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We Tasted And Ranked Every Side Item On White Castle's Menu

White Castle side dishes
White Castle side dishes - Michael Palan / Static Media

White Castle has been proving for more than 100 years that it's really hip to be square with its beloved sliders housed in their little open-top boxes. The very first White Castle opened in 1921, and it would take a couple of decades thereafter for side items to be introduced to round out the square meal. French fries are the obvious side dish to any hamburger anywhere, but White Castle has offered so much more beyond potatoes sizzling away in a fryer -- many novel items have been introduced, including several sides branded with the nomenclature "Nibblers."

With so many side items to choose from, and only so much one can eat in one sitting, I dropped into a White Castle to figure out which was the best of the fried bunch, and which one lacked that quality crunch. This taste test ranking is based on flavor, texture, and overall lovability.

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of American Fast Food Restaurants

12. Loaded Fries

White Castle Loaded Fries
White Castle Loaded Fries - Michael Palan / Static Media

Since White Castle doesn't sell nachos, the closest one can get to them is a pile of its Loaded Fries, which people have been buzzing about on social media since at least 2011. The Loaded Fries start with a bed of the standard-issue White Castle crinkle-cut fries and are topped with bacon crumbles, ranch sauce, and melted nacho cheese sauce.

The bacon is more thin strips than balled crumbles and has a nice, surprising crunch. That's actually all about that's winning about these Loaded Fries, though. The cheese, which is buried at the bottom of the "loaded" section, feels like a forgotten middle child. The main issue here is the ranch sauce, which completely defines and dominates the taste of this side item. There's just something off putting about it that somehow makes you think you're eating a salad instead of a pile of fries. The ranch sauce is buttermilk based, includes salt, vinegar, and garlic and onion slices, and somehow feels like it needs four times as much of each of those ingredients.

By nature, crinkle-cut fries have a tougher exterior than standard fries, which lends itself well as a canvas for toppings. However, all this mess on top makes them mushy, which makes this side dish one truly not dishing on any further. One idea for improvement — ditch the ranch and replace it with something truly saucy like gravy, or better yet, what about crumbled slider hamburger bits? You're welcome, White Castle.

11. Onion Rings

White Castle Onion Rings
White Castle Onion Rings - Michael Palan / Static Media

Onion rings are secretly one of the best side dishes for any restaurant that serves them but are always overshadowed by their thinner, more popular older brother, french fries. Perfect circles of piping-hot onions, all fried up and beautifully encrusted on the outside, is all an eater could ever ask for. So how does White Castle's version, which was first introduced in 1965, feel like it needs a makeover for the 21st century?

My regular-size order had eight onion rings, which came in various circular and oval shapes. They did have a beautiful onion-y smell to them, but once I broached the interior, that's when things started to go awry. The exterior looked pretty fried and crispy but ended up being kind of loosey goosey. I expected a full, complete piece of onion on the inside, but it turned out to be more of a mushy puree that doesn't really warrant cheers of "Hooray."

White Castle can make these onion rings better. I know this because I used to munch on the chain's Onion Chips during my stint in the Midwest, and they are one of the best side items anywhere. They're thick and crunchy, and the onions are super-juicy good. They're everything the onion rings aren't. Sadly, the Chips were not on the menu where this taste test was conducted, and so I had to settle for the Rings. Sadly, I cannot give them any sort of ring-ing endorsement.

10. Chicken Rings

White Castle Chicken Rings
White Castle Chicken Rings - Michael Palan / Static Media

White Castle must have once posited that if onion rings are a circular side dish winner with eaters, then why not round things up with chicken? And so in 1992, White Castle became Lord of the Chicken Rings. I'm not sure what they were like then versus now, but today's Chicken Rings look like either flattened brownish-orange mini donuts or giant encrusted gummy peach rings.

My regular order had six Chicken Rings to the box. They had noticeable black pepper flecks and an odor that smells like cafeteria-style chicken nuggets. They taste like ... chicken, if the chicken meat was really compact and outfitted with a thick layer of skin. They're fine as a side item, and the better of the two "Rings" on the menu, but I feel like White Castle should forgo the disk-shaped gimmick and just make a standard chicken nugget. And if that's too run of the mill, how about a castle-shaped nugget?

9. French Fries With Cheese

White Castle cheese fries
White Castle cheese fries - Michael Palan / Static Media

French fries are such a solid side item that offering up the option of having cheese drizzled on them seems like a no-brainer. This concept was introduced into the kingdom of White Castle in the St. Louis area in 1969, and over five decades later, French Fries with Cheese remain there for the taking.

White Castle's nacho cheese ingredients include a cheddar cheese blend, milk, and trace amounts of jalapeño pepper, salt, dehydrated red and green bell peppers, natural flavor, and other spices. It all adds up to a tasty cheese that is not too melty. Also, the cheese is free here to be the star, whereas in the Loaded Fries, it's lost in the shuffle. But alas, the cheese sauce was barely covering a quarter of these fries, and it made the fries it did cover a little mushy. This dish is only for the cheese fry diehards, and for everyone else, the regular, plain, naked fries will suffice.

8. Mac & Cheese Nibblers

White Castle Mac & Cheese Nibblers
White Castle Mac & Cheese Nibblers - Michael Palan / Static Media

In 2013, Shrimp Nibblers and Mac & Cheese Nibblers debuted on White Castle's side items menu. While the Shrimp Nibblers have continually attracted more attention, the Mac & Cheese ones seem to be flying under the radar.

These plump Nibblers look like chicken nuggets battered the same way cod is in a lovely basket of fish and chips. They have a nacho cheese aroma to them, and while their name sounds simplistic, there's a lot going on under the hood. The cooked macaroni is not only slathered in American cheese, but also along for the ride are a cheddar and blue cheese blend, Romano cheese, buttermilk, skim milk, whey, and butter, just to name all the wonderful things a cow contributed to this side dish.

While everything is in place for a winning side, the end result doesn't exactly make it the Mac daddy of them all. Don't get me wrong -- this is a decent, middle-of-the-road snack, but once you pierce the fried shell, the mac and cheese filling seems a little too congealed. I would love to have seen an eruption of cheese oozing out from within, even burning the roof of my mouth. Instead, the side is not likely to be igniting anyone's burning desire for it.

7. Shrimp Nibblers

White Castle Shrimp Nibblers
White Castle Shrimp Nibblers - Michael Palan / Static Media

Shrimp Nibblers got their first catch of the day in February 2013, just in time for White Castle's super-special Valentine's Day dinners. This limited-time side has come and gone over the years, and when the Shrimp Nibblers wash ashore, they're well worth the nibble.

These butterfly shrimp nuggets are very well breaded and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from the standard curl of a shrimp to a full-on circle, and even some that have lost their way somewhere between the sea and the fryer and are just a little ball bit. The crust is very good, and while the shrimp can border on being a little mealy tasting, I wasn't really exactly expecting them to be the MVPs of the ocean.

Still, the Shrimp Nibblers make a nice change-of-pace side item to order when they're available. Plus, White Castle offers Heinz' solid cocktail sauce for dipping, which only makes these more delectable.

6. Hash Brown Nibblers

White Castle Hash Brown Nibblers
White Castle Hash Brown Nibblers - Michael Palan / Static Media

While thought of as more of a breakfast side, White Castle's Hash Brown Nibblers don't need to be pigeonholed to a time of day to be thoroughly enjoyed. These light-brown little fellers are made up of potatoes, vegetable oil, and dehydrated potatoes and are basically tater tots in the shape of greasy-to-the-touch coins.

About a dozen or so come in a regular box, which, by quantity alone, seems like a good bang for your buck. They have a good ratio of light, crunchy outside to soft, potato-y inside, which is basically the textbook definition of what a hash brown is. These nibblers are not overly salty or outwardly all that special, but they're certainly a quality option to wake up to.

Again, why are hash browns mostly considered to be a breakfast-only side item? Free your mind and feed yourself some Hash Brown Nibblers any time of day. They aren't offered with a side of nacho cheese dipping sauce, but they should be, as they'd be a better pairing for the sauce than the White Castle fries.

5. Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers

White Castle Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers
White Castle Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers - Michael Palan / Static Media

White Castle had previously messed with the magically hot sriracha sauce with a chicken sandwich, and after Shrimp Nibblers made a splashy debut in 2013, it was a natural extension to apply that flavor to the curvy crustacean three years later. The Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers are also a limited-time side item, but when they're in town, they're even more of a catch than their older brother.

The skin of the Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers has an unnatural orange tint to it, and the crust is somehow crispier than the one that surrounds regular Shrimp Nibblers. While the name would indicate a smoky spiciness that could overpower the mouth, the end result is a nice, smooth heat that works for a majority of palates. If there was any trace of mealiness to the shrimp, the flavoring does a good job of masking it.

There's no doubt about it: The Sriracha Shrimp Nibblers are a complete step up from the original Shrimp Nibblers. Dipping them in the tangy cocktail sauce is just icing on the cake.

4. Fish Nibblers

White Castle Fish Nibblers
White Castle Fish Nibblers - Michael Palan / Static Media

In April 2004, White Castle opened its gates and gave those who were observing Lent another fish option to munch on. This time around, it wasn't a tasty fast food fish sandwich to reel in but fried little balls in the form of Fish Nibblers. In fact, the Fish Nibblers were the very first side to be given the "Nibblers" name, which proved to be enough of a success that more creatures of the sea, not to mention other foods, have joined the family in the decades since.

These Nibblers consist of deep-skinned Alaska pollock and are gussied up with ingredients like dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, parsley, salt, shrimp powder, spice, sugar, and turmeric. That all adds up to a great layered taste in a tiny package. The flaky, spherical exterior is soft and has a lovely cornmeal-like taste to it. It helps to protect and keep the white fish on the inside very soft and tender.

My small order consisted of 14 of these Nibblers, which, like the hash brown ones, make for a good value based on the number of them that you get. They're so good, I wish they actually came in a bit of a bigger size. One thing they don't require is White Castle's tartar sauce, which I found sorely lacking in any sort of relish to cut down on its sweet mayo taste.

3. Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

White Castle Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
White Castle Mozzarella Cheese Sticks - Michael Palan / Static Media

Where the Mac & Cheese Nibblers didn't exactly hit the mark in the fried cheese department, White Castle's take on mozzarella sticks has proven itself to be a tall order. These totally tubular, elongated brown sticks were first introduced in 1991 at Chicago-area White Castles, before branching out to all locations in 1994.

The sticks' crusts are rather dusty, and handling them may result in a bit of a crumbly mess. Taking a whiff of one, you do get a sense of the cheesiness that lies inside, even if this side item has one of the thicker skins out of them all. The cheese on the inside is part-skim mozzarella, and while it is kept warm, isn't all that gooey. Instead, it is super stretchy, which can make it fun to pull far back from your mouth. On the other hand, sometimes that makes it harder to cut it off from the rest of the stick, unless you really sink your teeth into it.

White Castle's Mozzarella Cheese Sticks are a great side to complement some sliders, or even just to munch on by themselves. One of the few drawbacks is that only three come to a small order, so you may be better off going a size up. It also comes with a container of marinara sauce, which was served chilled. Personally, I believe that the best chain-restaurant mozzarella sticks are good on their own and don't need marinara sauce, and that is certainly the case here.

2. Clam Strips

White Castle Clam Strips
White Castle Clam Strips - Michael Palan / Static Media

The general beauty of clam strips is that they're barely seafood and pretty much an excellent excuse to eat endless little bits of fried goodness. The ones that White Castle first introduced into select markets in 1970 remain one of the best side-order options on the menu to this day. Basically, if you're a fan of clam strips and are jonesing for a box of them, then White Castle has got you more than covered.

These strips begin with surf clam meat and surf clam juice, which is all battered up into ultra-crispy pieces that look like Cheetos if they had the body of hushpuppies. The shell is so tasty that you don't even remotely mind that there's not very much under its hood. Another benefit of the thick shell is that even long after the clam strips lose their warmth, their crunch holds firm and still makes them a pleasure to munch on. The interior clam pieces are nice and chewy, and one doesn't have to spend much time ruminating on them before tackling the next one.

1. French Fries

White Castle french fries
White Castle french fries - Michael Palan / Static Media

While White Castle offers a bevy of options on its side item menu, a customer truly doesn't have to look any further than the one listed at the top of it -- French Fries. White Castle added them as partners to its sliders in the 1940s, and it's actually pretty hard to fathom not chowing downing a fistful of them while polishing off a slider or sack of them.

I'm not sure how long White Castle's fries have been in the crinkle-cut shape, but we should all count our lucky stars that they are, as that's one of the best styles of fries. They don't get soggy, and they stay crisp for longer periods of time.

White Castle's crinkle-cut fries are perfectly crispy, generously salted, lightly browned in all the right places, and just an all-around divine pleasure to indulge in. They are so darn good that they require no ketchup, let alone topping with cheese, bacon, or whatever white substance White Castle calls ranch sauce. I think it's fair to say that White Castle's fries are highly underrated -- and are perhaps even better than the gold-standard ones the Golden Arches are glorified for.

Methodology

White Castle side dishes
White Castle side dishes - Michael Palan / Static Media

This taste test was held at a New York City White Castle, located in the heart of Manhattan, sometime after 10 a.m., right before the lunchtime rush. All side items currently on the menu at this location as of March 2024 were tasted. Other side dishes that White Castle sells but were not available at this location are Sloppy Fries, Onion Chips, and Mott's Snack and Go Natural Applesauce Pouch.

The 12 side items were prepared in batches of four at a time, and eaten in that order, while fresh and hot. Ranking was based on taste, texture, smell, freshness, familiarity, quantity, uniqueness, and overall lovability. A tall cup of Sprite was used as a palate cleanser and indigestion easer. I'd personally like to thank Beatrice and her team at White Castle for their time, generosity, kindness, and preparation of these delicious sides.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.