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Aug 25, 2015

Darrin and Darrin go to White Castle - and get into the Cravers Hall of Fame

At the time of me writing this blog post, I'm finding it hard to believe that two years have passed since my son and I were inducted into the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame.  In 2013,  9,545 people had tried for a spot in the hall of fame since 2001, but only 91 had been inducted up to that point.  Being the White Castle fanatic I am, I decided to throw my hat in the ring when I got an e-mail from White Castle encouraging me to submit my story.


What is a Craver?  White Castle Explains it this way..

It’s not just a person but a state of being. It’s going beyond,
staying up and driving far. It’s road-tripping two hours just to reach
the nearest sack of Sliders. And it’s coaching friends on what to order,
how to eat it and then how best to stack the boxes. It’s something
that’s embraced and then handed down from generation to generation.

Cravers are everywhere. They could be anyone. Even the people closest to you.  In fact, even if you’ve never had The Original Slider®, the Craver could be lying in-wait – inside of you. 



My submission told the story of a 1900 mile road trip that my son and I had taken in 2007, to feast on White Castle sliders.  The story caught the companies attention, and inevitably secured our spot in the illustrious White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame.


"The pin"


This is the notice and pin I received in the mail, stating that my son and I were Cravers Hall of Fame nominees.  I was happy enough simply to be nominated, but when I got the call from White Castle notifying us that we had actually made it into the hall of fame, I was utterly shocked. 


My son and I are White Castle Cravers through and through, and there are multitudes of folks out there who share our passion.  Therefore, I didn't think our story would even register as a blip on the Cravers Hall of Fame radar.  I remember thinking.. "Surely we can't be the only Cravers out there who have tried something like this!"


In the end, I believe the sheer feat of driving through six states and logging in 1900 miles wasn't the sole reason for getting inducted.  We took this trip during a time when my son was deep into his teenage years.  I found myself wanting to reconnect with him in a unique and fun way.  I also wanted it to combine an element of adventure, as well as something we both loved immensely.  I'm happy to report that the trip did the trick and brought us closer.  It made us both feel more like friends, rather than just father and son.  All of this stemmed from our love of White Castle, and we now have memories that will last us a lifetime.  

Below is my original blog post from 2007 about our father and son trip that ended up securing us a spot in the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame.






Darrin and Darrin go to White Castle


My car smelled like White Castle hamburgers for quite some time after this road trip.. and I was perfectly fine with that.





It had been seven years since I had last sunk my teeth into a freshly made White Castle slider, and I found myself having insatiable cravings for them. I knew that the frozen White Castle hamburgers located in the supermarket freezer section would not be enough to satisfy my carnivorous fixation.   No.. I craved a made to order White Castle slider, steam grilled to perfection and tenderly tucked inside of a soft, fresh, delicate roll.

Joking around one day with my wife, I suggested that I should go on a road trip back East for the sole purpose of obtaining some White Castle Burgers. As the chuckles subsided, I asked myself.. "Why not?" I had recently kicked around the idea of taking a road trip with my teenage son to help us reconnect, but all we lacked was a destination. I went to work the very next day, cashed in some vacation time, and commenced planning our 1900 mile round trip burger run...



The big day.. 

The alarm clock woke me up right on time at 1:45 a.m. after a blissful 4 hours of sleep. I took a quick shower to help me wake up, ran downstairs, poured myself and my co-pilot a cup of coffee, kissed my bride goodbye, and was out the door and on the road by 2:15. Nine hours later, after viewing an infinite number of rolling hills and wheat fields, the landscape seemed to almost instantaneously change as we approached Kansas City, Kansas.  As we crossed into Missouri, my son and I both felt a renewed vigor! We were like giddy school girls right before a Sadie Hopkins dance. Now.. only three hundred and fifty miles stood between us and the nearest White Castle!




 


After eight hundred plus miles, and thirteen and a half hours of driving across three states, we had finally arrived! The White Castle restaurant pictured above in Wentzville Missouri, is the absolute closest White Castle to the Northern part of Colorado where we live. It was a newer store, and only faintly resembled the classic stores I had visited in the past. The architectural similarities were prevalent however, and I spotted it from what seemed to be miles away.




Lunch..
After thirteen hours of driving, we were hungry.. but our appetites weren't exactly what you could call ravenous. Therefore, we took it easy on our stomachs and ordered up only fifteen White Castle sliders and a couple orders of fries.

Over the next two days, the pickles and onions on my sliders would prove to be the only vegetables I would consume during the entire course of our road trip (unless you count the coleslaw I ate with some BBQ in Kansas City)







Anatomy of a Slider
There's nothing else quite like the aroma of a freshly steam grilled White Castle slider. The patty of a White Castle slider is only 2 and 1/2 inches by 2 and 1/2 inches square. Each hamburger has five holes in the patty which allow them to fully cook on a grill without having to be flipped over. The patties are steam cooked on a bed of chopped onions. During the cooking process, the bottom buns of the dinner roll are placed on top of the patties, so as to soak up a bit of the meat flavor. The holes also help to carry the onion flavor throughout the meat. I managed to keep from devouring the first slider I picked up, long enough to snap this picture. I had to pull the camera back so the plume of steam ascending from the box wouldn't fog the camera lens.

We finished lunch and headed twenty some odd miles East to our sleep accommodations in a suburb of St Louis, that was only 1.9 miles away from yet another White Castle.  Nope, not a coincidence.. I planned it that way.   My son took a nap while I stretched out on my bed to check my e-mail and tinker with one of my old websites I used to run. Four or five hours passed, and our craving for White Castle sliders once again started to resurface. I woke my son up, and he agreed that we needed to make another White Castle run.



Dinner... 

We were getting hungrier by the minute but were absolutely beat from the drive, so we decided to get some White Castle to-go, from the store a couple of miles down the road. For lunch we kept it old school and dined on basic White Castle hamburgers with fries, but for dinner we decided to change it up a bit. White Castle's menu is pretty simple and straight forward, but they do have a couple unique menu items that we just had to try. For instance.. Those aren't Onion rings you see here.. they're Chicken Rings!





As I held up a ring to snap this photo, I wasn't convinced that I was going to be a big fan, but these actually tasted great! I also ordered a box of Buffalo Bites which won me over as well. Think Chicken Mc Nugget.. only with great tasting chicken, and a heck of a kick that grabs your tongue and won't let go. We also ordered five or six cheeseburgers, and of course.. some classic sliders for good measure.






As we relaxed in the confines of our hotel room, my son and I talked about how great it would be to have White Castle's out West where we lived. We also pondered on what made the food we were eating so great. In the end we concluded that it was the simplicity, quality, taste, and uniqueness of the food, that makes people lifelong customers and fans of the chain.

I'm not sure why there aren't any White Castle restaurants father West, but I firmly believe that they would surely prosper.  At this point, I'd be happy to see some stores built in the state of Kansas (their original birthplace). It sounds crazy, but I would most definitely do a 6 to 8 hour road trip a few times a year to dine on White Castle sliders.  White Castle does not actually franchise their stores however, and very carefully calculates every move they make in regards to opening new ones.  This strategy has definitely worked for them up to this point, so if expansion out West indeed happens, I believe it will take awhile.


Breakfast.. 

Early the next morning, we gathered our thoughts and belongings, and wandered downstairs to the hotel lobby to checkout. Nothing on the continental breakfast buffet looked very appetizing, so we decided to go elsewhere. Hmmm.. where to go.. where to go..  Ah what the heck, why not White Castle?!?




An Old School White Castle

We went to the same restaurant we visited for dinner. It's an older store located in Maryland Heights with a beautiful porcelain coated exterior, and happens to be one of my favorite stores.  I enjoyed a coffee, a donut, and a couple of White Castle Cheeseburgers. Talk about your breakfast of champions!  We then headed 20 miles East to see some sights in downtown St. Louis.




I lost?

I ate two White Castle Cheeseburgers for breakfast..  I'd say that's a win!!


The last supper... 

After a couple of hours at the Gateway Arch, and Mississippi river front, it was time to start heading back West. Our time in Missouri was heading towards a close. We had one more chance to dine at White Castle before heading home, and we weren't going to pass up the opportunity.

We went back to the White Castle restaurant that we had first visited in Wentzville the day before. The cheeseburgers I ate for breakfast really hit the spot, so I decided to order some Double Bacon Cheeseburgers. After eating one, I felt like slapping myself silly for not ordering these before. The Double's in my humble opinion have a better meat to bread ratio than a classic slider, and the bacon and cheese really push this sandwich over the top! I also learned during this trip, that the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, is now my favorite menu item at The Castle!





With full stomach's and a bit of pensiveness, we exited the restaurant and headed towards our car. Before driving away, we rolled down the windows to catch one last whiff of the steam grilled aroma that permeated the air across the parking lot.  Alas.. this leg of our trip was over.  However, we did have some solace in the fact that there was a gigantic box of frozen sliders in the trunk, that we were able to purchase at the restaurant.
 
It's funny, we went for nearly seven years without eating a fresh White Castle slider. Then after the road trip, we found ourselves craving them more than ever! Many people don't understand the infatuation folks like us  have with these tiny little morsels of steam grilled goodness, so maybe it's a regional thing. It wasn't until I lived back East, that I became such a big White Castle enthusiast. In fact, I'm not the only White Castle fanatic in my family. My bride who hasn't eaten a hamburger for over ten years, says that she would gladly dine at White Castle if the opportunity arose.

Our passion for White Castle sliders drove my son and I to venture 1900 miles round trip, covering ground in six states.  We were able to reconnect as "buddies" rather than just father and son, ate our weight in White Castle sliders, and had an exciting and stimulating adventure, all in the course of a few days. We created for ourselves, memories and stories that we'll talk about for years to come, and really.. we have White Castle to thank for that.



Visit White Castle Online



!!UPDATE!! 
White Castle recently opened a new store in Las Vegas Nevada, located directly on the strip  (Yes I've been there already).  This development gives me hope that the chain will continue to widen their presence across the U.S.!   And hey.. now I only have to drive a mere 754 miles to get my White Castle Slider fix!

 

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