Krystal vs. White Castle

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East of the Mississippi, fans of sliders — mini-hamburgers — may be partisans of White Castle, which predominates in the Midwest and East Coast, or of Krystal, which is popular in the South. Apparently only Kentucky and Tennessee have both chains.

I’m a White Castle admirer and always make a point to eat there once in the St. Louis area on visits home. (A photo of one is above.)

I’d heard of Krystal’s but had never seen one, having limited experience in the South. Then in New Orleans in 2008 I happened to pass by one on Bourbon Street near my hotel.

So I squeezed in a between-meal snack of one Krystal burger. (The 92-cent price for an itty bitty burger was a ripoff. Doesn’t McDonald’s offer double cheeseburgers for 99 cents?)

The two burgers are virtually the same, a couple of inches across, square, served on a dinner roll with a single pickle slice. A Krystal has mustard, while a White Castle has chopped onion and the patty has holes. Is it possible Krystals are grilled while White Castles are steamed?

Well, whatever. Any of you eastern U.S. expatriates want to expound on one chain versus the other?

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  • meg

    This Tennessean never was able to tell the difference between them.

    That said, I prefer the White Castle aesthetic; I just don’t groove on Krystal’s red/orange/yellow look.

    [I agree, the white tile at White Castle is, in a weird way, classy. — DA]

  • Don J


    New Orleans is kinda outside Krystal’s area, which is kinda odd — they only opened in North Carolina a few years ago (the one I always stop at is in Arkansas that has giant signs warning it’s the “LAST KRYSTAL”), so they went into a lot of effort for that Bourbon Street store — it’s probably not at the rent they’re used to paying, either. That Bourbon Street location is never without a line, so it’s the smart move.

    Around the South I usually pay 50-65 cents for them. You can waste a lot of time on their blog:

    [High rent may explain the 92-cent price ($1.01 with tax). — DA]

  • Hoss

    I lived in Atlanta for a few years and got hooked on the Krystal. Their breakfast was great! After I moved back to Chino I realized you can’t beat In N Out! Or Super Chili.

    [Super Chili? Wuzzat? — DA]

  • Jim L

    There’s a rapidly growing chain that started on the east coast called Five Guys that’s rapidly moving to CA and will present solid competition to In-N-Out. They just opened one in Carson.

    As a lifetime Southern Californian and a diehard In-N-Out loyalist it pains me to say that Five Guys’ burgers and fries beat In-N-Out hands down in quality and variety. Ouch!

    In-N-Out still has that California nostalgia going for it, though. Much like White Castle has back east.

    [Interesting. I like In-N-Out, but as a non-native who didn’t grow up on the stuff, I’m less devoted than a lot of people and probably visit only once a year. When we start hearing about Five Guys, we’ll know we heard about it from you first, Jim. — DA]

    • Krystal Kravin’

      Somebody give Jim some credit!
      If you don’t know about Five Guys by now, you can’t even claim to be an amateur foodie…
      Being in Atlanta, I can’t say anything positive or negative about In n’ Out Burger, but I can say that Five Guys has made it here and that s**t is G-double-O-D, GOOD!!
      (And even though I make a point to grab a White Castle when I’m up north, Krystal beats White Castle all day long)

  • meg

    92 cents!!!! I remember when they were 12 (and a Coke was 49).

  • rp

    I tried White Castle a year ago in Chicago, after years of not stopping at their spot in Somerville, MA, when I was a kid. They make McDonald’s taste great in comparison.

  • Richard Davis

    You need to try the sliders at Taylors in Palm Springs. The Best.

  • Scott in R.C.

    Super Chili is located on the northwest corner of Riverside Drive and Magnolia Avenue in Chino. Formerly known as Art’s many, many years ago, we used to ride our bikes up to Art’s when we had a little extra cash, back in the day. The burgers and shakes were great, while on our summer break.

    [I’ll have to check out Super Chili sometime. Love the name. — DA]

  • Mary P.

    I am from the South (Alabama — you don’t get much Souther) and I always preferred the chicken at Krystals. I never cared for the little burgers. I agree with Hoss about In-N-Out (though I am looking forward to trying the Fatburger that is coming to Chino someday soon).

    [I’m a Fatburger admirer. — DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    Sorry about coming late to the party, but I’ve been away and just now have a chance to stroll through the DAB archives.

    As a Southern California native, I’ve never been a huge “slider” fan, probably because of the White Castle “onion” component. Krystal is only slightly better, but still not anything to convert me to the cause. I do find it interesting that “mini burgers” are finding their way onto the menu at other establishments. I was really stunned when I saw them offered at the Elephant Bar in Montclair.

    In years past, Sneakers had a “mini burger basket” that really worked well when watching a variety of sports on their multiple screens. Sneakers made sure to put all the condiments on the side, allowing for both personal preferences and variety.

    It’s great to see others remember Art’s (now Super Chili) in Chino. It was a favorite haunt on summer Sunday evenings when there wasn’t the worry of a school day come Monday.

    To go to potential challengers to In-N-Out, I have to ask you David (and your readers) about Rally’s/Checkers. I’ve heard good things, but have not yet had the pleasure to try one of their offerings (especially the “Big Buford”).

    Of course, I’m a big Tommy’s fan (yes, I rate it ahead of In-N-Out!). I was glad to see Fatburger make it here to the 909, but I’d honestly rate Fuddruckers higher. Both are expensive and not quite up to challenge either In-N-Out or Tommy’s.

    That being said, a few local contenders include Bravo Burger, Burgertown (the one on Vineyard in Ontario) and the Hat. Although Bob’s Big Boy has years of tradition on its side (along with the Hot Fudge Cake!), it’s not the championship contender it once was.

    At least that’s the way I’d stack ’em on the grill.

    By the way, David, have you tried a pastrami burger yet? Just wondering.

    [Still haven’t had a pastrami burger but it’s on my list. I admit I’m intimidated by the concept. Haven’t tried Rally’s/Checkers (love the Big Buford name, tho). This may surprise you as much as it does me, but I’ve tried Tommy’s twice and I find the chili burgers, and the paper towels as napkins thing, kind of gross. Second visit gave me heartburn — for the one and only time in my life! — DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    Just a quick correction — I said the Burgertown on Vineyard in Ontario. It’s actually on Archibald, just north of the I-10.

    Oh, and David, considering the wide variety of dining experiences you enjoy, it’s amazing that the only time you’ve encountered heartburn was at Tommy’s. To borrow the Monty Python line, “He must be made of stronger stuff!”

    That said, bring on the comfy chair and the Big Buford.

    [Charles’ comment is the 1,500th to be published on this blog! Onward to 2,000! — DA]

  • Gina9223

    Whether it’s Krystal’s or White Castle’s I do love them both.

    They both started around the same time and are often miligned as being a rip off of the other. Both are unique. White Castles are steamed, Krystal’s are cooked on a grill.

    I grew up in South Alabama and yeah, I grew up clutching a Krystal’s in my little hand.

    When I was 10 we moved to the southside of Chicago and encountered White Castle down in Chicago Heights.

    So, I luv them both for what they are. A cheap small burger that you can eat a dozen of or just one.

    Oh, but I absolutely hate the fries at both places…weird huh? LOL

  • Tamega

    I’m from Chicago originally and moved to Tennessee in the early ’90s and one thing I can say is that White Castle is 99.999% better than Krystal’s. I really do wish Memphis had a White Castle because I will be there each and every day.

  • Jennifer

    I see that I’m way late to the game, but I had to step up to defend my personal fave! 😉

    I am originally from Chattanooga, TN, birthplace of the Krystal, so I am totally biased. I wanted to add, though, that your Krystal should have had mustard, pickle and grilled onion on it. The grilled onion is a big part of the yum factor; the only thing steamed at Krystal’s is the bun.

    And I’ve never paid quite that much for a Krystal, but they’re always cheaper by the “sakful” (12), or better yet, a “steamer pak” (24). Typically enjoyed by groups under the influence of strong drink, since they’re usually open all night 🙂

    [No one’s ever too late to the game at this blog, Jennifer. Thanks for the comment. I haven’t been back to the South since writing this item and thus haven’t had a chance to try another Krystal. But I will someday. — DA]