Serving Tiny Burgers Since 1921
I had my first White Castle burger in 1975 when I moved to St. Louis. Locals made a big deal about the greasy little burgers that they called "Belly Bombers". Nobody talked about the Castle's history of being the country's first fast food chain.
Posing at the Castle
When Don and I visited St. Louis last April, we had to make a stop. We can buy frozen White Castle burgers in Texas, but not hot ones. The Ingram family still owns the company, since it opened in 1921. They made the decision early on to expand carefully, staying near the company's resoursces... no franchising. There are only a few states, mostly in the midwest, that have the fast food diner. That makes finding one pretty exciting.
White Castle in the Movies & Science
Hypothesis: No self respecting mold would ever grow on a White Castle burger.
The 3 scientists carefully placed one belly bomber in a jar and attempted to remove the oxygen by purging with nitrogen. The mold did indeed refuse to grow, at least for a number of months.
White Palace... White Knight?
About 30 years ago, White Castle was the inspiration for a book and movie starring Susan Sarandon. The plot was a love story that began at a White Castle in St. Louis. However the fast food chain refused the author or film studio the rights to their name, so the title was White Palace. Scenes were shot at a cute little downtown diner, now called White Knight. The diner was unable to get the rights from the film studio to name their diner White Palace, after their brief fame.
Lots of name hoarding!
Ordering Our White Castle Feast
So back to our dining experience... The interior looked a little less shady than I remembered. Don and I still stood out as tourists when we sat down waiting for our order.
About the Food
You don't order one burger. In fact there was a disgusting table nearby that had not been cleared. There was a mountain of at least 30 boxes and only 4 chairs. I decided not to take a photo.
Don and Burger
I'm first to admit, I crave the experience not the food at White Castle!
The Inn was adjacent to the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area, which dates back to the 1600's. That makes Williamsburg Inn just a baby, at almost 80 years. The inn was actually built by John D. Rockefeller Junior. He played a part in the preservation of the historic community.
Southern Country Estate
The place really did look more like an old home than a hotel. The neoclassical exterior, with whitewashed brick and ionic columns had a formal, grand style.
Two doormen opened the beautiful brass doors as we headed inside. The sitting area by the lobby desk felt almost rigidly formal, with chandeliers, drapes and portraits. But there was a man seated in shorts and the staff seemed friendly, so on we went.
The decor reminded me of my Aunt Mary's home. I was always in awe of her lovely house, but I never felt truly comfortable. Don and I wandered in search of the dining room.
In 2001 there was a complete renovation at the inn, so everything did look very fresh and lovely in the sunken dining room. We were greeted warmly and asked our names. I wondered why, because there didn't seem to be a wait.
Our table with a view of the grounds was lovely... even with some golf course renovations going on. White cloth and a white rose... and a bell for service?
Breakfast is Served
Ordinarily I feel uncomfortable in a setting that once served only the rich. And looking around, I'm pretty sure the other diners were inn guests. In fact many greeted the staff like old friends. They had either been staying a long time, or they come back often. But Cecil and our busboy and hostess, were all gracious and made us feel at home.
I had the closest thing I could find to the cookbook recipe... Orange Waffles with Raspberries and Blackberries!
Don went for Corned Beef Hash with Asparagus Toast and Eggs. He's picky about corned beef, so it was nice to see him happy. This was a big treat after our usual traveling breakfast of granola bars!
It was nice having the restaurant relaxed and quiet. We had more time with Cecil and he talked about growing up in Jamaica. He thought it had been about 39 years since he'd been back. He missed it. We tipped well... hoping he can put that towards his travel savings.
Since we learned that the Regency Dining Room was added in more recent years, we tried to find the original dining room. I think this is it.
We found a few other reminders of how the inn must have looked in 1937. The stairway was the original, I'm pretty sure. And I don't think they install water fountains like that anymore. I tried to imagine Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visiting the inn, the year I was born. They must have liked it plenty, since they returned in 2007.
Walking Off Breakfast
What a treat to relax and dine at breakfast, then spend the day walking it off in Colonial Williamsburg. Nice way to extend our dining adventure!
Warm and Cozy Inside
My blurry photo shows how packed the place was by 9. There was quite a bit of serious eating going on.
And quite a few picking up carry outs, as well. There was a lot of movement behind that counter!
There were only about 4 tables and 4 booths, so we were lucky to be seated. Our table was near where the food action was taking place. About 9 employees bustled around near the sizzling grill, cooking, carrying or hollering out orders. The coffee tasted good on a cold morning, but there was only powered creamer. That's okay. Our meal made up for that!
Biscuits and Gravy
I ordered the biscuits and gravy, since that's what everyone raves about! What a surprise to have these heavenly biscuits with a brown, sausage gravy! The non-creamy gravy, with sausage and savory seasonings made me feel I was enjoying a little Thanksgiving, actually. Works for me!
Shrimp and Grits
Don is not a grits kind of guy, but how could he resist. Narobia's gets one of the best ratings for soul food, so he couldn't go wrong. I loved the bites I stole... lots of grilled onion and green pepper, along with shrimp! I just wish the place hadn't been so busy so I could have asked a question or 2. I sure didn't want to slow the place down!
By the time we finished our meal and gave our table over to others, a light snow was falling. It was a fun moment when all the customers and some staff looked out to see the big flakes. I didn't exactly capture the snow in the photo, but it felt like the perfect winter morning for a big breakfast.
The weather grew chilly and few were around the touristy City Market area. The giant ice cream cones didn't lure us in as much as the copper kettle hanging over the door. The idea of candy actually cooking, sounded warm.
Don posed with the colorful candy and we bought some pralines and other goodies and then, we wandered more.
Crystal Beer Parlor
We shivered in the dreary weather and headed towards this old brick building on West Jones.
We had 2 good reasons to give the Crystal Parlor a try. First of all, it was within walking distance of our small hotel. That's a huge plus. And we were told it was a place where locals hang out and that can be a good thing.
It was a Friday when we arrived, so things were already hopping. Obviously a lot of people had come straight from work. It felt a little like the bar in Cheers.
Don and I were able to grab 2 seats at the bar. The red vinyl booths were all taken and the long wooden bar felt welcoming enough.
Beer at the Bar
Don made use of the fact we were at a beer parlor. Most of the people around us were drinking beer, but there was quite a bit of feasting, too. The hamburgers looked wonderful. I learned later, that many consider them the best in Savannah.
I love a bar or restaurant with lots of old photos. One image reminded me of my brother's old cartoon drawings and it gave me a very silly reason to strike up a conversation with the ponytailed man sitting beside me. After he left, a nurse took his seat and we talked about her life in Maine and what it was like to move to the south 15 years ago. It was nice that people were talking with each other and not staring at cell phones for a change.
I went on a little exploring mission after a while and found the Monroe Room, with lots of old photos. Monroe Whitlock and "Smitty" Smith were well loved servers at The Parlor for over 45 years. What does that tell you when a restaurant names a room after an employee? And I also loved this photo of lyricist, Johnny Mercer with the young boy... who looks very much like Don as a kid.
From Low to High
We walked by the corner restaurant a number of times during our stay. The stone path from the river, took us right by the green and white awning each time we headed towards the main road above the bluff.
It was hard not to think of deli meats with a name like Boar's Head, but we were eager to give the place a try.
It was too dark to see the view of the river out the windows, but we were entertained by our bartender and the other guests instead. The couple beside us, told us about recently seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and some other travel stories. We had nothing to top that, so we asked our bartender about some history. As she cupped her hands around a mug of tea, she actually did have quite a bit of history to share.
A Drink and History
One of 3 Rooms
The tavern dining room had a view of the kitchen, but I didn't get a good glimpse of the chef. It was an odd arrangement with tables and captain's chairs that could have come from a 1970's Red Lobster. And then there was the chandelier hanging from exposed beams.
The back room was the coziest, but a large party was filling it for a while. After they departed, we got to roam around and study the view of the river and ballast stone and brick walls.
Don found some decor he liked. Lots of reminders of the ships that once carried the cotton away from Savannah.
So we got to find out if the food was as good as we'd heard. It actually was pretty amazing. Our very sweet server, Daniel gave us lots of suggestions. We ended up with chicken Caesar salad, incredibly rich spinach salad and the most amazing platter of grilled mushrooms.
Great Food & Curious Atmosphere
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.