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White Castle (restaurant)

From Academic Kids

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Photo of a White Castle Cheeseburger box

White Castle is the oldest hamburger fast food chain in the United States. It is known for square burgers, commonly referred to as "slyders", which were priced at 5 cents until the 1940s, and remained at ten cents for years thereafter while growing smaller. The typical White Castle restaurant architecture features a white exterior with a crenellated tower at one corner to resemble a medieval castle. The Chicago Water Tower, which stands on Michigan Avenue, was the main model for the classic building.

The company was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas when entrepreneur Edgar Waldo Ingram partnered with cook Walter Anderson, who had developed an efficient way of cooking hamburgers quickly. Anderson's method is still in use by the chain today: small, square patties are cooked atop a bed of onions laid out on a grill. The heat and steam rises up from the grill, through the onions. In 1949 five holes in the patty were added to facilitate quick and thorough cooking. The very thin patties are not flipped throughout this process. This "steam grilled" method is unique among major fast food restaurants.

In 1933 Ingram bought out Anderson, and the following year the company moved corporate headquarters to Columbus, Ohio. The company remains privately held and its restaurants are company-owned, not franchised. Co-founder Billy Ingram was followed as head of the firm by his son E.W. Ingram Jr. and grandson E.W. Ingram III.

White Castle's innovative approach to preparing and presenting its hamburgers created a loyal following that, over time, developed slang used today by patrons and restaurant staff to communicate an order or otherwise discuss White Castle products. For example, a customer ordering a "sack of six with both", will receive six burgers with both ketchup and mustard (this is also a reference to White Castle's habit of keeping three bottles of condiments at hand for the burgers: ketchup, mustard, and a combination of the two—or "both"). An individual who consumes 6 or more "slyders" in one sitting earns the distinction "slyder pilot".

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A typical White Castle meal

White Castle's marketing campaign capitalizes on the unique qualities of its product. "The Crave" is depicted in radio and television spots as a sort of addiction to White Castle burgers. An individual afflicted by "The Crave" can only be satisfied by Slyders. While "The Crave" marketing strategy is presented in a light hearted, tongue-in-cheek fashion, many loyal patrons of the restaurant contend they do become afflicted by "The Crave" from time to time. It is argued that the size, construction and cooking method of White Castle burgers is unique among fast food products. Therefore, it is conceivable that "The Crave", in fact, is a specific yearning for the attributes possessed only by Slyders.

Its burgers are also sold in frozen boxes in grocery stores nationwide. White Castle purists, however, argue that frozen Slyders only loosely resemble those sold in the restaurants.

Amongst those who do not possess "The Crave", White Castle is seen as fairly downscale and undesirable, even by hamburger-chain standards. It also is sometimes considered to be a part of stoner culture, as per the 2004 film entitled Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, slogans for which included "Fast food. High times.", as well as "Fast food. Best buds.", both clearly references to marijuana.

In 2003, White Castle unveiled a new logo. In that same year, the new slogan was "What You Crave."

See also

  • Krystal - considered to be much like White Castle but for the American South.
  • Hip hop music group The Beastie Boys, whose mentions of White Castle on several tracks on their 1986 multi-platinum License To Ill album gave widespread exposure to the restaurant chain.

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