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The History of White Castle

In 1921, Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram and Walter Anderson opened a tiny, white burger shack in Wichita, Kansas that resembled a castle. They purposefully chose colors and fixtures that would give their business a sense of cleanliness. They even had a strict code of appearance for employees that included washed hands, trimmed fingernails, and neatly combed hair. The founders also focused on fast service and consequently, White Castle is often cited as the start of “fast food” in America. The restaurant also helped popularize the hamburger. The founders even went so far as to make health claims about their burgers, which they backed up with a dubious study wherein a medical student named Bernard Flesche agreed to eat nothing but hamburgers for 13 weeks. In 1933, White Castle moved its main headquarters to Columbus, Ohio, and in 1938, the last White Castle in Kansas closed, leaving the restaurant’s home state without a single White Castle location. (Today, White Castle does not franchise and is extremely selective about their locations.) When the restaurant first opened, burgers were made by cooking small balls of ground beef on a grill with diced onions, then squished, flipped, and placed on buns with pickles. Later, the company switched to frozen beef patties and began steaming them rather than grilling them. (They have small holes in them because in 1954, employee Earl Howell suggested punching holes in the burgers to help them cook better.) In the late 2010s, the chain began a partnership with Impossible Foods to create the Impossible slider, which was extremely successful upon its launch. Today, White Castle remains a fan favorite despite only being available in certain locations.

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