September 23, 2018 | ° F

Back to basic Americana at White Rose Hamburgers

Photo by Karl Hoempler |

Derrick Louie, left, a Rutgers Business School senior, and Gene Kim, right, a Rutgers alumnus, enjoy hamburgers and fries at White Rose Hamburgers on Easton Avenue.

Few food items are as synonymous with Americana as the hamburger. The simple sandwich of ground beef nestled between two buns has effectively aligned itself with American culture, ultimately evolving into an edible icon cherished by the hungry masses.

Since it first gained popularity, the hamburger has transformed from just a humble beef sandwich to a versatile canvas for gastronomic expression. From “Luther Burgers,” which substitute glazed donuts for buns, to pricey burgers topped with foie gras and black truffle, the food world is teeming with indulgent variations on the burger.

Yet, such extravagance seems to warrant a deeper appreciation for a back-to-basics approach to the hamburger. Fortunately, White Rose Hamburgers on Easton Avenue has been serving up classic hamburgers the right way.

White Rose, a family business, has a long history of quality and excellence. The original White Rose was established in Highland Park a whopping 57 years ago. Open to this day, they’ve developed a reputation for serving top-notch burgers.

Countless newspapers and magazines have written positive reviews of their product, granting White Rose fame and esteem throughout New Jersey. After experiencing the Highland Park White Rose, it’s clear why the eatery is held in such high regard. Their burgers are flavorful, inexpensive and prepared with lightning speed.

The White Rose Hamburgers at 43 Easton Ave. set up shop just three months ago. A short walk from the Scott Hall bus stop, the eatery is open past midnight everyday — perfect for students with the late night munchies. White Rose even accepts RU Express and offers a 10 percent discount to Rutgers students with valid ID.

Although White Rose is known for its hamburgers and fast-food fare, the restaurant offers breakfast as well, with an assortment of egg and sandwich options. Their Easton Avenue menu closely resembles the Highland Park location’s menu, but features several new additions aimed at college students, including a veggie burger and a variety of gyros.

I stopped by White Rose on Easton Avenue for lunch, eager to fill my stomach with their legendary burgers. I was curious to determine how the Easton Avenue restaurant compares to the famous Highland Park location.

The restaurant’s interior pays homage to the diners of yore. Complete with bright blue booths and vibrant red tables, White Rose’s appearance is sleek, yet retro.

The walls are adorned with vintage car advertisements, newspaper clippings mentioning White Rose, along with other odds-and-ends, providing for a unique, attention-grabbing environment.

Patrons are handed their burgers just seconds after placing their orders. A slight delay might result when milkshakes or French fries must be prepared, but even so, White Rose services the customer more quickly than many of the most popular fast food chains.

The beauty of the White Rose hamburger is its sheer minimalism. Don’t expect to receive a whopping eight-ounce burger gushing with beefy juices and a plethora of condiments. No, the White Rose hamburger’s presentation is blunt, exactly how it should be — served on a white paper plate with a side of pickles.

The hamburger patty is made from ground beef smashed thin, with minced onion incorporated right into the meat. If customers want more than just the burger on a bun, they will need to order the “Cali Burger,” which features lettuce and tomato.

The hamburger I ordered possessed a strong meaty flavor with hints of onion, untainted by the complexities of excessive condiments and toppings. The burger’s simple form places emphasis on the pure, clean flavor of beef, something many so-called gourmet hamburgers disregard.

Because the Kaiser roll acting as the hamburger bun seemed to occasionally smother the flavor of the hamburger patty, I recommend ordering a “double”— two patties on one bun.

White Rose’s thick cut French fries, which cost $1.85 for a small and $2.25 for a large, offered a clean potato taste somewhat reminiscent of potato wedges. I felt they needed more salt, but customers can always take charge of the seasoning with a salt or peppershaker.

The onion rings, which cost $2.95 for a small and $3.95 for a large, featured that classic fried onion flavor devoid of the tough, rubbery qualities that too often cause bad onion rings to fall short. However, I found the coating could have used a more sharply defined crunch.

The chocolate milkshake, which costs $2.50, was sweet and delectable in all the right ways. Thick and rich, the shake’s chocolate flavor seemed well balanced with complementary vanilla undertones.

To be honest, I almost felt like I was drinking a milkshake from McDonald’s — which should be taken as a compliment. The shake was the perfect accompaniment to my meal, and I have no qualms in declaring that all burgers purchased from White Rose should be paired with a milkshake.

In comparison to the hamburgers at the Highland Park location, the Easton Avenue burger seemed to lack the usual flair imparted by the onions. However, I have no doubts that with time, the Easton Avenue burgers will be on par with those in Highland Park.

After all, the devotion to quality at White Rose is evident, especially when talking with owner Mike Litos.

“Freshness, speed, quantity, quality [and] price all combined equals success for 57 years,” Litos said.

He proceeded to explain that the beef, bread and onions used in their hamburgers are delivered on a daily basis. Litos is confident in the freshness and merit of White Rose.

“I stand behind our product,” Litos said. “All I need is for somebody to come in and try it once.”

In the past, White Rose has considered offering a delivery service, but ultimately decided against it, refusing to allow the quality of their product to suffer from the lengthy delivery process. Litos has high standards for the White Rose hamburger and insists his product be served fresh for an optimal experience.

“I don’t want to sacrifice that image [of quality] only because the delivery time doesn’t allow for a burger to be fresh and a bun to be nice and crisp and a French fry to be crisp rather than soggy,” Litos said. “The time frame is the time frame, no matter how you cut it.”

They say every rose has its thorn, but I’ve only found classic, straightforward hamburgers at White Rose. In a world filled with lavish, over-the-top burgers, the restaurant’s time-tested and simple approach to the hamburger has granted them continued success.

Students wishing to experience one of the esteemed White Rose burgers should stop by their Easton Avenue restaurant for a bite to eat. Just be sure to grab a milkshake while you’re there. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can buy me one.

By Matt Mikolay

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