NJ Dining: White Manna (UPDATED)


Welcome, Anthony Bourdain:No Reservations viewers! I’ve added a number of shots to this post that I took during the filming of “Obsessed”. Enjoy.

White Manna
358 River St, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 342-0914

Fast food is not something I indulge in frequently, and when I do, I tend to prefer the classic Americana kind rather than the big chains. White Castle is an exception, just because of the uniqueness of the product.

If the hours are right, and the moons are properly aligned, and my stomach says “throw your best at me, you son of a bitch!” then I head over to my very favorite Jersey burger place of all — White Manna, on River Street in Hackensack.

 

White Manna as seen in daylight. Photo by “Daniel”, eG Forums

White Manna is a tiny little diner structure that can seat about maybe 15 people, tops. The story goes that the original was built in 1937 prior to the 1939 Worlds Fair exhibition in Flushing, NY, was then used at that event, and then later moved to New Jersey. The Hackensack location is not the original, it was built in 1946.

The “Original” location in Jersey City also serves hamburgers and was started by the original owner of both restaurants, however they are no longer related to each other.

All this historical stuff aside, it’s pretty much acknowledged by everyone who has been to both that the better burgers are at the Hackensack location.

When Tony Bourdain asked me where we should go eat when arranging our interview for No Reservations, I could only think of one place — the tiny little belly bomb joint which has over the last few years probably accrued more web traffic on this blog than any other.

There’s No Reservations at White Manna. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

A view of the interior. Like a sushi bar, the grill area takes center stage, and as you can see, it’s quite tiny. The seating and eating area surrounds it in a U shape. French Fry orders are taken separately and they are cooked in the rear room behind the grill area. White Manna also cooks up some nice breakfast sandwiches too if you get there in the morning.

White Manna attracts all sorts of people from all walks of life. The Hackensack civic building with the courthouse is right across the street, so you get a lot of municipal types and cops eating here as well. Manna is not a late night, 24-hour establishment however — It closes promptly at 9:30PM.

Meatballs made of ground chuck which are to be squashed into mini-hamburgers on the grill. A “Double” is made of a larger meatball than the standard one, and in my opinion it presents the correct meat to bun ratio.

Completed double cheeseburgers with onions. As you can see in the video this is a process that starts with the meatballs, which are squashed on the grill and then topped with raw string cut onions. After cooking on one side, they are flipped so that the onions can caramelize and cook in the grease, after which two slices of cheese are placed on top to melt, if they are doubles, one if they are singles. They then top those with the bottom half of a miniature Martin’s Potato Roll and then plate them to serve. If the order is a take-out, they’ll gladly put ketchup and pickles (I always ask for extra pickle) on these for you, and then wrap each one in wax paper and throw them in a brown paper bag. I also ask them for a plastic bag to wrap the paper bag in, because I don’t want my vintage Mercedes or my mint ’87 Fleetwood Cadillac to smell like burger grease.

Photo by “Daniel”, eG Forums

Double Cheeseburgers, plated. An average size meal would be three or four of these, plus a fries and a drink. I always order some to go, because Rachel doesn’t like the grease smell of the place.

I recently discovered that you can actually ask for lettuce and tomato on your burgers at White Manna. I tried it this way once, for a lark. It’s very good that way, but I feel it upsets the natural balance of the White Manna double cheeseburger, and the lettuce and tomato just gets in the way of eating more meat, sauteed onions and cheese.

White Manna was the site of my interview with Anthony Bourdain for his “Obsessed” episode. We shot it in May of 2009. Tony grew up in nearby Leonia, so I thought I’d bring him back to a spot that would make him comfortable. This is how you psychologically disarm someone who is several feet taller than you.

This is how you get belly bombs in Hi-Def.

I ate a salad. ‘Cause I was on a diet.

Tony had no problems chomping down on a few, though.

The man truly has an appreciation for the finer things in life.

But no matter what Tony says, it’s not “Just a f@#$ing hamburger”. To North Jersey residents, it is THE Hamburger.

Sometimes you can go home, Tony.

52 Responses to NJ Dining: White Manna (UPDATED)

  1. I love White Manna! Your post is shouting out ROAD TRIP! ROAD TRIP! ROAD TRIP!

  2. MJP says:

    I’ve heard the legends many a time but am never in Hackensack to hit it up. ;-;

  3. Hoyt Pollard says:

    Those burgers look exactly like the ones from the Hunter House in my old hometown of Birmingham, MI. If they taste as good, I’m there.

  4. Oh, baby….burger nirvana. I haven’t been in a long time– still remember the rainy day that my dad first took me there.

  5. Robyn says:

    Holy crap. I’ve wanted to go to White Manna before, but I’m not a huge burger fan so it slipped under the radar.

    Yet…now I want those greased caramelized onions. (And the burger.) Arrrgh what are you doing to me?!

  6. [...] Let’s face it, everyone has a weakness for fast food, myself included. But as much as I love your basic hamburger stand or something more artisanal or regional, or even chain fast food, sometimes you want something that is just plain different. [...]

  7. Mary Miraglia says:

    Actually, there are 24 seats in White Manna, I have counted them many times. A couple points: a “double” is not a larger meatball, it’s two regular meatballs squashed together on the grill. You left out some key benefits, #1: the best french fries ever, made from real potatoes and cooked hot and crispy. The best chocolate shakes since I was a kid. The live entertainment, watching the burger cook juggle the orders and keep everything straight by counting them out on the grill. And of course, when you leave, you take that pungent onion smoke smell with you!

  8. It has 24 seats, but it defintiely cant seat 24 jersey-sized people.

  9. Tongo Rad says:

    Love the burgers, have never been impressed with the fries-they always seem like the frozen type to me, actually. I think I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but…the perfect combo would be White Manna burgers with the fries from All-American (in Massapequa, on Long Island). I haven’t figured out how to pull it off, but if you could, well, that would just freakin’ rule!

  10. LocalGuy86 says:

    The burgers are delicious but dont go in there wearing something you like to smell good after. The smell of onions and grease will make you smell like B.O. and stick to your clothes for days, its best to let them air out for a while. The workers are not the brightest bulbs in the box so make sure they hear you if you dont want any onions if not they will add them then give you a dirty look if you tell them that they were wrong. Also dont get the fries cuz they are nothing out of the ordinary, they are frozen and pretty plain. Its pretty bad in there when its packed so try to get there when its not to busy. Just some tips from a local patron.

  11. john says:

    THE DUDE COOKNG THE BURGERS WAS NOT WEARING GLOVES AND HIS HANDS AND FINGERNAILS WERE FILTHY. OTHER THEN THAT THE BURGERS WERE JUST OK.

  12. Jo Baecker says:

    I’m from the midwest but lived in manhattan in the early 90′s. I’d get over to White Manna every chance I had…this is one of those places that you never forget…simple food done perfectly. The best burgers, the best fries, and the best place to eat them. Definitely worth making a pilgrimage to.

  13. marsha blanke says:

    When you have a manna craving, you just have to go. Sometimes my car just leads me there. So right about the clothes and hair. DO NOT SHOWER FIRST, wear old clothes and cover your head. Worth it though. Many fond memories, been a fan for 28 years.

  14. [...] Market in Hackensack. Its also situated very close to Costco, Pollos Mario, Wondee’s, and White Manna, making it a great side destination if you’re interested in checking out any of those other [...]

  15. Andre T. says:

    I just revisited White Manna, because I happened to be next door renting a car. I have to be honest, the burgers are “okay”. They are good, but I swear, it’s just beef and cheese, folks, and isn’t that is a magical combination in anyone’s book? If it wasn’t so inconvenient, I’d run home and make the exact same quality burger. Take away the cool little building, and there’s a diner in every town that can do as well, as long as they use fresh beef, not the stamped out hockey pucks.

    I usually take out, because as a big man, the Manna stools barely rein in both cheeks, and they are too close for comfort when the place gets packed,. I see plenty guys as big and bigger than me holding on for dear life, but I am five minutes away in Teaneck, or would rather eat in my car while they are piping hot with room to read the paper. I try not to look too closely at the cooking area. As your picture shows, it can get a bit grimey when the place is at full tilt and the cook often resorts to scraping the built up crud. I know this is normal for a grill, but I don’t care to see this display, but hey, its right there! They can keep their fries – that actually is done better at the golden arches. With all that said, I would still go back, if I happen to be passing and see there is room to stand while your order is being cooked. Standing room is literally the doorway directly in front of the grill. The patrons on stools flanking the door are sharing their personal space with the waiting patrons butt cheeks. maybe that’s also part of the charm.

  16. Eka Kolour says:

    oh i can’t believe what i’m seeing with my eye. Eka Kolour.

  17. Jim Stewart says:

    They have been open since ’46 for a reason, people keep coming back. when I was 13-17 I patronized the “White Mana” in Jersey City I loved the place and miss it. I saw the Guy Fieri show and just found out about this one. They still make burgers the same way I remember in 1962..

  18. M Volpe says:

    Hey we went here today because we saw them featured on Food Network on that show Diners DriveIns and Dives. We pulled up and sure enough there was a line. It wasnt bad and added to the whole experience. The burgers were good and worth the hour long trip and short wait in line. Definatly going to bring the kids next time. Can’t get nostolgia like that everyday.

  19. JerseyGuy says:

    Jersey City wins hands-down for two reasons alone:
    1. Open 24/7
    2. Real buns, not potato

    YUM

  20. Mary says:

    Me and my friend are drving from MA/RI for these!!! I saw them on Diners Drive -ins and dives and i said we HAD to go since we are HUGE fans of burgers and my nickname for her is Manna so it just fits!

  21. PaulinGA says:

    I have moved away, but I have a list of places to go back to whenever I am in town. This place was added to my list. Simple, tasty, nostalgic. Anybody that thinks there the same as you can get anywhere else or make at home is sadly mistaken. Worht the trip, the wait and the grease. A burger is not just a burger.

  22. Tim says:

    The Jersey City location PALES in comparison tot he Hackenack version. I love Jersey City and I’m a Jersey City boy at heart, but the Hackensack location is THE truly great fast food location in all of New Jersey and maybe the world.

  23. Erik T says:

    This place is amazing!!! Just saw it on FOOD TV tonight…and reminded me a need a good burger! I really really hate how AOL has the Jersey City white mana as best of food…. that place is awefull! People confuse these two easily… this is quality food with out the hookers! Come to hackensack it’s worth it!

  24. Renee says:

    Absolutely love it! What is the best time to go?? (Not so busy). I have company coming from out of town, would love to take them there but don’t want to wait an hour for a burger.

  25. Geri says:

    the best burger! although, the meat on one of mine, was a little raw.. becareful..

  26. Mike Smith says:

    I grew up in Teaneck right around the corner. I used to ride my bike there back in the day to get the burgers. It wasnt as popular back then as it is now. When I saw it on the food network I was buggin!!! I was like wow I grew up off of those burgers!!!! BTW the one in Jersey city is not aas good as the one in Hackensack. Take that from a local who is very familiar with both.

  27. Melissa says:

    OH BOY!! A burger with carmelized onions!! It’s almost lunchtime here in CA…now I have a Manna craving…not fair!!

  28. Sharri Upton says:

    This is the greatest burger in the world! The only thing that comes close is one I had in the small town of Allegan, MI. Fun to sit in the small place and talk to everyone – most of them are tourists!

  29. zackaster says:

    What if you don’t like onions?

  30. then you go hungry. :)

    Seriously, you just say, “No onions”.

  31. [...] jacked the pics from this blog. It has a good story on the restaurant [...]

  32. ginot says:

    The best burger in the world hands down forget about jersey city or should i call it dirty city!
    because there are the most dirty people in there hookers,bum,thugs. so stay out of there go ot
    hackensack much cleaner friendlier

  33. Chris T says:

    I luv White Manna but it is a little far from my house in Newark. I found a new place called C’s Mini Hamburgers on Ridge Road in North Arlington. I actually like it better because I can tell they use better meat and they don’t put as many onions on their burgers…I would check that place out if you live closer to N Arlington than Hackensack or Jersey City…hope that helps my fellow burger lovers!!!

  34. james caruso says:

    this place is great. i was there with my wife and son. ordered 6 cheese burgers.ate them orderd 10 more to go!!!!

  35. BahstinBoyo aka Wrangler Tractor Palin says:

    Went there about twice a month while living in the area… kids graduates of HackHigh… what a GREAT place! Now living in Stuart,FL… a new joint just opened in downtown Stuart, right accross the street from the courthouse (deja ‘vue’?) called ‘Slingers’. This GREAT place is based ON White Manna, from a young couple who grew up with the Hackensack site! UN-BE-LIEVABLE! Tastes the same! Right down to the chocolate shakes Although they went with an NYC motif, (not many know the River Street/Passaic Street scene) those who KNOW get it! If you’re anywhere near here… GO! If you can’t get to the REAL White Manna in JerZee, it’s the next best thing!

  36. I grew up in NJ and my dad owns a small business in Hackensack. I used to love walking down to White Manna with him to get our burger fix. Everyone in the office could always tell when we’d gone there for lunch.

    Since I now live in California, I’ve had to re-create the taste at home. I’ll be making my version of the White Manna burger tomorrow and documenting it on my blog- http://www.dinnerwithlove.blogspot.com. Check it out if you too are beyond realistic driving distance from your favorite burger joint.

  37. Mike says:

    went on 6/22/09 place was packed and still waited less than 10 minutes for my 4 cheeseburgers with onions & pickels and fries. I think i paid less than 8 dollars. My order was to go, by the time I got to eat them they were soggy, but tasted great. Best advise it to get them to stay, they looked much better when fresh off the grill and not wrapped up for a while.

  38. [...] Sliders had opened up back last summer but I never had the opportunity to get to it, because it had been closed for a number of weeks due to the illness of one of the restaurant’s partners and I was doing quite a bit of traveling as well. Still, I vowed to return. When it comes to mini-burgers, I have a serious weakness for the little guys, but I have a particularly strong benchmark to measure them against. [...]

  39. Faith says:

    Watching that episode right now, very cool. Driving me crazy though, I haven’t had a burger in forever.

  40. [...] a link to one of my favorite food blogs in which you get to relive a bit of Travel Channel fun when Off The Broiler went to White Manna with Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations fame. How frigging cool is [...]

  41. Lisa says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for representing the very best burgers EVER to Mr. and Mrs. America- never mind in all of Jersey. Sorry about the errors in our post this morning- thanks for taking the time to smack us upside the head. I posted your comments on our blog and also the following:

    Hmmm, when I read what John wrote this morning, I did caution him that it might not have been Bourdain’s (or his crew’s) idea about the salad (pretty funny-and it did earn you a lot of sympathy votes :) I’m glad you at least had ONE White Manna burger: I mean the Dr. didn’t say never, never, ever, did he?

    Thanks for taking the time to correct things- bloggers have enough to worry about without spreading around the wrong facts.

    Also, congrats on the segment! -Lisa

  42. monique says:

    My daughter and I went to this place on Saturday night. That’s right, in all that rain!!! We were very disappointed. When we walked in, although being the only people in the establishment, we were not even greeted. Finally we asked for menus, and decided on what to order. When the cook proceeded to put the burgers on the grill, I almost fell off the stool. The cook never washed his hands, never even put on gloves. So, I asked, “do you wear gloves when you cook?” He looked me straight in the eyes and simply said, “no”. We immediately left. I was sick to my stomach of the thought of where his hands had been before he touched raw meat. I will never ever eat here, and would definitely not recommend it to anyone!!! The health department should pay a little visit to this hole in the wall.

  43. Anthony A says:

    Sorry Monique, but cooking without gloves is common place in most kitchens. Gloves are used for certains tasks and prep work. Particularly portioning meat, and butchering fish and Chicken, but very rarely are gloves used in regard to line cooking during service.

    Marco Pierre White once said “no fingers no food”. Bare hands are used for everything to check meat doneness to sculpting salads and stacking them high on the plate. Feeling the dough is essential in bread making and pizza prep. Cooks try to wash their hands as much as possible, particularly when handling proteins, but the only time you will see a cook using a glove during service is if they either cut or burned his or her hand.

    This practice not only takes place at White Manna, but at every restaurant of renown in the tri-state area if not the whole country.

    At some point a level of trust needs to be built up between the diner and food establishment, otherwise you will never venture forth to a place that makes worthwhile food.

    I am sorry you could not get past the bare hands issue, White Manna serves possibly the best slider in the area.

  44. SHAKUEY201 says:

    I went to this place once a few years ago, the attire of both the establishment as well as the cook left a lot to be desired. I never went back. My wife went there last year sometimes and felt the same way. This place is disgusting.

  45. dan says:

    I love it!!!

  46. KCW says:

    most certainly one of the best burgers in the area…..the way they cook the simple combination of fresh beef, sauteed onions, melted cheese, and warm potato bun creates an explosion of deliciousness…..if you haven’t tried it, you must!

  47. SPM says:

    What happened to the Slider’s Secret Menu entry?

  48. Dave says:

    Ahhh…I love Manna. It’s the absolute greatest. Love bourdain too. No reservations is easily the greatest food focused show on tv. I could watch it all day. It absolutely fascinates me. Anthony is a really engaging dude. Caught this episode on demand yesterday. Fantastic. The salad part broke my heart as well Jason.

  49. [...] is indeed becoming something of a burger town, being home to the legendary White Manna, a long standing White Castle location as well as a Five Guys which opened in [...]

  50. [...] took this next shot and remembered Bourdain’s rant on food bloggers where he famously exclaimed “It’s just a fucking hamburger, [...]

  51. Judith Loebel says:

    Grew up down the road a few towns and used to bike here —later cram a car with a ton of kids and daringly drive over after school. Riverdell!!!!
    As far as hand/glove issues go—most state laws do NOT reguire gloves when handling food that is GOING to be cooked. Just stuff that will be served raw or is ALREADY cooked. And gloves—aside from the obvious condom-like absence of feeling can be DANGEROUS when working around heat and fat. You can’t feel when you are TOO CLOSE to the grill top or flame—would MUCH rather take my chance with a bare hand than someone getting a melted plastic burn— and I have DONE this to my dismay and still have the scars. The temps reached on the flat top should in theory be more than enough to kill any germs. And if you are THAT “Germ-a-Phobic” WHAT are you doing eating in a place like THIS anyways????????? Do you think all them cooks at Daniel wear GLOVES???? HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

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