A Nostalgic Trip to White Castle
I remember the first time I had a White Castle burger. I was about 10 years old and my buddy's parents were giving me a lift home from a Little League Baseball game. They decided to go to a drive-thru for burgers, my then favorite food. Never having experienced White Castle (and already thinking my buddy's parents were a bit of a freak show), I didn't know what to say when they asked me if I wanted four or five burgers. All I can remember was that the steamed tiny square buns with onions, pickle, and ketchup and some indiscernible smaller square of gray matter with holes in it to allow the steam to evenly cook both sides were, well, indescribable.
Flash forward to college. After attaining the perfect state of drug-induced munchies, a buddy says, "Let's grab a sack of WCs!" I ask, "WTF are WCs?" He drives me to a brightly lit place at three in the morning, which looks like a high-security prison on Union Turnpike in Queens, where we are buzzed through an electric door that is sealed behind us, and a person behind double-thick bullet-proof glass takes our money through a revolving window and replaces the money with a bag. I'm thinking we're scoring more drugs and we're buzzed out through the exit door. In the parking lot, my higher-than-a-kite friend rips open the bag and starts devouring the little steamed buns with the gray matter. And then I'm not sure if it was the weed, the childhood memory, or something which White Castle devotees simply call "The Crave," but I joined in the feeding frenzy.
I hadn't been to White Castle since college, but the other night an old friend, I'll call him "Harold," and I were going to attend a concert at Jones Beach that was going to inspire flashbacks in those of us old enough to remember the purple haze of the '60s and early '70s, namely a dual ticket of Santana and the Allman Brothers. I will not admit whether our cravings were induced by illicit substances or merely inspired by our joint admiration for the first Harold and Kumar movie, where the name characters go on a Quixotic quest to fulfill their White Castle longings, but before the show we drove to Bayside Queens.
On the corner of Bell and Northern Boulevards there has stood a White Castle since 1932. The White Castle chain itself was founded in 1921 in Kansas and literally invented fast-food hamburger preparation, service, and advertising. Though remodeled in the '80s from the original castle design, complete with turrets, White Castle No. 7 in Bayside has stood the test of time. Surprisingly, this White Castle was airy with no electric doors and no bullet-proof glass. Though I contemplated ordering a "Crave Case" of 30 burgers, my buddy reminded me of some of the side effects of White Castle burgers so we satiated ourselves with a mere 10-burger sack. What are the side effects? Let me answer that by citing a few of the more popular nicknames for WC burgers: "slyders," not because of their diminutive size but because of the ease with which they "slide" out of your digestive tract, "belly bombers," "greasers," "rat burgers," and my personal favorite, "rectum wreckers" — no further explanation required.
Let's just say that my friend and I, having satisfied our uncontrollable White Castle lust, greatly enjoyed the concert and carried the repeated memory of White Castle with us for several days as the belly bombers repeated on us.