Home Food + DrinkCoffee Jersey City’s White Mana: A Local Gem Built for the 1939 World’s Fair

Jersey City’s White Mana: A Local Gem Built for the 1939 World’s Fair

by Yiwei Gu
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In today’s increasingly diversifying food scene, there are few things as unifying as a burger. Among thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of burger joints around the country, there are few as famous as White Mana located at 470 Tonnele Avenue in Jersey City. The Food Network and many other big-name media outlets and celebrities have visited, as this quirky little diner captured the American imagination not only because of its extraordinary history — but the burgers, too. Read on to learn more about White Mana – home of Jersey City’s most iconic burger.

white mana diner jersey city

The History

white mana diner jersey city

(Photo credit: @WhiteManaDiner)

The circular building was built by Paramount Diners of Oakland, New Jersey, and first opened as a pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens. At the time, White Castle had then just standardized the serving of burgers as fast food with uniform preparation and rapid service.  

The organizers of the Fair decided that the “diner of the future” should serve burgers and be named after the biblical food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness prophesying the patty-in-a-bun sandwich as the quintessence of American food in the decades to come. The misspelling on the sign was a result of a mistake made by the original sign maker but has come to stick around. 

Read More: 14 North Jersey Diners You *Must* Add to Your Bucket List

After the World Fair, the structure was relocated to Jersey City. It now sits at the corner of a busy interchange on Tonnelle Avenue heavy with truck traffic, but the vintage signs and numerous memorabilia inside remind visitors of the bygone fanfare. 

Another White Manna location opened in 1946 in Hackensack, and is believed to be established by the same owner and built by the same builder — just with two ns. It serves largely the same burger-centric menu and shares similar decor and vibes, though fans love to compare the two locations. Fans have never stopped comparing the two.

The Food

white mana diner jersey city

(Photo credit: @WhiteManaDiner)

The ordering and cooking was, and is, no-fuss and no-nonsense. A large griddle sits at the center of the diner, surrounded by a circular counter where customers watch their orders made. (The restaurant is now takeout only.) Meatballs are squashed into patties on the grill. 

Some chopped onions are piled on the patties, which are then flipped to let the onion cook in the rendered fat. When the meat is almost done, American cheese and potato buns are slapped on top so that the cheese fat, the meat juice, the caramelized onion flavors all melt into one another. If requested, a dab of mustard or hot sauce is added.

white mana diner jersey city

(Photo credit: @WhiteManaDiner)

Although the diner has attracted its fair share of detractors (“It’s just a hype”) and critics (“I’ve had better burgers”) over the decades, the burgers are excellent, period. The patties, with the melty cheese dissolving into them, are juicy but not too fatty. The seasoning is strong but doesn’t overwhelm the beefy taste. The onion is sweet and still retains a subtle crunch. The potato buns are light as a cake. 

See More: City Diner: A Staple in Jersey City

Fries, soft drinks, and breakfast items (eggs and sausages) are also served. The Jersey City location is cash only.

To keep up with White Mana, follow its Facebook page here

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