White Castle is the oldest fast-food burger joint in the country, serving up savory, moist cardboard-like mini sandwiches for 90 years. That's right, back when people enjoyed a night of Prohibition-grade bathtub gin, they could wash it down with some sliders.
A sack of chicken rings would sooo hit the spot right now!
In line with tradition, Whitie's has celebrated Valentine's Day every year in a very special way for almost 20 years. Every Feb. 14, White Castles across the country class it up with reserved seating, special decor and even table service.
Most people can appreciate the humor behind taking someone you remotely like to a place where "sack" is a serving size, but who would actually eat inside a White Castle ever, let alone on Valentine's Day?
My boyfriend Jeff and I rolled up to the Newport Whitie's at 7 p.m. Monday, ready to get our crave case on. When he made the reservations, the woman assured him we were "in for a real treat," and that we could expect table cloths, candles, flowers in a take-home vase and even a special digital photo on WhiteCastle.com to remember the night by! Boy, were we pumped.
When we arrived, half of the restaurant was decorated and designated with "Reserved" signs, while the other half remained open for non-festive diners (namely, a few harmless junkies and a vocal group of teens who entered with a polite, "We gotta RSVP for this shit?").
All of the Valentine's diners shared that same "We're totally in on it" smile with us as we sat down. There didn't seem to be any guests taking it seriously — a few couples and two families with little kids who were having a lot of fun. My favorite had to be a group of two older, sophisticated couples who talked about traveling, golf and charity work between bites of sliders. They requested hilarious items like lemon juice for their fish sandwiches.
"You just have to see this adorable photo of the Guatemalan village Tom and I adopted..."
The manager and two servers did a super job but were incredibly nervous the entire time. I thought this was odd since I've seen White Castle employees break up fights and run homeless people off their parking lots — how hard could it be to serve some friendly old people and a few stoned couples? Perhaps I set my expectations too high, but I felt our location was lacking in the atmosphere department. After carefully comparing my experience to a friend's photos from the Northside WC (yes, multiple people I know celebrated this special day at a fast-food restaurant, NBD), I confirmed that I was right. In lieu of table cloths, we had red paper place mats. Our table was the only one with a flower on it and since they ran out of "collapsable vases," each lady in the house was given a red carnation in holiday wrapping paper.
But before you start thinking I'm just a bougie bitch, I will say there were plenty of cute hanging decorations and romantic floating candles on every table. And, damn it, it was the best White Castle meal I have ever eaten. Everything was hot, tasted like something recognizable and came out quickly. The best part (or worst, depending on how you look at it) was that I wasn't in a typical WC haze of alcohol that would cause me wake up surrounded by several mysteriously empty boxes with no recollection of what was eaten. ...Hypothetically speaking, of course. After sampling nearly every WC varietal, we were treated with a complementary dessert. Ice cream sandwiches!
Sufficiently stuffed, we settled out with our waiter (why are tiny burgers more expensive that double stacks?) and headed out. All in all, it was a fun night. If you're already planning for next year, I suggest going in a small group (to share the fun), earlier in the night (before they run out of goodies. I want my Goddamn WC vase.) and ordering the ranch chicken rings. They were succulent. And for those wondering if the absence of alcohol at all changes a body's reaction to White Castle food, I will just say this: slider hangover is a real thing.
Nothing says love like his 'n' hers diarrhea!