Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Sliders, Part II

In my last installment, I had thrown down the gauntlet and decided to do a head-to-head comparison between the national chain, White Castle, and a local Akron favorite, the Hamburger Station. Today was the perfect day to finish this up. Currently there are four locations around Akron and the suburbs and while each offers the same basic fare (like the sliders), each also offers something unique. The Hamburger Station I went to on Canton Rd. near Ellot offers chicken wings as part of their menu. But I wasn't there today for the wings. I was there for the sliders.

First up, a shot of the exterior:

And a shot of the door with a sign promoting the double-plus goodness of their ingredients:

While the Hamburger Station does offer several combo meals, I wanted to get a specific set of items to demonstrate as much of the menu as I could. Not to mention that the combo meals all come with the fries, and truth be told, if the winner was judged solely on fries, White Castle would win hands down. The fries at the Hamburger Station may be fresh cut, but they are typically a limp, oily mass that generally just aren't good.

Here is my full order:

The slider on the back left is my post-mortem slider (just like I had at White Castle). The two sliders on the back right are my lunch. In the front you have a small order of onion rings and a small order of fried mushrooms.

The onion rings are freshly prepared every day like the fries are, except they are dredged in the batter in the morning and then left to sit in the reach-in by the fryer until the moment an order is placed. They are a nice thick onion ring and because they've had a chance to sit in the batter for a while, it doesn't completely fall apart when you take a bite. You definitely get a nice contrast between the crispy coating and the soft, creamy onion on the inside. For fast food onion rings, these rate better than average.

The fried mushrooms are prepped in exactly the same way as the onion rings and have the same crispy exterior. Again, these were better than average, but what they really could've used was some type of spicy dipping sauce, like a horseradish mayo. That would've kicked them from good to pretty darn good.

When you ask for a slider with everything, that means mustard, onions, and pickles. Unfortunately, the onions they use for the sliders are raw. Some days the onions are sliced, today they were coarsely grated. Regardless, raw onions and my stomach don't particularly care for each other. The sliders I ordered for consumption had just the mustard and pickles on them (I added a little ketchup tableside).

The sliders here are better than average. If I'm in the mood for an exceptional burger, nothing comes close to the one I had the other day at The Greenhouse Tavern. But sliders are a slightly different beast. And these are the best example I've had so far. They aren't cooked exactly the same way that White Castle cooks theirs. Most notable is the fact that they are cooked to order and the buns are grilled while the burger cooks, so there aren't any sogginess issues. To my taste, the burgers at the Hamburger Station have a much fresher taste to them and the flavor of the meat actually comes through.

Here is the post-mortem slider with everything:

And with the crown of the bun off:

As you can see, when you get onions, you get a LOT of onions. I'd show you the heel of the bun, but the cheese between the meat patty and the heel had fused the two together. Thankfully, I didn't get the same floor show at the Hamburger Station that I got at the White Castle I went to for my earlier post. That's not a show I want repeated very often.

And so, gentle reader, to whom goes the slider crown? The Hamburger Station, of course. The product tastes better, has more bun integrity, and is cooked to order instead of sitting on a griddle for who-knows-how-long. The fact that it is a local chain found only in Akron, OH is a serious bonus in my book. If anyone out there in Internet-land really loves White Castle and is able to try the Hamburger Station's version, I would love to hear what you have to say. I might even print it here in my blog. Maybe. But only if you find in favor of the Hamburger Station. No, no, I promise to be fair.

After finishing my lunch, the sun was reaching its zenith and I decided that some frozen custard was necessary to cool me off in the hot afternoon sun. I spent some time in my youth living in Stow, OH, and fondly remember trips to Stoddard's Frozen Custard stand.

Here is what you'll see as you drive up:

Today's flavor of the day was strawberry. This looked promising. A shot of the Stoddard's stand:

One thing to note: if you want the flavor of the day in a cup and not on a cone, don't say the word "sundae". There was much confusion when I went to order the flavor of the day. To me, a sundae is whatever kind of ice cream/frozen custard you want, toppings, and possibly some whipped cream. To the fine Stoddard's folks, a sundae is ALWAYS vanilla soft serve with toppings and whipped cream. There was a little confusion until I finally understood that they make a distinction. What I REALLY wanted was a "small flavor of the day in a cup with whipped cream on top". Once we established that, I paid my $2.60 and went out into the sunshine to eat my cool treat.

The color is subtle, but it is a very light pink.

When I first got up to the ordering window, I asked them how they made the strawberry flavored custard. The manager said they use real strawberries in the mix and I can tell you that by simply inspecting the frozen custard, you can still see little bits of strawberry right in the cup. The flavor was amazing. This had none of the problems that I experienced with my pumpkin frozen custard at Strickland's. The flavor was there from the first bite until the very last. And then some. Just a perfect amount of strawberry essence.

It seems a little cliche' these days to order strawberry since everyone seems to offer it, too (besides chocolate and vanilla), and isn't nearly as exotic as pumpkin or royal cake batter. But sometimes, simpler is better and when you can revisit a flavor done as well as this one was, I say go for it. While I love Strickland's attempt at the pumpkin, Stoddard's strawberry is declared the winner. At least this time around.

All in all, this was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed eating and then writing about it.

Hamburger Station on Urbanspoon


DianeS said...

Funny that you posted about sliders today. I am craving three things: Mexican food, egg foo yung and a hamburger!

I'm not a fan of White Castle but I would like to try this place.

Also, not a slider but that Akron place you Steve and I went to made a good burger. What was the name?

Tino said...

Diane -- I think you are thinking of MetroBurger in Highland Square.

Kathy said...

Funny I was just going to ask if you had ever been to Metroburger. I've heard good and not so good about it, but haven't yet tried it myself. I can't imagine a better burger than Louie's (fries, not so much).

Tino said...

Kathy -- if you go, definitely get your burger on the pretzel roll. It makes all the difference in the world.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tino, the pretzel bun definitely makes the burger.

Now that I think about it, either my husband or I had the pretzel bun and the other had a regular bun and we liked the burger on the pretzel bun far better.


MrBeachBum said...

I know you wrote this blog awhile back but I just recently had the chance to taste Hamburger Station again after 20 years.

You see, I grew up in Massillon and had only had Hamburger Station's sliders until I moved to Columbus in the early 90's. Now, I am kind of a fan of white castle. I don't go often but they do satisfy a craving every now and then. However I always told my wife, who grew up in Columbus, that Hamburger Station was better.

She finally took me up on the challenge and we went to Akron to try some...

Alas, it was disappointing! The raw onions were just not good at all and there were way too many of them. The taste of the burger was overpowered by the onions and we honestly threw away half the meal. So where did we go afterward? White Castle!

I guess, for me anyway, some memories of food are better left in the past.

Tino said...

@MrBeachBum: I completely agree with your assessment of the onion situation at Hamburger Station, too many and too strong. That's why I always have them leave them off. I'm not sure what they are trying to prove by adding so many.

In case you missed it in my write-up, the slider I ordered for post-mortem dissection actually had the onions. The two I ordered for my lunch, didn't.

bobdevo said...

Hamburger Station is at least 1000% better than the meat loaf they serve at White Castle. If you don't like the onions, then leave them off or ask them to go "light on the onions".

But the classic combo of onion, pickle and mustard creates a tasty synergy. Do NOT put ketchup any place near that burger!

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