Photo by Chris Casella

Craving Civic Pride

The Slider gets no respect.

Even though Time magazine called White Castle’s tiny little burger the most influential of its kind, I feel like it’s still the Rodney Dangerfield of fast food. 

Mention of White Castle usually stirs up strong sentiments and stories of long nights or early mornings…and the name Slider….well, don’t get me started. I wish I had a Crave Case for every wisecrack I heard about the alleged effect of those tasty little burgers on dainty digestive systems. 

So, today, I stand on my soapbox to demand that Columbus citizens let the local legend slide into their hearts.  

In the 1980s, Columbus was seen as the Fast Food Capital of the World, and for good reason. Perhaps you’ve heard of G.D. Ritzy’s, Burger Boy Food-a-Rama, Sister’s Chicken and Biscuits, Damons, Rax…and others chains that rose and fell with the whims of our consumer culture. We still claim Wendy’s, but when Clara Peller was saying, “Where’s the Beef?” White Castle could have said, “We had it 48 years before you did…”

In a city that has seen the birth and demise of so many chains, it’s amazing that most people don’t know that White Castle has called Columbus home since 1929, and its headquarters since 1934.  

If you need more of a reason to step up your civic pride, consider these fascinating facts:

White Castle started steaming burgers in 1921 when Billy Ingram and Walt Anderson teamed up in Wichita, Kansas. Along the way the company did many things of note; here are just a few: legitimized the hamburger as an American icon, launched fast food as we know it, invented the hamburger bun, established standardization for buildings and menus, created the first paper serving hats, started a company to manufacture its porcelain castles, offered the first fast food coupons, created and patented countless devices for the industry, and more.

White Castle was the first to serve 1 million hamburgers, as well as the first to serve 1 billion (1961). On a typical day, White Castle sacks almost 1.5 million burgers and produces over 200,000 frozen sliders for grocery stores. All of this was done without franchising. Every White Castle is company-owned.   

Today, after surviving decades of changing tastes and trends as well as countless competitors and imitators, White Castle is still standing strong.  The company has over 400 restaurants in 12 states. While the classic slider remains the mainstay of the menu, the company continues to innovate with new products, including a Belgian Waffle sandwich with chicken and sausage gravy. White Castle added two more members to the food truck bandwagon last year as another way to push out product. Rumor has it a veggie slider may be the next thing you will soon crave. Stay tuned: the company is just a few years shy of a century of innovation, I’m sure there is much more to come.

Curiosities About What You Crave

• Every year on Valentine’s Day, White Castle offers reservations for candlelit seating for two, with a server

• White Castle is featured in four films, including Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004); can you name the other three?* 

• White Castle is the inspiration for the Smithereens song “White Castle Blues” 

• Sliders have been available in many frozen food sections since 1987 

• Rocker Alice Cooper was inducted into the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame in 2014

• At least two Columbus couples have been married inside local White Castle franchises as a result of a national contest

* AMREEKA, Saturday Night Fever, White Palace