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3 Reasons White Castle Burgers Really ARE the Most Influential

Rachel Tepper Paley
January 17, 2014

Photo credit: Flickr/soupstance

Time magazine just named White Castle’s square, palm-sized burgers the most influential of all time, and we know you’re confused. White Castle? Really? It beat out offerings from McDonald’s, In-N-Out, Burger King, Umami Burger…even those wacky ramen burgers.

But listen up: We’re talking most influential, not necessarily best-tasting (although this writer confesses she loves those little squares of joy, especially with cheese and pickles.)

Time is right about White Castle, and here’s why:

1. White Castle helped renew the public’s faith in ground beef.

When White Castle came on the scene in 1921, the country was still reeling from unsavory revelations about contaminated ground beef in Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel “The Jungle.” As Time notes, White Castle’s pristine, white facilities—evidence of its emphasis on cleanliness—eased diners’ worries. Without White Castle, America’s love affair with burgers may have never have gotten off the ground.

2. White Castle’s founder invented the hamburger bun.

Before Walt A. Anderson opened the first White Castle, he was a lowly fry cook with big dreams. After designing a standard bun just dense enough to contain the juices of a thin burger patty, he quit and opened up his own shop. The burger scene was never the same again.

3. It inspired a trilogy of films that secured its place in pop culture history.

You think we could finish this article without mentioning the 2004 stoner flick “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” or its two followups? Wrong. The films are full of praise for White Castle’s little burgers, a rarity in an age when fast food and bad food are often synonymous. It’s a stark contrast to the film most closely associated with McDonald’s, the über-critical documentary “Super Size Me.”

The defense rests. Now who’s up for a Crave Case?

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