Despite wrapping halfway around the building at 7:30 when we arrived, the roughly 60-person line outside the Oinkster last night moved incredibly quickly. It appears as if their “Slow Fast Food” thesis will be out the door this week, as the staff was whizzing about at record speeds, all wielding armfuls of individually sleeved little cheeseburgers. Monday’s tribute was to the standard fare at White Castle, which is to some a well established chain of dingy fast food joints liberally scattered across the North East, and to the rest a particularly trouble-prone comedic duos’ utopian objective, but in any case offers a respectable meal for what they are. White Castle definitely has a flag in a small corner of my heart, not because the food is that great but because I used to intern across the street from one in New York that was located next door to a methadone clinic. The phrase “never a dull moment” is not exactly appropriate in describing this particular location’s ambiance and specifically clientele, but there was certainly never a moment that lacked intrigue in any of my visits. The White Castle burger chain-wide is extremely consistent (aspiring ex-heroin addicts aside), likely due in no small part to the fact that their burgers are produced in factories long before anyone ever orders them, but they can and do claim a pretty unique flavor.
In order to create a remotely accurate doppelganger to the White Castle slider, the freeze-dried reconstituted and grilled at some point Astronaut onions (I have no clue how they make them, but that seems like a reasonable guess) have to be in the mix, and Oinkster NAILED it. That benchmark White Castle onion flavor was spot on, as was their texture and appearance. The patties weighed in at 2.5 ounces, and were steamed (as are White Castle patties), making for a thoroughly moist slider top to bottom, though 2.5 ounces has got to be 3 times the size of the original. Oinkster’s patty also still tasted like fresh delicious beef, which White Castle cannot claim. A couple thick, bright dill chips and a couple slices of American cheese topped each slider in addition to those magic mystery onions, as well as a conservative slather of onion mayo. The buns texture was light and fluffy, much like the original but discernably not steamed (and for the better). Oinkster’s sliders were gone in about 4 bites each, but unlike White Castle, two of them will leave you feeling fairly satisfied.
As I suspect will be the case with several if not all of the tribute burgers scheduled for the remainder of the week, the Red Castle Slider comes across less as a knock-off than an aspiration. White Castle does their thing, and they do it well, but once The Oinkster’s quality standards are applied to the original formula it becomes easy to forget ones roots. What Castle? Exactly.