The first hamburger chain, satisfying craves for over 75 years. Known for its small, flat, square, five-hole burgers, (called White Castles) and one-of-a-kind steam grilled taste. Over 320 restaurant locations in the midwest and eastern U.S. A similar restaurant is Krystal.

White Castle burgers are also known as sliders, an apt description of how they behave in your GI tract.

You can get them in your grocer's freezer nowadays. Amazingly enough, the freezing process does absolutely nothing to their stomach-twisting properties. Why this is so is left as an exercise for the reader.

In my neck of Maryland, the closest thing we have, or had, was Little Tavern. Same burgers, different name, and now there's only one left as far as I know, in my town of Laurel.

White Castle burgers are about 3 inches on a side, and are cooked by being placed in a steamer, over onions. The onions and meat (it's actually a thin slice of pressed ground beef with holes so it looks like the 5 face of a die) are then placed on a white bread, square bun. They're very cheap (still around 60 cents or so) but that's only because you eat many for a meal.

I only ever ate them when I was a counselor at a summer program, and we would do White Castle runs (double meaning intended) and get sacks of them, eating nine or ten at a sitting, after the kids were in bed, while drinking beer.

They're really good with cheese, pickle and hot sauce.

Some people simply cannot eat them--they have a visceral reaction and can't keep them down. It's not likely because they're spoiled (White Castles are immaculate--they have to be, being all white tile and stainless steel, you'd see any speck of dirt,) but there's something about the steaming process that makes the meat unappetizing to some.

Most White Castles (in New Jersey anyway) are open 24 hours so you can get your fix anytime.

White Castle is the name of an entertaining card game suitable for any number of people, and ideal for any sort of casual gaming session. It is somewhat similar to Asshole without some of the restrictions on play and with a few interesting twists. It's a lot of fun to play, not really very complicated, but with just enough room for strategy, especially towards the endgame to make it enjoyable. The list of rules looks lengthy, but the game is actually rather straightforward.

White Castle

Equipment needed

  • 1 or more complete decks of cards. One deck is probably sufficient for five or six people; more decks allow more players and a longer game.
  • Two or more players

Rules of the game

Setup

  1. Dealer shuffles thoroughly and deals three cards to each player, face down. No player is to look at these cards. Each player should arrange these cards before him, side by side.
  2. Dealer deals six additional cards to each player. The players may take these cards and look at them.
  3. Players should take their three best cards and place them, face up, in front of them, one atop each of the face-down cards previously dealt. The best cards in the game are 2 and 10, which are wild cards (behaviors described below), followed by Ace, King, Queen, etc, with 3 being the weakest card. (Players may place cards other than their best in this step, but it usually makes the most sense towards the end of the game to have strong cards available in the face-up positions.) The remaining three cards compose the player's starting hand.
  4. Any remaining cards are placed next to the play area in a stack, face down. This stack forms the draw pile, from which players draw new cards.

Play

  • The player to the left of the dealer leads by playing a card face up to the play area. Play proceeds to the left.
  • A basic play requires the player to match or beat the card at the top of the play pile (only number is considered; suit is irrelevant). Every time a player plays a card, if he has fewer than three cards in his hand, he must draw cards from the draw pile until he once again has three cards in his hand.
  • If a player beats the card at the top of the play pile, play proceeds to the left. If the player matches the card at the top of the play pile, the next player is skipped and play proceeds to the left of the skipped player.
  • A player must play if it is possible for him to do so.
  • If a player cannot match or beat the card at the top of the play pile, he must pick up the entire play pile and add it to his hand. In this case, the player's turn ends, and the player to the left leads.
  • If a player has two or more of the same card in his hand, he may play the multiple cards as though they were a single card.
  • If, when replenishing his hand from the draw pile, a player draws a card that is of the same value as the card he has just played, he may play his newly drawn card atop his already-played card, as though he played doubles originally. This action is never mandatory. This process may be repeated if another matching card is drawn from the draw pile. The player should end his turn with at least three cards in his hand, however, as long as the draw pile is still available (see below).
  • Wild cards: 10 and 2 are wild cards. The cards have different behaviors: If a player plays a 10, he immediately takes another turn, playing the card of his choice on top of the 10. If a player plays a 2, all cards in the play pile are discarded and are taken out of the game forever. The player who played the 2 may play again, leading with the card of his choice.
  • If, at any time, four of the same card appear at the top of the play pile in a row, the entire play pile is discarded and the player who played the fourth card may play again, leading with the card of his choice. In this situation it does not matter how it came to be that four of the same card were together--whether two sequential turns both played doubles of the same card, or a single and a triple, or if one player played all four of the same card (etc.). Note that in this instance, any turns that would have been skipped due to matching cards being played are no longer skipped.
  • Eventually the draw pile will be depleted, as players are replenishing their hands whenever they have fewer than three cards. When the draw pile is depleted, play proceeds normally, with the exception that players no longer draw to replenish their hands.
  • After the draw pile is depleted, if a player's hand is empty, he may then play any of the three face-up cards that are laid out before him. If the player cannot match or beat the last card from his face-up cards, he must pick up the play pile and then empty his hand once again before returning to playing the cards that are laid before him.
  • Once a player's hand is empty and all three face-up cards are used, the player may play the face-down cards. The player must choose one of the face-down cards and play it without looking at the card. If it turns out that the player has matched or beaten the last card, all is good. If not, the player must pick up the play pile, including the card he just played. (It is important that the player play the card openly so that in case he does not beat the current card, others know what he has in his hand.)
  • The first player to empty his hand and successfully play all of the cards laid before him is the winner. Afterwards, remaining players may continue to play in order to determine second, third, fourth, etc., place.

That's it! It's really not that complicated, despite the lengthiness of this writeup.

(Why is this game called White Castle? I have no clue. But that was the name I learned for it when I learned the game, so that is how I introduce it here.)

Today the name is synonymous with small, greasy microwave burgers, but it wasn’t always so. When it was founded in 1921, the White Castle restaurant was a symbol of cleanliness and propriety. Hamburgers, which first gained popularity during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, had become anathema by 1910 following the publication of Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle.

That book, which shed light on the deplorable and unwholesome conditions in the Chicago meatpacking industry, led to a sharp decline in public demand for ground beef and other processed beef products. Indeed, after the book came out, meat sales dropped by more than half. There seemed to be little desire for such food products when, at least according to Sinclair, the ground beef in your hamburger might well contain the processed remains of slaughterhouse employees, as well.

Enter Billy Ingram, with an inspired solution. His idea? Bring the customers back to the hamburger by cleaning up its image. With an initial investment of $700, he built a restaurant where the beef was ground up in full view, so each customer could see exactly what he was eating. The first White Castle restaurant had a bar with five stools, and was painted white inside and out to project an image of cleanliness. The name of the restaurant was chosen to send the same message -- “White” for purity, and “Castle” for strength and permanence. The castle-like design of the restaurant’s exterior was even chosen to echo the Chicago Water Tower, a national symbol of endurance after it survived the Chicago Fire of 1871.

Declaring that “the age of the greasy hamburger has passed,” Ingram set out to bring the customers back. The restaurant was manned with a well-groomed and polite wait staff and cook. A clean-up man was added, whose sole job was to scrub the utensils and interior of the restaurant all day long. Each employee –- all male, at first –- was given a clear and strict set of rules to follow:

  1. Cap should cover hair.< /li>

  2. Keep hair trimmed.< /li>
  3. Be ready to make suggestions.< /li>
  4. Have clean shave.< /li>
  5. Be prepared to speak pleasantly.< /li>
  6. Correct bad breath.< /li>
  7. Get rid of chewing gum.< /li>
  8. Wear clean collar.< /li>
  9. Be sure bowtie is not frayed or dirty.< /li>
  10. Wear clean shirt.< /li>
  11. Button all shirt buttons.< /li>
  12. No body odor.< /li>
  13. Fold shirt neatly.< /li>
  14. Fasten apron neatly.< /li>
  15. Have shirt neatly tucked in trousers.< /li>
  16. No patches in trouser seat.< /li>
  17. No wrist watch.< /li>
  18. No flashy jewelry.< /li>
  19. Wash hands.< /li>
  20. Clean fingernails.< /li>

Since then, the name may have become associated with microwave burgers, and the rules may have gone by the wayside, but White Castle made its start as a bastion of purity, a surprising notion for many customers today.

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