Getting What You Crave: White Castle In Louisville
If you are from Louisville, dining at White Castle was probably one of your earliest dining experiences. The classic chain, founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921 and now based in Columbus Ohio, has been a Louisville institution since 1927. It's even likely that, back in the day, your grandparents stopped by early locations on West Broadway, West Liberty, E. Market St., or South Third Street to "buy 'em by the sack."
These square little hamburgers grilled with onions on a steamed bun are considered by Time Magazine to be the most influential burger of all times and to generations of Louisville college students, the most affordable.
Back To St. Matthews' Steaks
No longer five cents each, these little slider burgers, once called "St. Matthews steaks," are now very trendy. A new White Castle restaurant will open in March at 420 Shelbyville Rd. with amenities new to the porcelain clad castle-shaped building that characterizes the restaurant. There will be flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and a kitchen island where patrons can watch their food being made. This will make the 24th White Castle in Louisville.
Though this seems like a far cry from the company's humble roots, the chain has always been ahead of the curve on what people wanted and is known for its innovation. Here are a few interesting facts about the restaurant that has fed us:
- Designed to evoke an image of cleanliness, the buildings were actually white castles with a white porcelain enamel on a steel exterior. As gentrified as the amenities are becoming, the design has stuck over the years.
- Walt A. Anderson, one of the founders, invented the hamburger bun and was among the first to apply assembly-line thinking to sandwich making. He and his partner Edgar Waldo "Billy" A. Ingram developed standard instructions for making their hamburgers that restaurant in the chain used. White Castle is still owned by the Ingrams family, as Ingram bought out Anderson.
- Originally, the hamburgers were made by placing a ball of fresh meat atop a pile of fresh, thinly shredded onion. Once the ball was flipped, the onions would be pressed into the meat and the bottom of the bun was placed on top to allow steam from the burger to permeate the bun. The finish burger was served with a dill pickle, condiments optional. Since 1951, the meat patty has featured five holes for quick, thorough cooking without flipping. Now the meat is frozen, and the onions are dehydrated.
- At one time the company made a virtually everything used to the restaurant including paper hats for the workers and napkins for the consumers. They even had a subsidiary that produced the buildings. About the only thing White Castle didn't do was produce calls.
- One trend the company did not pursue is franchising its restaurants. All restaurants are owned by the privately held company, a conscious decision to keep the company small. Currently, there are over 420 White Castles in the U.S., mostly located in the Midwest and Tennessee, with a few located in the New York metropolitan area. The original Wichita location closed and there are currently no White Castles in the state of Kansas.
- Although you can't get a slider in Kansas City or Denver, you can buy sliders in the frozen food section of local grocery stores throughout the country.
What's On The Menu And Where!
- The classic slider menu is available 24 hours a day, whenever the restaurant is open. The chain also has a breakfast menu, available from midnight through 11 AM. The current menu includes fish and chicken in most locations. The chain tried a new concept based on the Panini grilled sandwiches, soups, and food. In 2012, the Jeffersontown White Castle location was replaced with Decker's, the second location after Lebanon, Tennessee, where the new concept was tried.
- Reflecting the US love affair with the food truck, White Castle again made Louisville the second city after Columbus as the site for launching the CraveMobile. Launched in mid-2013, the truck was first introduced for events such as weddings, but the company will dispatch it to other locations. The customers love the trucks, but White Castle sees them as the strategic marketing tool where they can test new items and potential new sites for restaurants.
Make A Castle Part Of Your History
Whether you personally like White Castle or not, this little restaurant chain is an important part of Louisville history. Based on the past you can be sure that our city will be part of the future of White Castle as well.
If you want more information,
- Click here for an archive of pictures of Louisville White Castle locations
- Click here for the hoopla that surrounded the closing of a historic White Castle at Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway
If you're like me, White Castle is part of your personal history too. Make 2014 the year when you expand your personal history to include buying or selling a castle of your own. Just call me, Jessica Gaines Jarboe at Louisville Gaines Real Estate.
Image source: http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3428870