Castle on the Island

Every time we venture north, part of the pilgrimage is a trip to White Castle. It’s tradition. It’s expected. It’s the crave. No matter the hour, we have to have a case of the steamed delicacies: Filled with grilled onions, salty sliced pickles, a thin, holey square patty, and wrapped in an ultra soft bun. They are heavenly miniature burgers that wreck the digestive system within hours of consumption. Perfect for a road trip, right? The building exterior never changes.

Our favorite restaurant sits on the edge of the mall complex as a long standing monument amoung relics. The large indoor flea market is gone. The circular restaurant (a diner turned hot dog spot turned breakfast joint) with the slated metal roof that peaked once sat next door, but is now an oddly architectural bank. And “for lease” signs decorate empty buildings that once lured music-lovers, savvy shoppers, and trendy teens to the area. 

The seagulls still hover overhead. The gas station still neighbors the drive thru exit. And Planned Parenthood still beckons for clients no matter the situation. Inside, the few tables and chairs resemble the originals. Black and white photos display the evolution of the chain. 

But the menu is different. It’s trying to appeal to health conscious eaters while still satisfying cravers. And it’s playing on the seasonal trends. (Turkey cranberry slider and sweet potatoe fries, anyone?) Chi, ever-daring, asked for a Veggie burger – depicted on posters as a meatless patty made of peas, carrots and broccoli. It arrived disguised as a Castle. One bite, however, revealed a dry patty with orange and various green-colored vegetable clumps. Innovation fail. 

Circular chicken rings served in piece count sacks. Onion rings. Chicken sliders. Breakfast served all day (waffle on bun, yum). 

We stood looking at the menu – clear foreigners. The poor teenager behind the counter tried to mask his impatience as I located the original sliders on the menu board. Mom and I debated whether we wanted fries, or rings with that. Is a crave case of 30 enough to cross state lines with? Are we sharing? 

These burgers- add cheese for a quarter each – warrant verbal utterances of absolute delight. Nom nom nom. It turns out Ri doesn’t care for White Castles. I’ve decided she’s not one of us.

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