Did I love it? Sure. Then again, I love White Castle. No burger snoberry here.
Technically, White Manna isn't a chain because it's not affiliated with the Jersey City location with the missing N, White Mana. Close enough for me, though.
Perhaps to my detriment, I’ve never been one of those single-minded bloggers who can focus clearly on passions like pizza or hating cilantro. In this case, I’m talking about burgers, the everyman foodstuff of the moment.
Recently my attention has been drawn to Nick Solares’ New Jersey slider posts on A Hamburger Today not because I’m slider-crazed but because I’m in this part of that state, specifically Linden, at least once a month if not more getting my share of mall culture and classic late 20th century chains. And I’d never paid any mind to these still thriving (well, some of them—the Linden White Diamond closed right after I read about it) relics I drive by on a regular basis.
White Rose System in Roselle was a bust because I became inexplicably car sick on the way there and couldn’t appreciate my full-sized ketchup-heavy kaiser roll slider (slider doesn’t equal mini burger, it is specific to the griddle steaming process) and crinkle cut fries, and these places almost always serve crinkle cuts.
The following Saturday on the tail end of an unusally burger-filled week (Thursday I had a cheeseburger at Waterfront Ale House—they’ve always done right by me but on this occasion by medium-rare came out medium-well. Maybe that’s why I forget my uneaten half in the car overnight and didn’t even feel pain when I tossed it in the trash) we decided to try the no-secret-to-anyone (heck, Guy Fieri’s graced the compact red-and-silver diner with his outsize presence) White Manna in Hackensack, a little further north than my usual stomping grounds.
Two seats opened up at the counter after we arrived so we weren’t relegated to the midget seats in the window. I know Americans have grown since the ’40s, but a whole foot? This was the perfect spot for viewing the cooking procedure, which takes a little longer than you might think. Compared to McDonald’s (I was going to say White Castle to be more apples to apples but a person could go gray waiting for a combo there) this is not really fast food. It can take ten minutes for the naked balls of meat to make it from the right side of the crammed griddle to the left, potato roll on top, cheese melted, steamed through and through.
The finished product is a bit more substantial than a White Castle slider, and the meat’s texture is less baby food mushy. If you order yours to stay you add you own pickles, ketchup and/or mustard. The only off part to me were the onions, which are thinly cut rings instead of chopped bits. There’s no way to take a bite without a strand or two of onions pulling out while you try to gnaw free.
Every other fry was cooked a shade beyond golden, which was just right. There’s nothing worse than pale mealy frozen fries.
White Manna * 358 River St., Hackensack, NJ