There are a lot of stories and several Blogs that can tell you almost everything that happened officially with the annual Bemidji Day at the State Capital. Only one blog can cut through it all to get you to the real meat of the day…or should I say hamburger.
As we approached the State Capital in St. Paul on Tuesday one of my favorite Bemidji business friends told me that he had never ever been to a White Castle before in his life. As a resident growing up within shouting distance of the state capital I knew what fate awaited him. I mentioned to him as we were exiting the bus that a stately White Castle was located only 3 blocks from the beloved center of Minnesota intelligence (State Capital) and I’d buy him lunch if he’d join me. Little did the sucker know …he agreed.
White Castle has a prestigious history. It was founded in 1921 in of all places Wichita, KS. by Walter Anderson and cook Billy Ingram. They are known as the technicians of the fast food industry as they pioneered many of the initiatives still used today. At that time many people had a fear of eating ground beef due to the poor sanitation practices of the meat industry. Anderson invented the white castle building with stainless steel interiors with uniformed employees, all to promote the feeling of cleanliness. They made hamburgers the way Henry Ford produced automobiles…assembly line style. Standardized methods were used so the product tasted the same and was consistent from location to location. Success soon followed the two with new markets such as in Minneapolis (building # 8 in 1936). Frozen beef patties were used instead of ground beef starting in 1949 and 5 holes in the patty were added to facilitate quick and through cooking. A patented “steam grilled” cooking method is used to cook the thin square burgers and the patties are not flipped. They also began he use of centralized bakeries, meat supply plants and warehouses to supply itself. All this way before anything like McDonalds or Burger King was even around.
In 1933 the headquarters of the business was moved to Columbus, OH, where it remains today. The company remains privately held and the restaurants are company owned and not franchised. Because of the refusal to franchise, the chain remains relatively small, with 421 White Castles across the United States. It does have though, the fast food industry’s second –highest sales revenues per store, trailing only McDonalds. In most cases, they are located in major metropolitan areas in the Midwest
While me and my sidekick enjoyed the #6 (10 White Castles, 2 french fry’s and 2 beverages) for $10.50, we reflected on their eclectic menu. From Onion Pedals, to deep fried Clam Strips, White Castle is not your typical hamburger joint. Some interesting facts:
• Coke has been the beverage of choice for White Castle since 1921.
• In 1921 burgers were 5 cents and in 1950 it jumped from 10 cents to 12 cents.
• During WWII White Castle sold hot dogs and eggs due to meat rationing.
• The name White was chosen for “purity” and Castle for strength and stability
• In 1931 White Castle hired a Big 10 food scientist to determine the nutritional value of their product.
• From 1936 to 1972 White Castles had curbside service.
• In 1941 White Castle served over 50 million burgers!!
Needless to say, my friend and I had a great experience in St. Paul. Yeh, the capital part was good, but introducing someone to the White Castle phenomena was the highlight of the trip!! Although they are available frozen in many grocery store cases, they simply do not taste the same as they do steaming in smothered onions. There are many great stories about "sliders", many of them involving partying and late nights (most White Castles are open 24 hours a day). Share with us one of your great White Castle experiences!!