Where's the beef?

Saturday 10 June 2006, 7:40 pm

Saturday, June 10

Today we decided to take it easy and not necessarily go into New York City yet.

One of the 20 best hamburgers is in Hackensack, so we decide to try it. We spent most of the early afternoon getting lost trying to find the New Jersey Turnpike. "Turnpike turn right here" ... then no more signs for five miles, while you're passing shady neighborhoods and abandoned buildings. Yuck. That was in the New Brunswick area, or was it Wood-something or Something-wood? Woodbridge?

Anyway, once in downtown Hackensack it wasn't too difficult to find. It's called "White Manna" and the burgers are small, sort of like White Castle's (from what we've heard, never eaten them ourselves) and made from scratch. The protocol is pretty strange. The small place was full, with every seat occupied and many of us standing, but almost no one eating. The cook would take orders whenever space freed up on the grill, yelling "next!" They said he could keep track of what order everyone came in. We felt bad placing a special order (neither of us can eat the bun, and Mary can't have pickles either) but others in line told us to give it a try. After about ten minutes, others in line ahead of us were gone, and we had four small cheeseburgers with onions drenched in grease, fries, and cokes. We both thought it well worth spending the morning lost to find this place.

White Manna is a typical New Jersey diner, and you can see photographs here and here.

Oh, while searching for these photos, I came across this list of the 20 best hamburgers with addresses and maps. (Search the page for "GQ", about two-thirds of the way down.)

Motels in Hackensack and Paramus are more expensive than we would like, so we've ended up farther west in East Hanover, near Parsippany and Morristown. This is about 30 minutes out from Newark, New Jersey. We hope to take a test run tomorrow: drive out to Newark and park in the park and ride lot, then take the PATH train across into New York City, which should only take a few minutes. We'll see how it works out. If easy, then we might stay here for a few days. Otherwise, we might move to a hotel closer to NYC. The tradeoff is that as you get closer in, the opportunities for free (and safe) parking diminish. I found two affordable hotels in Brooklyn and Queens, but in both cases you have to park a couple blocks away, and we with all the "valuables" in the truck. No, sir.

There is a Vineyard Church in Morristown, about ten miles from here, and we'll check it out tomorrow morning.

Oh ... we went out to Wendy's a few minutes ago. Three hamburger meals in the last 26 hours. There are two more to try in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and Mary says she might like to go back to White Manna again as long as we're staying nearby.