Mana from heaven.

For months, a friend of mine and I have been planning a trip to both of the legendary White Man(n)as of northern New Jersey.  Last night, a jointly acceptable time finally arose, but after barreling down River Street, crazed with hunger, in what seemed to me like the middle of nowhere in Hackensack, we arrived just a few minutes after the White Manna had closed.  A hush went over the car, punctuated only by occasional wails and the astute observation that the microscopic joint was “so cute!”

Cute really isn’t on the menu at the Jersey City White Mana, though the art-deco ambiance is not totally absent.  It’s on a rather seedy stretch of the 1/9 semi-highway (as though there are un-seedy stretches, heh) and, as befits its location across the street from a real dive of a boxing bar, the walls are lined with pictures of pugilists real (Mike Tyson) and imagined (Sly Stallone, in a beautiful double breasted suit and skinny tie combo).

I can’t say we much cared about the ambiance when we walked in, though.  At that point, we were just awfully glad that it was open (24 hours!) when we arrived.  Personally, I still think it’s goofy to order twenty cheeseburgers to split between six people (not growing up in the land of Chateau Blanc will do that to you), but we did it one better and ordered twenty-one, along with a double cheeseburger and a bunch of fries and onion rings.

Given that I was there with a bunch of Mana semi-regulars, I was a bit surprised to note that none of them had ever seen a menu before.  It was from that menu and from instincts divined from many meals and Schnack that I ordered the double cheeseburger – none of my friends had ever thought to do so before, and it was an immediate object of jealousy on their part.  Apparently they’ve been fixing the out-of-whack burger-to-bun ratio for years now by combining two singles into their own double. The bottom line is that double meat is a much more optimal experience, however you go about it.  There just isn’t enough meat on the rather generic bun otherwise.

A bit about that special meat: it is basically a hash, as it is dumped in a large crumble onto the griddle and parceled out into burger shapes (and squashed flat by the spatula work of the fry cook) only after some cooking has already taken place.  The onions, happily, are cooked alongside the meat, giving it good flavor (another advantage of the double cheeseburger was the cache of onions that were nestled in between patties).

(Note about the sides: Onion rings were kind of awful, but the fries were okay, and, if you like them particularly crispy, ask – our plates varied in terms of done-ness, and opinions differed as to which were preferable.)

I can say, without a doubt, that White Mana beats its chain imitator (the afore-mentioned Chateau Blanc).  AHT’s coverage of the other Manna leads me to believe that we missed out by not getting to the Hackensack branch – especially in the bun department.  I rather liked the rough charms of the Jersey City branch, though: another unheralded American original.

1 Comment

Filed under NYC

One response to “Mana from heaven.

  1. Here’s some Manna pics and a video: Great writeup!

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