Care For Some Wine With Your White Castle Sliders?
White Castle is a famous regional hamburger joint started way back in 1921. You can find the little white castle-shaped buildings throughout the midwestern United States as well as New York, and word of White Castle has spread even further in recent years thanks to a stepped up media presence (yes, I'm calling dope comedy "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" a "media presence").
For a chain that isn't exactly national, they're responsible for many industry firsts that gave birth to fast food the way we know it today. In the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair's novel "The Jungle" alerted the public to poor sanitation in the meat packing industry leaving people reluctant to eat ground beef. White Castle was determined to restore the eating public's confidence with gleaming white porcelain enamel exteriors (created to resemble Chicago's Water Tower), and an open stainless steel kitchen where you can still watch your meal being prepared. Back then it was doubtful that the hamburger would hang on as a fast food staple.
White Castle's signature is their small 2.5" square burger cooked on a bed of onions, nicknamed the "slider". There is an equally signature after-effect of eating White Castle (especially after an evening's drinking) that we won't go into here. Young guys will brag about how many "belly bombs" they can down, which was a lot easier back when they were only a nickel a piece.
In recent years, upscale restaurants have caught on to the appeal of little burgers. Many have lifted the concept to create a plate of burger "shooters" (or other sporty jargon these places insist on), leaving White Castle to look for something new to bring people back. Perhaps their focus group included some of the drunks you typically find at White Castle at 2am, because the restaurant is considering offering alcohol.
The chain is experimenting with serving wine at their Lafayette, Indiana location. Legally it does require that the restaurants offer table service, which is a pretty novel idea in a dining room built out of impregnable formica. You can choose from four varieties of wine (ask your server if you can smell the screw-top); a Merlot, Chardonnay, Moscato, and a "sweet red" blend which has been variously described as "sweet" and "red".
If this vino scheme works, it could have far-reaching effects on the entire fast food industry. The dirty little secret in fast food is that there's little profit in the food, the money is all in the beverages. The paper cup your soda is bubbling away in can have more value than the drink itself (hence it being so easy for fast food places to offer free refills - it's literally pennies a cup). Alcoholic beverages means even higher prices & margins for drinks. Other countries already offer beer and wine with fast food, and it's proven to be an excellent profit center.
White Castle is an American classic that has largely remained the same for several generations. It's still a family business. Their early days defined the fast food business in so many ways, and this next step may be another big step for the rest of the industry to follow. I find it terribly funny to try to class up sliders with wine instead of beer (though the toxic after effects of beer & sliders will make it difficult to pass local fire codes), but I hope that it works. White Castle has never been shy of being a little bit odd, and it seems to have worked for them for the better part of a century.
[note: before any of you go accusing us of buzz marketing White Castle, you should know that we've received no compensation for this post - not one lousy Moscato-soaked slider.]