I stopped in New Jersey for the White Rose System in Roselle and White Rose Diner in Linden. My fundamental mistake was not going for the trifecta and hitting up the original White Rose Hamburgers location at 154 Woodbridge Avenue in Highland Park, NJ.
We were driving from Philadelphia to Boston, and a stop in New Jersey was not in the original plans. If this had been a planned stop, the ideal itinerary would be Highland Park, Linden, and then Roselle; if you were heading north, of course.
Burger fans have tried to hard-sell me on White Manna in Hackensack, but I’ve had my heart set on White Rose Diner since I saw owner Rich Belfer on George Motz’s Burger Land.
Plus, I ate enough Jersey Dawg for ten people, and they were patterned after White Manna.
Some White Rose System History
Before we dive into the history of the White Rose System, let’s quickly dissect the name.
Two parts of the name, White and System, come directly from the grandaddy of burger and slider joints, White Castle System. However, the White Castle System predates White Rose by 36 years.
The word white was chosen to represent cleanliness. At the time, Sinclair’s The Jungle had cast a black eye on the meat industry, so they dug in their shoes and changed folks’ thoughts on ground meat and food handling by operating right in front of their eyes, with no smoke and mirrors.
The system refers to the process used to operate the restaurant efficiently. According to one of the daughters of the founders, the White Rose name came from a canned food brand that was popular at the time.
White Rose System is now Open for Business
The first White Rose System opened at 154 Woodbridge Avenue in Highland Park on September 5th, 1957. Brothers Bobby and Jack Hemmings, along with their cousin Jimmy Hemmings were the founders of the White Rose System.
The original building in Highland Park was a brick house. Then, in 1972, a more formal diner was installed in the empty lot next door.
Later, Jack would open two White Rose Systems in Linden, followed by his brother’s location in Roselle, leaving Jimmy as the sole owner of the Highland Park restaurant.
There have been a few more White Rose locales, including one in Clark (which became a White Diamond) and another in New Brunswick, which only lasted a few years.
All three White Rose restaurants have different owners and names. They go by White Rose Diner in Linden, White Rose Hamburgers in Highland Park, and White Rose System in Roselle.
White Rose System in Roselle, New Jersey
Fred was driving, so I googled White Rose, copied the address, and pasted it on Waze. When we arrived, it looked different than I had imagined, but it didn’t matter; I was ecstatic to be inside finally.
After taking a seat at the counter, I surveyed the menu and zeroed in on the two small hamburger special. As much as I would have liked a chocolate shake, my road stomach tells me I better not even consider that option.
After the waitress drops off my burgers, the back of her shirt catches my eye. It said White Rose Roselle, not Linden; whoopsie.
The burgers were solid but didn’t have the extra oomph that George Motz had mentioned. After that, we had to get going since we had a pressing late lunch date with the Vulgar Chef at the White Hut in West Springfield.
I’m texting George Motz the pics when I tell him about my dummy move. We had just got on I-95 when he demanded that we turn around and hit up the White Rose Diner in Linden.
White Rose Diner in Linden, New Jersey
I tell George we’re in a hurry, so it’s going to be a quick visit. He called White Rose Diner owner Rich Belfer to let him know we were grabbin’ a few sliders to go.
The sliders (which are 75/25 steak trimmings smash burgers) are either single (1 – a two-ounce ball of beef) or double (2 – two ounce balls). I had pork roll on my mind, but it never came out of my mouth.
I asked for two doubles, one for me and another for Fred. Rich misunderstood and made four sliders, not that we minded.
We watch him smash the double balls and then drop a handful of onions pressed into the meat. Once they’re flipped, the American cheese comes, followed by the top and bottoms buns on top so they can get an onion steaming.
The pickles come on the side.
One bite in, and I’m transported to the first time I saw these beauties on Burger Land. They were everything I’d hoped for and more. The onions, the steamed squishy buns, and a happy Burger Beast made for a great stop.
Burger history talk ensues with Rich for a bit, and then take two of the four burgers.
Marcela’s been waiting patiently in the BEASTmobile for us so we can head out. She and I toast sliders and enjoy the little fellas as Fred pulls back onto I-95.