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.
358 River St, Hackensack, NJ
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.