"The rush to modernity has relegated most of the numerous slider restaurants that at one time dotted the suburban landscape to the scrap heap of history."
Clark White Diamond
1207 Raritan Road, Clark NJ 07066; map); 732-574-8053
Cooking Method: Steam griddled
Short Order: Classic circa 1947 slider emporium serves up timeless hamburgers. Order a double on the white bun for the best effect.
Want Fries with That? Sure, why not? Obviously frozen, nothing to get excited about but at least they cook them to a golden crisp. Avoid the rings; they are those low quality minced onion-filled ones.
Price: Single, $1.30; Double, $2.60
Notes: After the recent closing of White Diamond in Linden, New Jersey, we at AHT encourage everyone out there to SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SLIDERS
The recent closing of White Diamond in Linden, New Jersey, would be tragic if all that was lost was an amazing hamburger. But the closing of the decades-old slider emporium has deeper cultural ramifications. It is indicative of a transient society that has largely forgotten its culinary heritage. The rush to modernity—the acceptance of a rationalized and commoditized fast food industry—has relegated most of the numerous slider restaurants that at one time dotted the suburban landscape to the scrap heap of history. The handful that remain, invariably situated in industrial back roads—the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks"—soldier on unaware that they should have slipped into extinction decades ago. Places like White Mana in Jersey City, White Manna in Hackensack, the three independently operated White Rose Systems (which I will review in the near future) and the Clark White Diamond (that I am about to tell you about) might be hopeless anachronisms, but they produce hamburgers that no national chain can match.
Clark White Diamond dates back to 1947 and is the original in a chain that had at least three outposts in New Jersey, all of which eventually became independently operated. The late, great Linden location closed just last month, and there is also a restaurant in Elizabeth called Vern's White Diamond that I attempted to eat at the same day I ate at Clark White Diamond, but found that they had closed early. To be honest, Vern's looked more like a diner than a dedicated hamburger restaurant, but I will reserve judgment until I eat there. While you can find other dishes at the Clark White Diamond as well, the place still has the feel of a hamburger stand—black and white checkerboard-tiled floor, rows of stools, and a counter flanked by a griddle that turns out steam griddled sliders using fresh beef served on white buns.
I am not going to compare the Clark White Diamond with the dearly departed Linden location since the point would be largely moot, save to say that the last time ate there was probably the high point of my hamburger eating life. This is meaningless to you if you never ate at the Linden location, but you should know that you can come pretty close to the experience at Clark if you order correctly.
The principle problem I find with the Clark location vis-à-vis the way things were done in Linden is that the generic bun is only used on a single, and an inferior kaiser roll is used on the double. A single patty is far too skinny for the bun—a perfect generic white squishy roll—which otherwise goes perfectly with the double patty. I encourage you to order a double that way.
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.
The single patty gets a bit lost on the the plain bun, but I am not a fan of the poppy seeded Kaiser-like roll that the double comes on. It doesn't get nearly as pillow-soft as the white bun, and the crust is a bit too tough and chewy. Despite its problems though, it still trounces the fast food drek out there.
Clark White Diamond is still family owned and operated and continues a proud, but dying tradition of serving fresh griddle steamed burgers. It may not quite measure up to my nostalgia-tinged memory of the White Diamond of Linden, but it is as close as there is and for that I am grateful.
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