The little White Castle Slider
hamburger has long been associated with late-night snacking and after-drinking indulgence. The cast of Saturday Night Fever acted the fool
after a night of clubbing. Harold and Kumar
's epic pilgrimage to satisfy the munchies after getting high on marijuana
is well known to the stoner
populous . But for those who observe vegetarian
diets and embark in pursuit of these inebriated pleasures amongst a crew of such merry gentlemen, a trip to White Castle offers only grim alternatives, especially for those who have indulged in the Original Slider experience in the past.
There in the kitchen, displayed behind glass partitions for the customer to delight upon, are the silver grills upon which those thin pink patties, each with their five perforated holes not unlike the "five" of gambling dice, are covered to grill under a bed of shredded onions. These now steam under gleaming metal covers until the meat and onions have achieved a married union of perfection and the holes have disappeared! A sharp and bold brown Dusseldorf-style mustard is applied and then the little burger is assembled bun top first, so as to become soft and moist in the beefy onion steam, and then placed in little paper carriers before devoured in a scant bite or three.
But woe to the poor vegetarian, for the White Castle french fries are unsatisfying bland and salt-less, and their onion rings are of sub-restaurant quality. Yet, salvation for such wretches has finally been delivered! Days before the beginning of 2015, White Castle launched the Veggie Slider!
On New Year's Day, I drove the fifteen minutes to the intersection of North Avenue and County Farm Road in Bloomingdale, Illinois, to assess this latest of few vegetarian offerings to the American fast food landscape. The Veggie Slider is offered with one of three choices of sauces: sweet Thai, honey mustard and ranch. I don't like ranch dressing so I dismissed these. I also wanted to know what the Veggie Patty would taste like compared to the original Slider, adorned with grilled onions and Dusseldorf mustard. I ordered two of these, two with the sweet Thai sauce and two with the honey mustard.
The wait was substantial, even at noon with few other patrons. White Castle is not really known for its promptness in delivery compared to its competitors such as McDonald's and Taco Bell. The server apologized for the excessive delay in preparing the Veggie Sliders and offered me a free small drink in compensation. Soon enough, though, I returned back home with my six sandwiches and a Topo Chico mineral water to conduct my assessment.
The Dr. Praeger veggie patty.
White Castle has partnered with Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods for the patty. It consists of, "carrots, onions, string beans, soybeans, zucchini, peas, broccoli, corn, spinach, red pepper, garlic and parsley. [ 1] " Visually, I see lots of green which has been nicely and evenly browned, little chunks of carrots, bell pepper, a couple of baby limas, a kernel of corn here and there.
I have eaten other veggie patties that have run from choker-dry to cat-food-mushy. The Dr. Praeger patty is satisfyingly moist and has a pleasingly uniform mouth-feel, not greasy, and no particular flavor really stands out. It has subtle and neutral herbiness and the aftertaste has a bit of black pepper. While not really imparting any bold flavor itself, I suspect that the patty's real purpose is to be a neutral canvas for condiments. In this, I approve.
As prepared with condiments.
First up, the Veggie Slider with onions and Dusseldorf mustard. Can the addition of the mustard and grilled onions reproduce the experience of eating a Slider for a converted vegetarian?
My verdict: Partially. The Veggie patty is subtle on flavor and the Dusseldorf mustard overwhelms these subtleties. The Onion is noticeably welcome but secondary. Obviously missing is the steamy beefy mouth-feel of the original Slider. For the diehard original Slider fundamentalist, the Veggie Slider is no substitute. However, if the diner's Slider experience is primarily a vehicle for the Onion and Mustard, the texture of the patty provides a suitable blank canvas and you have yourself a winner!
Next up is the honey mustard sauce. I believe that this is the same sauce available when getting Chicken Rings. This sauce is mildly sweet, creamy and not at all very mustardy. I used to like this sauce on Chicken Rings, as a counter-point for the salty-savory-chicken-fried-ness. However, on the Veggie Slider, the end result is uninspiring.
My verdict: I'll pass on this in the future.
Moving on to the sweet Thai. At first taste, I am not sure what this sauce is supposed to impart. The sauce is moderately sweet, not overwhelmingly so, but when I think Thai and see red pepper, I think HEAT. The heat of this sweet Thai is more of a whisper, even for a Gringo like me. Yet, on second bite, I believe that the mildness of this sauce compliments the mildness of the patty. Unlike with the honey mustard, these combined flavors now seem amplified. Together, they are greater than the sum of their parts.
My verdict: It works! The Veggie Slider with sweet Thai sauce stands up to the test for flavor, uniqueness and pleasure. If you need a more of a kick in the pants, bring your own bottle of Sriracha.
White Castle seems to be very serious in their effort to create a truly vegan option for their menu. The patty and sweet thai sauce is vegan and they are working on creating a vegan bun in the future. Their literature is notable in that it stresses that the preparation of the Veggie Slider to be as removed and separate from the preparation of meat products as possible. [ 1] My final impression is that the Veggie Slider is a viable and tasty option for late-night snacking or for a quick and easy veggie bite to eat. White Castle's press release indicates that the Veggie Slider is a new permanent addition to the menu. However at the restaurant the promotion says, "for a limited time only." I hope it is here to stay.
Nutritional Information 
- Veggie Slider-plain
- Cal: 150
- Fat: 5g
- Carbs: 20g
- Fiber: 3g
- Veggie Slider-sweet thai sauce
- Cal: 160
- Fat: 5g
- Carbs: 23g
- Fiber: 3g
- Veggie Slider-honey mustard
- Cal: 230
- Fat: 12g
- Carbs: 25g
- Fiber: 3g
- Veggie Slider-ranch
- Cal: 270
- Fat: 18g
- Carbs: 21g
- Fiber: 3g