Friday, September 11, 2009

Mana from heaven indeed

Every burger lover in Jersey knows there are two White Mannas- one with one N, and one with two. This is the story of one N, on Tonnelle Ave in Jersey City, a crumbling industrial area not far from the Pulaski Skyway and the Muffler Man statue made famous by the Sopranos. There's a White Castle a half mile from here, but why would you ever go there when White Mana is near?
I told the story of "burger systems" when I reviewed Clark's White Diamond a while back, and the White Mana was the one that debuted at the 1939 World's Fair, demonstrating a quick, sanitary way to sling small burgers en masse in the tiniest of kitchens. And they cook them the same way today, by flattening a meatball of ground round topped with a sprinkle of diced onions on the grill so it cooks quickly, and topping it with the bun so it steams.
The buns are a little on the big side. But for a $1.22 cheeseburger who's complaining? It's tasty, not a potato roll but a perfect slider wallet. A little cheese, and you're done. He made us 7 in the blink of an eye. With salt & pepper, and a side of pickles. For $7.10 you can get 3, large cheese fries, and a drink. Not bad. They also make doubles, and have bacon, but I left that for another time. You can also get ten sliders for ten bucks. But enough of that. How's it taste?
The first bite told me I'd never eat White Castle again, at least in North Jersey. The burger is delicious, good beefy flavor with the sweet tang of the onions and just enough cheese. It's completely covered by the bun, but you sure don't remember tasting the bread. This is the slider to judge them all. I won't predict that this will be my lifetime favorite, but I know I'll measure the rest against it. Seventy years of flipping burgers, and they know how to do it right!
The cheese fries, made with nacho cheese sauce, were excellent as well. The fry oil's youth is proven by the golden crispness of the perfectly sized cuts. The diet sodas- yeah, laugh, but I like my calories from stuff I chew or brew- were a little watery. But the Mana is an experience, a step back in time. Belly up to the counter alongside bikers and other munchers who appreciate the classics. I've been to the double-N Manna years ago, and will return, but I have a feeling this one's the clear winner. I remember waiting a loooong time at the other place. Here they have their system down pat. And enough grill space to meet their needs. The scenery is better in Hackensack, by the river; but sometimes, a good burger is all the scenery you need.

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