While I’ve never eaten at White Manna (358 River Street, Hackensack), I became a giant of theirs through Jersey Dawg. Rob Goodman, Jersey Dawg’s owner, grew up eating them.
He brought his White Manna-inspired sliders to South Florida for a few glorious years. Now that Jersey Dawg is no longer around, it might be time for me to make that long-awaited pilgrimage to White Manna.
The Burger Beast food blog was nearing a year old when I called my old friend David Rojo. He had recently moved back to New Jersey with this wife.
I suggested it might be cool if he did some write-ups about burger joints in his neck of the woods for my site. He wrote about White Castle then told me how much he had wanted to eat at White Manna.
I have a feeling that he went on an off day. Everything about his experience was in keeping with all of my other friends’ visits except for the end part. When he finally tried the food, his observations took a left turn.
Below is his full unedited report.
READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION
My name is David, and I was Burger Beast’s first customer at Oh, the Horror DVD Shoppe (his old indie film store). When he closed the place down, I decided it was time to move on, so I’m now residing in the Garden State.
This brings me to White Manna, a tiny burger joint built in 1946 resting right on the Hackensack River banks in Hackensack, New Jersey. It’s probably worth mentioning that the original White Manna still operates in Jersey City.
I have passed by this place for 3 years, and every time I do, this little burger stand is always packed with people. They even wait outside. I mean, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is; you have to wait to get a burger here.
Expectations are High
My expectations were pretty high because of this, I have to admit. When I walked in, my first impression was that it looked like a miniature diner or maybe something out of Willy Wonka’s Factory.
The phone’s ringing off the hook, and people wanting to know how to get there. There were customers ordering take-out while others chomped on their sliders one at a time.
I ordered a dozen sliders, half with cheese, and all of them with onions, an order of fries, and some soft drinks to go with that. Relax, it wasn’t all for me; I had some company (my wife and her sister).
After a bit of a wait, what I got was quite unexpected, 4 burgers on a plate all squished together. One of them even had a finger indentation left on the bun (it was pressed in fear of the lady who grabbed it from slipping through her grasp). I have never seen a more appetizing collection of meat and buns in my life, to be honest.
I was so happy that I was moments away from sinking my teeth into a New Jersey slider that obtained cult status from its locals and beyond.
So how was it?
Even with all the fresh, local ingredients and the delicious Martin’s Potato Rolls, it was still a disappointment.
The heavenly-looking slider was a bit dry, and the onions were thinly cut. So thin, in fact, that after sitting in the cold awhile, they seemed to have dried up (losing its taste).
The meat lacked flavor unless you had plenty of ketchup and cheese (this burger was hardly palatable). I’m sorry I let you down, folks, but the White Manna let me down too!
I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I think it came to the point where people eat there to say to their grandchildren one day that they did. White Castle is only 2 miles away, and that’s where I’ll be eating my next slider.