This Food is So Good It Lives in a Castle
It’s two a.m., the bars are closed, you’re not tired, and you are hungry. Where do you go?
Glad you asked.
Growing up in Old Bridge, New Jersey, when the bars closed, we went to the Glenwood Diner on Route 9. If you didn’t see your friends earlier in the night, you’d be sure to catch them there. Another draw, besides the anticipation reunion, the all-day breakfast special: three eggs, potatoes (fries with brown gravy for me), toast, and coffee for $1.99. At that price, more than one breakfast was within our budget.
It was also the place our friend Scott would guzzle ketchup straight from the bottle on a dare. Well, to be truthful, he would do it even if no one dared him.
A classmate’s mom was a waitress during these late-night epilogues, so if we didn’t behave ourselves, her threat of “I’m going to tell your parents” carried a realistic amount of weight.
However, the Glenwood Diner, as great as it was, is not the go-to-place I’m am talking about. No. The place I would travel to at two-in-the-morning, where I took my life in my hands just to eat, was ‘White Castle’.
If you ever ate a White Castle burger, you understand. If you never ate White Castle burger, my condolences.
At the end of the night of drinking, the smart move would be to keep as close to home as possible, hence the Glenwood Diner just over a mile from my house. Then again, why to salmon swim upstream? Why do Penguins march? The draw it too strong to resist. There were no White Castles in Old Bridge at that time. The closest was in Rahway (you know, where the prison is).
However, the lure of a White Castle burger was worth the risk. Rahway was not close to Old Bridge. It was easily a half hour drive, which is a marathon at that time of night; considering the amount of alcohol consumed, turned it into an Olympic event.
The secret ingredient of a White Castle burger was not love. It was grease.
Sweet, sweet, grease. It seeped into the bun like a sponge.
The thing with White Castle is you didn’t just buy one burger. White Castle is the COSTCO of fast food; you buy in bulk. My normal order? Fifteen burgers, four large fries, and a chocolate shake.
After the bar closed, I would jump on Route 9 to Route 1 and find myself at White Castle. The prison on my right, White Castle on my left. Walk inside, order twenty burgers, four fries, and chocolate milk shake. My order complete, I pull back on the highway and head home. This is where it gets difficult.
Today, there are Public Service Announcements warning not to text and drive. Hell, that was nothing compared to what I did on my drive home from White Castle.
Back on the highway, I reach in and pull out the first burger, slide it out of the container. After peeling off the top of the bun, I remove the pickle, and toss it into the dark of my car. Did not like pickles. Reach in, grab some fries, and place them on the burger. Return the bun to the burger, then dunk it in the milk shake that is placed between my knees. Two bites later, the burger is gone. Repeat the process.
The bag would be empty by the time I got home. The next day, I’d walk out to my car only to find the pickles stuck to my passenger side window; green alien eyes stared at me from behind the glass.
There was a side effect to the burgers, the grease. A good recommendation was to remain close to a friendly bathroom for the next twenty-four-hours. It was going to get ugly.
The lure of White Castle was not limited to humans.
Came home one night, found my brother, Joe, sitting at our kitchen table. A bag of White Castle burgers within his reach, he pulled out a burger, and ate it. Pulled out a second one, and tossed it to Angelo, his bull mastiff. Angelo’s jowls flapped as he devoured the burger, then waited patiently for his next one. Poor dog, no fries or chocolate shake for him.
After 2 a.m., If Angelo was smart, he would just stay out in the backyard for the next day or so.