grilled onions to permeate the burger (Assuming you like onions). The five-hole concept was adopted and the craving immediately started.

So my real pursuit was to find out why such long lines at a White Castle at 5am in the morning? In my search and asking of several people I seemed to get the same answers. It turns out they use “fresh cracked” eggs in the make-up of each of their sandwiches. They also seem to have a full array of breakfast items ranging from the typical breakfast sandwich to a chicken and waffles offering.

While in-person feedback was welcomed, I wanted more. In my search for more reviews I stumbled upon Lucien Formichella’s article. After spending a small sum of $20 he was able to test and rank all of the breakfast offerings. While they weren’t all winners, he did have some favorable things to say about a few of the items. Make note: The sausage waffle slider and the sausage slider ranked in the top spots on his list.

A pair of White Castle sausage sliders.
Sausage Slider (media by JC)

Judging by Lucien’s reviews, I can see where someone might want to be the first one in the drive-through to get a breakfast slider. As I understand it these White Castle’s are open 24/7 and if the food is decent, the crowds will come. By the way, White Castle turned 100 years old last year, and surprisingly it is still “Family Owned”. As stated on their website:

100 Years Ago we began our “wild experiment in the hamburger business”. Today, as a 4th generation family-owned business 10,000 team members strong, we’re excited to celebrate all year long. We’re honored to be your ‘slider provider’. Our vision is to “feed the souls of Craver Generations everywhere” and our mission is to “create memorable moments every day”. We’ll be sharing lots of fun ways we intend to do that all year long — especially as we celebrate our 100th.

A few interesting facts:

  1. Although White Castle was started in Wichita, Kansas, there are no White Castles currently in Kansas.

  2. White Castle’s name was based on the color white being clean and hygienic. The Castle portion of the name meant solidity.

  3. The burger recipe is the original recipe from the onset save for how it is cooked. It used to be grilled, now it is steamed.

  4. A sack of 10 sliders is $8.50 (See below)

Upward-looking photo of a typical White Castle sign.
White Castle Sign (media by JC)

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