Saturday, July 2 2022

White Castle loudly wears its “America’s Oldest Fast Food Chain” badge. The brand, which was founded by Billy Ingram in 1921, turned 100 last year, and it was indeed the first American fast food joint to celebrate a centenary. They weren’t shy about leaning on their age, holding so many promotions that it was almost impossible to miss them. Between Party Punch and Birthday Cake on a Stick, the message was clear: White Castle was 100 years old, and they wanted you to know it.

But not all aspects of the brand are broadcast with such pride. As you can imagine, a century is enough to amass quite a few stories, and maybe a few secrets.

For more fast food news, see 8 worst fast food burgers to avoid right now.

Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock

Such an old-fashioned fast-food chain may conjure up images of traditional cooking methods, like people wearing aprons and hairnets sifting chips through oil. But in reality, despite White Castle’s tenure as America’s oldest fast food brand, they’ve started using a rather futuristic frying technique: for the past few years, robots have been doing the work.

white castle
White Castle / Facebook

What’s misleading about White Castle’s food is that due to its small size, it appears to be lower in calories or more nutritious than comparable options. However, when our nutrition experts analyzed the menu, they did not find the Château’s creations to be more nutritious, and in fact, their items are often advertised as being avoidable.

white castle sliders
White Castle / Facebook

There’s a reason the chain doesn’t advertise this incredible frugality: If a pound of beef goes this far, even at 72 cents a slider, the company is likely making a big profit.

fries
Courtesy of White Castle

The “bag” size is something that is unique to White Castle, and actually makes up for their smaller slider style: a bag order is large – dare we say, oversized? Time and time again, bag-sized sides of White Castle have made our “unhealthiest” lists, from the bag of Hash Round Nibblers to the iconic bag of French fries. Yes, the name may sound innocent enough, but don’t be fooled into thinking that an entire bag is by no means a normal portion.

White castle logo
Shutterstock

We like someone who sticks to what they believe in, but White Castle’s management went to extremes with this one. In 1930, they commissioned the University of Minnesota to conduct a study in which a group of college students ate nothing but White Castle hamburgers and water for thirteen weeks. Thirteen weeks! This was to prove the nutritional value of the burger, and somehow the students actually turned out to be healthy by the end of the study.

impossible white castle slider and fries
White Castle / Facebook

When White Castle embraced the plant-based trend, they undoubtedly thought they were doing something good for customers and the world. However, our reviewer found the Impossible Slider to be definitely disappointing, calling it firm, not chewy enough, and citing a disappointing flavor.

original white castle location
White Castle / Facebook

Certainly not a highlight of White Castle’s history: Billy Ingram, one of the chain’s founders, initially refused to hire women or blacks. He finally changed his ways, but the damage was already done. Some say this is part of the reason McDonald’s was able to overtake White Castle in terms of success, even though the popular chain is far from 100 years old.

Kaley Robert

Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more

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