History on a Bun

What’s available early in the morning, late at night, and blue-and-white all over?

According to Time Magazine, the most influential burger in history. The winner: America’s beloved White Castle “slider,” the fourth meal staple for generations of snackers in Columbus – where the company has been headquartered for years – and beyond.

Known as one of the great test markets of all-time, our fair city has been long connected with the fast food industry, most notably as the home of the original Wendy’s Hamburger restaurant, once jutting proudly from the corner of Broad and High streets. But, long before Dave Thomas started slinging his version of the square burger, White Castle had already started the trend in 1921, when Billy Ingram served the first one at his flagship Wichita location.

Now, there are more than 400 White Castle locations in 12 states, expanding “Craver Nation” to near-cult status. If you live in Columbus, chances are some of your best stories involve a Crave case or two. Beyond that, the organization seems to embrace their quirky position in the marketplace, paying tribute to White Castle’s off-kilter reputation by marketing burger-smelling candles, and even sponsoring nationwide wedding contests.

But beyond their ingenious marketing, that little steamed 90-year-old burger has led the charge, hitting the bellies of Americans by the millions daily. And if you’re second-gassing how much influence a tiny little burger can have, turn on the Food Network and watch how many times you hear the word “slider.” Nowadays, everywhere from trendy new gastropubs and backyard picnics serve some version of the ubiquitous square. And until The Pearl starts serving its own version of a Big Mac, White Castle can rest easy with that No. 1 spot.

The Tastemaker
The title of most influential burger of all-time is in the bag for White Castle. But what does that emcompass? We asked our readers to creatively credit their impact on the world. What else has the “slider” influenced?

“Influenced people to willingly attend a game at Cooper Stadium.” – James Meyers

“Without them, we wouldn’t have the only fast-food restaurant, that I’m aware of, that offers Valentine’s Day candlelit dinners with decorations and full table service.” – Jason Wells

“Not funny or clever, but the White Castle Foundation is a true supporter for the arts in Columbus, through their fund at the Columbus Foundation.” – Jessie Boetcher

“The Crave Case clearly influenced the look of the business brief case. They look identical.” – Ben Ahlteen

“I believe that White Castle developed the light box style of display as a marketing ploy. Now used by all food companies in a similar market. That and they make the world’s best Thanksgiving stuffing around.” – Ashley Voss

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. I don’t think there has been another movie that was inspired by a single burger in such a positive way.” – Sara Allison

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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