White Castle grills them up fresh for charity

05/20/2011 12:00 AM

05/20/2011 9:49 AM

The sliders came home, and were quickly gobbled up. The famous White Castle burgers started leaving the grill at 4 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of the Dillons Marketplace at Central and Rock.

People came with dogs and children. Even WuShock stood in line. It was a good 90-minute wait.

The corporation came armed with 5,000 burgers. It estimated the crowd at 1,000 after an hour, and people kept coming. Fans were limited to four burgers apiece.

"They are great. They are worth it," said Wichitan Lowell Maples, who had tried the burgers in California.

"The only bad thing about it is they are limiting to four per person. I can eat that by myself."

The burger bash was a celebration of the 90th anniversary of White Castle. Walt Anderson began making hamburgers in Wichita in 1916. He partnered with Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram to create White Castle in 1921, and they built the first restaurant at 201 N. Main.

White Castle partnered in the celebration with Dillons, which is also marking its 90th anniversary. The grocery chain sells frozen White Castle burgers.

Each corporation donated $9,000 to the Kansas Food Bank. The burgers were grilled by teams from the Wichita fire and police departments.

Earlier in the day, White Castle family members and corporate officials presented a plaque to the Sunflower Bank Branch, which sits at the site of the first restaurant.

That's where Kathy Hannon and her siblings presented White Castle folks with their own keepsake. Their father, Wichitan Ralph Brace, had been a collector of antique clocks and the mechanic to Anderson, the White Castle creator.

The clock's inscription read: "To. W.L. Anderson. XMAS. By White Castle employees 1928."

The clock will be placed in the main reception area of the company's home office in Columbus, Ohio, said Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle System Inc.

Richardson said the company was excited to be in Wichita, though it has no plans to open new stores here or elsewhere.

Long before the burgers were sold Thursday, Wichitans were shouting "Woo-hoo" as they saw the white tent billowing in the Dillons parking lot.

Facebook, Twitter and Internet food blogs posted countdowns. Horns honked and traffic piled up as people gathered in the parking lot.

Some became discouraged and turned away then they saw how long the lines were. But most stayed.

"It's fresh. It's good. White Castle is where it at," Maples said as he slowly inched forward in line. "It's a shame they don't have it here anymore, being as Wichita is the founding place. You know it would go over good here."

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