Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like Old Times in New Jersey

I know that the last few days are supposed to be all about turkey, and believe me, I had my fair share of Thanksgiving grub in the last 96 hours. What really had me in food heaven over the weekend, however, was my quick jaunt to the Garden State. I took the opportunity to visit with one of my oldest friends on Saturday while Inky was busy getting her hair did. While our original plan called for going to Tastee Subs (where I could get my favorite sub in the world, the #13) I called a last second audible. We made our way up to Highland Park and descended on the genius that is The White Rose System.

When I told XL where we had gone, he was understandably confused. Since we met at College in the White Rose City he assumed that I was back in York, not in the Jerz. This burger stand has been using the name White Rose for over 50 years now, and it has nothing to do with York England or Pennsylvania... or roses for that matter. It is an allusion to slider style burgers, such as those at White Castle, which was the first chain restaurant in the world. There are a ton of different White Blank burger places all over the place in the style of White Castle, like White Diamond, White Tower and White Rose.

I ordered a Cali Bacon Cheeseburger, onion rings and a Pepsi. I was a bit shocked when it took a minute and a half for the grill man to put my plate up on the counter. One of the things that White Rose was always famous for was the astounding speed in which they fill their orders. My delay was due to my request for bacon, which they don't have cooking on the griddle at all times, otherwise I would have had my burger by the time I finished saying Pepsi.

The burger was just as great as I remember it from when I was growing up. They are prepared slider style, which means that they are cooking on the griddle with a bed of onions and topped with the bun. All the cook has to do is pick up the burger with his spatula, place the bottom bun on the plate and then put the upper two thirds on it to complete assembly. Presto: a genius burger for less than you pay at McDonalds or BK. A regular hamburger at White Rose sets you back $2.40 but is far bigger than what you would get at a chain.

Not only is the burger perfect, but the onion rings are remarkably crispy. In all my $10 meal was just what I was looking for on my return visit to Central NJ. While my buddy and I enjoyed sitting on our stools at White Rose as we talked, we figured there was a better place to while away the hours talking. A diner. So we headed up RT 1 to the Menlo Park Diner where I had the most amazing piece of layer cake as we talked.

It was really great to catch up with an old friend and be back in the town I grew up in, but I remembered why I don't live in Jersey anymore. It's not the exorbitant cost of living, the stifling traffic or the fact that my whole family fled the state. No, it's the fact that if I lived there I'd weigh 500 pounds. There are just too many great places to eat, and too many awesome things that you just don't find other places. For example, it was virtually impossible for me to leave the White Rose without getting a Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese to go.

Now that I think about it, I think I left my sun glasses on the counter there. I guess I'll have to drive back and look for them.

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