Bad case of loving you

Thirty Sliders might be much too much of a good thing

It's a common order after bar close: &#8220Yeah, I'd like a Crave Case.”

Whether it's to go, or to eat in the plain blue and white booths of your local White Castle, it's a ridiculous concept. So much that it often takes a few beers to rationalize the purchase.

Thirty - that's three-zero - burgers, densely packed into a single cardboard briefcase.

Flip open the lid and there they sit, neatly lining the box like bribe money in some action movie.

But unlike wads of unmarked, nonsequential hundred dollar bills, these burgers' value is about $15.

It's enough food to feed you and four or five friends. Any fewer than four people and be prepared to waste some or go home with a sluggish feeling in your gut. But the challenge is tough to resist.

For two overly ambitious reporters one recent afternoon, it proved mission impossible. After eating 16 burgers - one of us nine and the other seven - we couldn't stomach another bite.

The scene was White Castle on Lake Street near Nicollet Avenue at about 4 p.m. Old-timers took up most of the tables, reading newspapers and spouting answers to the world's problems.

The smell hit us the moment we walked in the door. If not familiar with the square, steam-grilled patties, you might not naturally associate their humid aroma with food. The smell, like the taste, is love-it or hate-it.

We ordered the Case. By special request, 24 cheeseburgers and 6 jalapeo burgers. Other options include plain hamburgers and bacon cheeseburgers.

Our burgers came stacked on a set of small paper plates. We were disappointed to learn on this visit that the iconic cardboard case is only included with to-go orders. (On some late-night visits, we have, in fact, been given the case even when the orders weren't for take-out.)

The 3-by-3 inch square burgers are marked with a distinctive five-hole pattern. The openings help pass heat through the burger during the cooking process.

Each thin patty is smothered in wet onions so greasy they turn any paper product they come in contact with translucent. No matter how neat you are, you can't help spilling the onion bits all over your blue tray.

Hold the small burger in your hands, and the moist buns give the burger a spongy feel. The texture is consistent throughout the burger. Only the pickles interrupt a soft, mushy bite into a Slider.

The restaurant's founder once paid for a University of Minnesota student to sustain on nothing but White Castle and water for 13-weeks in a study to prove the burgers weren't unhealthy.

We've never read the results of that research, but we learned that until you overstuff yourself, the small burgers are a deceptively delicious treat. And our findings are confirmed in a White Castle nutritional guide provided at the restaurant. &#8220Too much of a good thing, even if that good thing is White Castle, is never good for you,” the brochure says. Also, &#8220you don't have to get a Crave Case every time.”

White Castle

100 Lake St.

827-5444