White Castle: Far Worse Than I'd Imagined

If you believe that you crave this crap, seek help

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By David Hammond

White Castle has a significant place in the history of American popular food, and its influence has spread up the food chain to influence many fancier places that now feel obliged to offer "sliders" of Kobe and foie gras.

Recently, I was talking to my oldest daughter, Abigail, and I mentioned that I couldn't see how anyone could actually "crave" White Castle products.

"When's the last time you had one," she asked, with challenge in her voice.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a White Castle hamburger.

So walking along Cermak in Chicago a few days later, I stopped in at a WC (an acronym that now seems presciently accurate).

During the 1980s, I did a lot of consulting work with McDonald's, and although I rarely eat at McDonald's, I do admire the Henry Ford-like efficiency of their assembly-line food delivery system (with many innovations thanks to Oak Parker Ray Kroc, who revolutionized the industry, allowing for truly "fast" food).

At WC, I had ordered two sliders and a small fries – I didn't time it, but I'd estimate it took more than five minutes to get my order together; there were people at the drive-through, but only one other person in line; at various points in my short visit, two different WC employees people came to get my order and take my money; there seemed no obvious organization to what they were doing.

What I received was two double cheeseburgers and a medium onion rings, but I'd already opened the package, so I just accepted my fate. I didn't want to wait another five minutes. Unfortunately, I was hungry so I ate one of the double cheeseburgers, though I could only eat one and one-half onion rings.

To say it was bad would not begin to describe this eating experience, and I realize this is not exactly a bulletin to the world, but I had no idea that the sliders were so thoroughly abhorrent.

The meat was grey, and the texture was such that it wasn't clear if the meat was actually cooked or just tinted: it was very, very soft. So soft and thin, in fact, you could actually bend the patty over without breaking it.

The onion rings were astoundingly free of flavor. I don't even know how you could drain an onion of taste to the degree that these onion rings were tasteless. They came with "zinger sauce," which I believe was a type of cheese food product.

People say WC sliders are greasy, but I would have appreciated a little actual animal grease in this food; it might have added some flavor.

I do not believe I'm an abstemious eater, but eating at  WC made me feel unclean.

According to the WC website, "White Castle is more than a company. It's an experience that transcends time, space and sometimes, rational thought." To that list of things transcended, I'd add "taste."

I try not to be judgmental (really, I do), but there is something very wrong if you crave food like this.

Now, while I was there, a woman came in with a small child and bought a slider for each of them. I found that kind of touching, as it was clear this lady probably didn't have money for much more. More's the pity, and I understand, appreciate and weep for people who are left with so few choices about dinner.

But if you have options, and you eat at White Castle, and you're not falling down drunk or so chemically altered as to be irresponsible for your actions, and if you believe that you crave this crap, seek help.

As for me, well, I'm glad I tried it. I consider eating stuff like this part of a continuing education about food. And as Bruce Willis said in the rather odd movie version of Fast Food Nation, "We all have to eat a little shit from time to time."

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Reader Comments

65 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Edward Starr  

Posted: November 16th, 2019 1:48 PM

White Castle food taste nasty I had eaten there back in 1998 with my ex-wife. In Indiana I vow never to eat there again and thus far kept my promise.

Michael Schwers from Burke  

Posted: April 14th, 2017 1:03 PM

I always though WC could gag a maggot.


Posted: December 1st, 2014 9:18 AM

I couldn't help but remember this column. It's the holiday season, try going again but this time after a night of drinking. Of course, have appropriate designated drivers, but throw caution to the wind and experience WC like most people do THEN compare. Happy Holidays!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 10th, 2014 5:14 PM

If NPH is spotting, I just hope he's not trippin' balls again...though that may be the surest way to get into a WC food orgy.

Matthew from New York City  

Posted: November 10th, 2014 5:06 PM

Obviously this article is fake as Harold and Kumar enjoyed White Castle and H&K never lie. I think the problem was that you didn't order 30 sliders, 10 large fries, and 5 cherry cokes (diet or nah). Hopefully NPH will be there to spot your meal.

Vermillion from Zion  

Posted: September 29th, 2014 10:32 PM

"Sigh" doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that white castle isn't high quality food. To be honest most of the leading fast food chains have very unhealthy and or terrible tasting food. Personally nothing beats home made. Only time I Crack open the wallet for any fast food is for insufficient time to cook. Although there are quite a few good restaurants out there. I'll pass on that oh so delicious rat burger however and fire up the grill. Have a nice day.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 5th, 2014 10:31 AM

Will be in Cincinnati in next month or so. Though your apparent comparison of WC with Skyline makes me a little uneasy (smile), I will try to give it a shot. Every place deserves a chance. Is Skyline another "go only if you're buzzed" kind of place?


Posted: August 22nd, 2014 3:28 PM

" ... and, really guys, do we need to drag our maternal forbears into the conversation? (That type of rhetorical ploy clouds the discussion with a bunch of emotional "You-insulted-my-mom"-type tripe)." TRIPE no less -- ouch!

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 2:56 PM

Brian- I can oblige; he doesn't want to be taken seriously here. I imagine he may have intended to dummy down for us with scatological references. What grace. I have to wonder if the anonymous comment trolls on these comment boards are more likely the WJ staff and authors. Btw, your observation of the pot and kettle anonymous commenters on the other comment board was good. Perfect case of hypocisy of indignant commenters found here among some authors and comment trolls.

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 2:35 PM

Oh, I get it now. The food critic is writing humor. Using the word crap twice and shit once in regards to the food is not being negative or critical. The footnote could have read," Dave Hammond, food critic, attempt at humor"r. But he forgot. Now I get it.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 2:04 PM

David- not so oddly, I meant presume. I'll reword the sentence with the adverb form. Because you write for the WJ, you presumably have access to the IP traffic info. if requested. Here's another example- That I'm trying to verbally compete with you presumes me to be an idiot. I concede.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from Op  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 1:42 PM

David- enjoy your assumed-to-be decreasing regular readership and respect while you can. You certainly don't need my criticism to sustain you. I enjoyed your article until you insisted on needing to diligently prove yourself. Unbecoming. I had investigate online whether you were related to a good Hammond chap I knew at OPRF in the early 80s. Thankfully, I didn't find a connection. Other commenters' character criticism of you can't be topped by me. Not my style. Not my desire.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 1:12 PM

Nostalgic, please indicate where I said your comment about our grandmother didn't meet the standards for debate, which as far as I know do not exist, to wit: I've been subject to random and scabrous name-calling and even a death threat...which I'm presuming was a joke in the worst taste (then again, what else would one expect of a WC enthusiast).

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 1:08 PM

IGEFFOP, I believe you mean "assume" not "presume" -- the former means "to suppose to be the case without proof" (source: Oxford Dictionary), and you have no proof of what you say because you don't know anything about me or about my working relationship with WJ. At any rate, your assumption is incorrect: I do not have firsthand access to IP records and I've never requested them; my observation was based on what the WJ editors posted here, which was information open to everyone. Brandon, do you think WC maybe sneaks asparagus into the patties? (Attn: that was a joke, not intended to be taken seriously and/or angrily debated at length).


Posted: August 22nd, 2014 12:56 PM

For the record, I am only one person, and my grandma really did love sliders. I was trying to be funny, too, by posting this. But as Dave pointed out, my post wasn't clever enough to meet the standards for debate here.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 12:22 PM

Being a writer for WJ, Dave, I presume, has access to the IP traffic records firsthand or by request, so nobody need be swayed by his playing the victim of criticism conspiracy. I have only ever used this moniker on these comment boards. It'll change when I move back to Oak Park or maybe when I might post while my phone and I are both in Oak Park, though I didn't change it while I was in South Carolina in June and July. At times I do have name envy for commenters such as muntz, joe, or Dwyer.


Posted: August 22nd, 2014 12:21 PM

You didnt mention how bad your pee smelled. I ate a white castle slider a few years back out of nostalgia and my pee stunk. I have no idea what type of meat that is.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 12:20 PM

Thanks, Todd, for recognizing the humorous intent of the article. Sometimes having a sense of humor can be a burden. You're absolutely right, too, about the tendency of some to go negative in the Comments section; there's clearly a lot of anger out there. Sincere best wishes on your next WC slider: enjoy!

todd kahn from oak park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 12:14 PM

Is there any comment board on WJ that doesn't turn into a war of personal insults? Holy cr*p, this is a humorous review of White Castle, not a debate on (insert politically/racially charged issue here). I enjoy a good White Castle slider from time to time. I find it both delicious and questionable as a food at the same time. I was not personally insulted by Mr. Hammond saying my occasional cravings mean there's something wrong with me. There's lots more wrong with me. See the humor folks :-)

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 11:50 AM

Actually, it would be very inconvenient for me to post in this section anonymously, unless I went to a remote computer: the system "recognizes" me and automatically Facebook verifies me every time. But more importantly, I don't want to post anonymously because I choose to personally stand behind my comments, something few here do. It has been mentioned by WJ editors, in relation to another post, that something like one-third of the comments came from the same IP address! I'm guessing that sort of thing happens a lot. Incidentally, I'm not trying "to be" anything, and people who know me have remarked that it's remarkable that people who don't know me make such unhinged assumptions based on vigorous misinterpretation, which I believe is due to their own misplaced and bizarre anger, which they freely vent, anonymously, here.

Seen This Before  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 11:10 AM

Mr. Hammond - If this "Frazier Crane" act is intentional, disregard the following. But, if you're trying to be a real person, trust me on this. You don't want to respond to allegations of insufferable self-importance by becoming more insufferably self-important. Also, climb off the cross long enough to recognize that you, too, can choose to post in the comments anonymously. Perhaps you already do?

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 10:36 AM

It's not syntax, STB, it's word choice, and words matter; that's all we're working with here. Again, I'm trying to interpret careless writing, and it's interesting to me that stylistic markers in several of these posts, allegedly by different posters, seem remarkably similar, as though one person is just posting under multiple names for his/her own twisted amusement. Knowing that, it doesn't really matter how many negative posts I receive because it's likely many come from just one, maybe two or three, sources. We'll never know, though, as you and most others enjoy the luxury of anonymity which I do not. You have a good weekend, too!

Seen This Before  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 10:25 AM

Mr. Hammond - This is a good time for personal reflection. When most of the criticism of your work is rooted in your insufferable air of self-importance, is that the best time to start harping on people's syntax? Does this make you look more or less like a buffoonish know-it-all? Is this "Upper Class Twit of the Year" bit really you, or just your WJ persona? Anyway, have a great weekend.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 10:21 AM

To David- STB is simply calling you out for intentionally insulting potential readers to stir them up, to drive comment traffic, which, of course, promotes advertising revenue. You could be more creative and less arrogant, less overtly manipulating, to give us better quality entertainment for our clicks. Or not.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 9:10 AM

Don't you mean "offensiveness for relevance"? Just trying to make sense of what you're trying to say, STB, and it isn't easy.

Seen This Before  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 8:51 AM

"...but there is something very wrong if you crave food like this." I think it's the sweeping insults of those who like to eat different foods than you that cause readers to say, "Wait a minute! My mom loved sliders!" If you stick to saying what you like or don't like without gratuitously insulting those who disagree, you might get fewer negative comments. Although I'm sure it't the negative comments you're after, trading, as you are, offensiveness for irrelevance.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 6:03 AM

Weed and/or alcohol definitely seem critical to most people's appreciation of WC. And no, I am not suggesting that anyone's mother enjoyed them for that reason and, really guys, do we need to drag our maternal forbears into the conversation? (That type of rhetorical ploy clouds the discussion with a bunch of emotional "You-insulted-my-mom"-type tripe).

You're Doing It Wrong from Oak Park  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 9:18 AM

You need to try this again, but this time, get stinking drunk first (and maybe smoke a doobie or two). THEN eat WC, and right the review immediately afterwards. I think you'll change your mind.


Posted: August 21st, 2014 9:17 AM

Typical Baby Boomer - thinks they should have exactly what they want when they want it, spend no money and get Grade A quality. Big shocker there.

Seen This Before  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 9:02 AM

I think that Mr. Hammond, guessing rightly that he has little to offer as a journalist, has taken to slamming foods that he knows a lot of people like (White Castle, Girl Scout Cookies). The resulting reader comments serve to make him feel relevant. He's kind of a one-trick pony, but people do seem to have fun with it. I don't think he's really the clueless, upper-class buffoon he portrays himself as in his column.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 6:36 PM

David- btw, you obviously got an order destined for someone from the drive-through lane likely waiting for his onion rings. Dude, next time, give it back. You acted like a craver- had to have it NOW.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 6:17 PM

David- I claimed that you denounced the "influential" burger not that you denied its influence. You've condescendingly and erroneously insulted my reading and comprehension ability twice now; I choose not to be offended by your mistake, but pay attention if you're going to be arrogant about a nice fluff piece.


Posted: August 20th, 2014 5:16 PM

My grandma from the old country loved her sliders and was still eating them in her 90s. As for tasteless onion rings, that's nothing a little ketchup can't fix!

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 5:03 PM

"I say slaughter sacred cows" is the Dave Hammond quote. By all means, and start with David Hammond.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 5:02 PM

There's no contradiction. A person or thing can have influence AND be bad. You get that, right?

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 4:22 PM

David- I just read the headline. Oh, I read the first sentence, too, which contradicts... nothing but maybe the entire article's point of your disgust for sliders. Seriously, you really thought the entire cute article and attitude can have deniability by the first sentence? Anyway, you achieved the goal of entertaining. I'm laughing with you, and with Occ. Cust., Dwyer, Unc. Sense, OP Trans., Stan, and others...we needed a useless light-hearted trivial debate in lieu of the recent heavy topics.

Occasional Customer  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 3:38 PM

"I try not to be judgmental (really, I do), but there is something very wrong if you crave food like this." There must be something very wrong with a lot of people, since WC's sales were over $600 million in 2013. And I enjoy a couple of sliders every now and then, so there's obviously something very wrong with me. Also, my mom loved them, so there was something very wrong with her. Because there's something very wrong with people who like different food than you, you insufferable prig.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 2:58 PM

And, of course, I accede to the influence of WC sliders in my first sentence. Or did you just read the headline?


Posted: August 20th, 2014 1:00 PM

:-)! Oh Touche', Hammond. You archaic curmudgeon.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 12:40 PM

Heaven forfend that anyone should say they don't like a hamburger that Time magazine declares is "influential" (which, incidentally, is not the same as "delicious"). I say, slaughter sacred cows.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:47 AM

White Castle is garbage. However, sometimes you do get a craving for crap food. Especially late at night. You can't eat organically grown $10/lbs green beans all the time.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:39 AM

I picture a befuddled Thurston Howell trying to order..."I say, my good man..." For some reason I always picture Mr. Hammond in a yachting cap.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:36 AM

You guys writing for WJ are hilarious. From Republican Party bashing, to race baiting, to denouncing what Time labelled (Jan. 14, 2014) the most influential burger (White Castle slider, created in Wichita, KS in 1921) of all time.", you guys seem to want to generate controversy and advertising clicks. I'll play along (though, not disingenuously) because I have the time and feel good diluting the troll input.

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:23 AM

Breaking: White Castle is crap "food!" Film at 11! (In other news, water is quite moist... :/)

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:22 AM

David, where exactly on Cermak were you guys walking? I find this hard to believe. South Lawndale? Where is the 'hood? Are you sure you were not talking about Ogden in Berwyn close to Harlem?


Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:17 AM

David - Do you believe the level of service you received from the attentive and efficient staff was worth $15/hr?

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 10:07 AM

Change the headline to "Prissy Food Critic Dislikes White Castle", and this article could be published in The Onion otherwise unaltered. Mr. Hammond always makes me laugh, but never on purpose.


Posted: August 20th, 2014 9:38 AM

Agree that White Castle is garbage. But really, David. Abstemious? Better to just say, 'not self-indulgent.'

Leroy from West Austin  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 9:13 AM

Good story!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 8:33 AM

Trolls, yawn...


Posted: August 20th, 2014 8:01 AM

Any person that uses abstemious in an article talking about White Castle is not qualified to review them. You live in a different world and would be best at reviewing dockers or something similar. I would cancel your column and have you filling potholes

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 8:00 AM

I noticed that Dave Hammond didn't leap to the aid of the woman who bought one slider for each of her kids by reaching into his pocket to give the woman money from his pocket, or expense account. Instead he would "weep" for her. How touching. I weep when I read Hammonds articles and most of the articles of the WJ to remind me how not to act.

doc walsh from wooddale  

Posted: June 1st, 2012 8:05 PM

most of my 90 year old friends are still eatihg at white castle


Posted: June 1st, 2012 4:26 PM

McDonald's food isn't as fresh as implied. If that were the case, you would wait just as long for your order as your do at WC. Maybe they aren't sitting around like they used to, but they are being nuked, no way that your burger is made to order with the rate of speed that it's served. Same with the fries, they are either cold or you can tell that they just re-dipped them in the fryer so they seem fresh. Very rarely have I ever gotten REALLY fresh fries from McD's.


Posted: June 1st, 2012 4:21 PM

I wouldn't assume that the woman could only afford one burger for each of her kids. Maybe she was giving them a treat. There are still some people left who don't eat fast food on a regular basis so something like WC is a treat and maybe that is what she was doing.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2012 2:00 PM

David Hammond, as you assumed the woman was not able to buy her two kids more than one hamburger a piece, you can also notice that the workers at a White Castle appear to be in the same income level. The slowness of the employees and the accuracy of your order demonstrates what you should expect each time from a White Castle. Your best choice that I have discovered is going to the one at Ogden and Harlem avenue.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2012 1:56 PM

Patricia O'Shea, thank you for the customer number at McDonald's. I called corporate to let them know the terrible job the McDonald's location at Des Plaines and Madison in Forest Park was doing and no reply. I gave that place 3 different visits to get an ice tea order correct in the drive through. McDonald's stays profitable because of the ridiculous amount of advertising dollars the spend to make that happen.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2012 1:53 PM

Patricia O'Shea, McDonald's is taste like food created in a lab to make it as cheap as possible for the consumers and very profitable for the corporation. The white chicken you mention is formed white meat from tired old Chickens. Compare a Coke from McDonald's and one from any other fast food place. McDonald's changes the formula to make it profitable for them and a lot for you.

Craver from Oak Park  

Posted: May 31st, 2012 4:19 PM

Yes, sliders are grey because they are steamed on top of bed of onions, not fried or grilled. McD's or BK burgers are just as grey on the inside. And steamed White Castles may actually be the healthier option since frying and grilling of beef is known to form carcinogenic compounds. Given a choice, I'd still chose a slider over McDonald's, BK, or Wendys.


Posted: May 29th, 2012 5:14 PM

I agree, chicken rings are the best! I have had that problem with McD's too, the cold food. I don't go there often but when I do, I always go to the one by corporate in Oakbrook. The food is perfect every time.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 29th, 2012 2:28 PM

@glitter: It shouldn't be. If you have any problems with a specific restaurant, I suggest first talking to the manager. If you're not satisfied please call the national customer service number. We want to ensure that we correct any problems and leave you, our customer, satisfied. 1-800-244-6227.


Posted: May 29th, 2012 2:21 PM

@Dave, chicken rings taste better than McNuggets, IMO. @Patricia, if McD's food doesn't sit around, then why is the food sometimes cold?

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 29th, 2012 1:05 PM

@Lynn, McDonald's food is made to order and you can order it however you want (no ketchup, extra cheese, hold the mayo... The "sitting around" model you reference was phased out in the late 90s. McDonald's has a wide variety of foods from burgers made as you like to great coffees and blended drinks to salads and oatmeal. Also, David, McDonald's Chicken is all white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter. Just want to make sure the right info is out there!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2012 9:58 AM

Gray meat is not unusual at WC, as far as I can tell. The meat is "steamed," not griddle fried, so one would expect no caramelization or browning. I have not had the chicken rings (I'm guessing like McNuggest, right?), but I will try to screw up my courage and give them a shot.


Posted: May 28th, 2012 7:54 PM

Go back and get the chicken rings with honey mustard sauce.As far as the burgers, I have never had anything close to what you described...my order is always correct , very fresh and never any gray meat. As a matter of fact the only thing I don't care for are the fries. As far as your wait, WC makes their burgers to order, unlike McDonalds so you do have to wait. But I would rather wait than have a burger that has been sitting there for who knows how long.

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