Had my first experience with White Castle hamburgers Thursday. Krystals, they're not.
This is another of those many touchstones that determine whether you're a Yankee or not. If you grew up in the North, especially the MidWest, then you grew up on White Castles. If you grew up in the South, then it's Krystals.
Which came first? White Castle was born in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, while Krystal showed up 11 years later in Chattanooga, Tennessee. There's been countless analysis, battles and critiques comparing the two brands over the years, and just like The Civil ..., er., the War Between the States, it's unlikely that one side is going to abandon their loyalties anytime soon.
So with an admitted bias, I'm going to add my hillbilly voice the cacophony of voices comparing the two. First, the venue: I had my White Castles just south of the Port Authority Bus Terminal along 8th Avenue, not the seedy side of Manhattan but definitely not a hub of fine dining either.
The line was long, and when I got to the counter I was faced with a myraid of choices. In addition to hamburgers, cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches, which Krystal has on their menu, I was also faced with a Jalipeno Cheeseburger, a BBQ Pulled Pork White Castle (I wasn't brave or foolhardy enough to try this!), a Fish Sandwich, Cheese Sticks, Clam Sticks and something called "Fish Nibblers." They also, bodaciously enough, had something labeled "Surf and Turf" on the menu. Didn't even want to know what that was!
My bottom line? I ordered two traditional White Castles. They were greasier than Krystals (which is really saying something!) which made the bun soggier. The meat itself was identical to a Krystal's (I assume it's meat. Now I'm not so sure) and the only major flavoring difference was a big one: If you're a White Castle person, apparently you're used to the fact it comes with ketchup. Krystal people know the thing that makes it a Krystal are three things: Onion, pickle and mustard. Not having mustard was a big surprise to the palette, and made the dining experience a little otherworldly.
Want to tell me why White Castle rocks your world, or why Krystals still rule? Cast your vote and make your case by hitting the "Comments" link below.