AHT's Tri-State correspondent Nick Solares has done an amazing job covering the (unfortunately) declining state of long-established slider joints in Northern New Jersey. In his guide to 11 slider destinations, read about the ones he's tried, plus a few places that have already closed.

2009-09-02-NJsliders.jpg

[Photographs: Nick Solares]


Follow A Hamburger Today on Twitter and/or FacebookFollow @ahamburgertoday on Twitter »
Like A Hamburger Today on Facebook »

At one time all hamburgers were sliders and vice versa. Long before burgers became supersized, and anything (chicken, pork, seafood, even vegetables) in an undersized bun instantly became a slider, a distinct technique for preparation was established along with a specific ethos: fresh, clean food at a fair price, prepared quickly.

As the interstate highway system expanded, the hamburger grew along with it, both in popularity—attaining the status of a national dish—and in physical proportion, growing from under two ounces to over half a pound or more in size. The slider, born of austerity, gave way to larger and larger hamburgers, engorged with the cheap beef of the post-World War II boom and designed to satiate America's increasing appetite.

The slider never really went away—the White Castle chain (originator of the slider and thus the originator of the modern hamburger) along with the similar Krystal chain continues to sell sliders across many states. But the blueprint that White Castle devised—franchising, uniform branding, a definitive "system" of food preparation—found true success in the hands of subsequent hamburger entrepreneurs starting with Ray Kroc. The slider just became eclipsed by burgers with larger diameters.

Before this, however, White Castle spawned a slew of clones, usually with either the word "white" (White Diamond, White Rose, White Tower, White Manna) or at least with a word somewhat evocative of buildings made of stone (Blue Castle, Blue Tower) in the name. A fair number of these mini chains continue to survive in Northern New Jersey, some dating back to the 1940s. Although they are all now independently operated, the names have remained unchanged. There are three White Diamonds, three White Rose Systems, and two White Mannas (with a slight variation in the spelling), all within a few miles of each other.

How Sliders are Made

2007-07-31White-Rose-System-of-Linden--griddle.jpg

All these restaurants serve fresh, never frozen, griddle steamed beef on either generic white hamburger buns or, in the case of White Manna, potato rolls. The method of preparation, despite some variance in ingredients (the way the onions are apportioned, for example) is constant: Small two-ounce (or smaller) cubes of beef are mashed on to a flat top griddle, and onions (either finely chopped into tiny cubes or thinly sliced into delicate ribbons) are pressed into the top of the sizzling patty, which ends up on the bottom when the burger is flipped. If cheese is ordered, it is applied as soon as the patty is flipped, and the bun—top half first, bottom portion placed on top—covers the onion-beef-cheese stack.

When the burger is done the whole stack is lifted from the griddle and the bottom half of the bun is moved from the top and placed on the bottom. The result is molten cheese, a patty that despite being cooked through is moist and perfumed with the scent of onion, and a bun that is airy and pillow soft—literally steamed in a beef and onion au jus.

Here is an admittedly incomplete guide to the state of sliders in Northern New Jersey. I have included links to relevant reviews and intend to visit the places I have yet to try so I can update this guide. Any tips on places not listed or updated information on those that are will be most welcome. Please leave a comment here or email me directly at nick@ahamburgertoday.com.

Slider Map

Click to enlarge map

White Mana (Jersey City)

20080616wmanafacade.jpg

[Review from June 17, 2008]

The oldest of the remaining slider restaurants in Northern Jersey is White Mana in Jersey City. It dates back to 1946 at its current location, but actually existed since 1939 when it was located at the World's Fair, making it not only one of the Garden State's oldest hamburgers spots, but also the Big Apple's. Several White Mannas opened up (note the original spelling; a sign maker left off one "n" in the 1970s and the name stuck), but all save for one other, in Hackensack, are now closed.

Certainly the historical significance of the J.C. location should make it a destination for any aficionado of burgers and Americana if you are in the area. White Mana's distinctive octagonal building is quite unique and while it is hardly in pristine form, it nonetheless has its own particularly gritty charm.

White Mana

470 Tonnele Avenue, Jersey City NJ 07307 (map)
201-963-1441
Open 24/7

White Manna (Hackensack)

20080616wmannagriddle.jpg

[Review from June 17, 2008]

Despite being the newer of the Manna restaurants, White Manna in Hackensack is far more celebrated and busier. While the Jersey City location survives because of long business hours and a steady stream of truckers, locals, and late night drunks, White Manna is a destination hamburger joint with long lines and shorter business hours than most slider emporiums. Featured in books and television programs, White Manna was even invited to participate in Rachael Ray's Burger Bash.

White Manna

358 River Street, Hackensack NJ 07601 (map)
201-342-0914
Mon. to Sat., 8:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

White Rose System (Highland Park)

2009-09-04-slidersNJWRR.jpg

[Review from July 28, 2008]

The original White Rose System location in Highland Park was founded by brothers Robert and Jack Hemmings and their cousin Jim Hemmings back in the 1950s. In the early 1970s the trio parted company, with Jim retaining the original location and Jack and Bob opening their own restaurants in Linden and Roselle Park, respectively. The three restaurants now operate independently and are no longer owned by the Hemmings. Bob, the last Hemming to own a White Rose, sold the Roselle location three years ago.

While I prefer smaller sliders on white buns I can appreciate the White Rose System's variation on the theme. The place has so much history that it should be designated as a landmark at this point, as should most all of the slider restaurants and vintage diners that dot the New Jersey landscape. They may be antiquated, anachronisms even, but they are important parts of our history.

White Rose System (Highland Park)

154 Woodbridge Avenue, Highland Park NJ 08904 (map)
732-777-1881
whiterosehamburgers.com
Open 24/6; closed from 2 p.m. Sun. until 6 a.m. Mon.

White Rose System (Linden)

2009-09-04-slidersNJWRRLinden.jpg

[Review from September 1, 2009]

The burger is a pure classic, the molten cheese and slightly charred onions providing the perfect accompaniment to the tender beef. Despite being cooked through and having a crisp crust, the beef is juicy and flavorful. A wonderfully generic white squishy bun is steamed through and perfumed with the aroma of onions.

White Rose System (Linden)

1301 East Elizabeth Ave, Linden NJ 07036 (map)
908-486-9651
Mon. to Sat., 5 a.m. - 4 p.m.

White Rose System (Roselle)

2009-09-04-sliderNJWR.jpg

[Review from August 11, 2009]

You can order a double for a better ratio, but I sort of like the simplicity of the plain hamburger that I ordered. It tasted--well, it tasted like history. It is what a factory worker tasted when he took his lunch break from one of the countless factories (now closed) that proliferated in New Jersey when it was the manufacturing epicenter of the Northeast. It is what adolescents teens ate, piled into a '57 Chevy, on the way to the City. It is the taste of mid-century America.

White Rose System (Roselle)

201 E 1st Avenue, Roselle NJ 07203 (map)
908-241-9639
Open 24/7

White Diamond

2009-09-02-NJslidersWDClark.jpg

[Review from July 21, 2009]

The beef itself is fresh and has a hearty taste. It is infused with the flavor of the onions that are cooked with it. The onions become more charred than they do at other slider restaurants, and when they mix with the cheese become a gooey, molten mass that perfectly compliments the burger.

White Diamond (Clark)

1207 Raritan Road, Clark NJ 07066 (map)
732-574-8053
Open 24/7

Fern's White Diamond

2009-09-04-slidersNJverns.jpg

I have attempted a couple of visits to Fern's but always seem to find it closed although they are open for business.

Fern's White Diamond

1208 1/2 E Grand Street, Elizabeth NJ 07201 (map)
908-352-8555

White Diamond (Linden)

2009-09-04-sliderNJWD.jpg

[Review from September 1, 2009; News of its closing]

Although it recently closed, I have included White Diamond of Linden here because there is a chance it will soon reopen under new management.

This is a tragic loss for the hamburger aficionado, as White Diamond was one of the last remaining vestiges of the golden age of the slider and was quite possibly the genre's highest expression.

White Diamond (Linden)

510 East Saint George Avenue, Linden NJ 07036 (map)
908-925-1000
Currently closed

Better Burger

2009-09-02-NJbetter-burger.jpg

Located in Linden, Better Burger was once either a White Diamond or a White Rose System, but the name was changed when it became independent. The business appears to be open although I have not found it so on a couple of visits.

Better Burger

1601 W Blancke Street, Linden NJ 07036 (map)
908-862-6128

Blue Castle

2009-09-04-slidersNJbluecastle.jpg

The Blue Castle shuttered back in 2006 when long time owner James "Jimmy" Francis Donnelly closed the doors of the circa 1944 luncheonette due to poor health. The business was offered for sale, but the changing demographics—both cultural and economic—of Passaic insured that there were no takers.

White Circle

2009-09-04-slidersNJwcircle.jpg

Another shuttered slider restaurant was the White Circle in Bloomfield. I took these pictures back in 2006; the current picture on street view of Google Maps shows that the building has been torn down.

Comments

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: