White Castle, the mini-burger chain, is the kind of burger joint that crosses over into pop culture. There is, of course, the 2004 movie "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," and the Beastie Boys rapped the chain's praises — several times — on their 1986 debut, "Licensed to Ill."
But ... there are no White Castles in Fort Worth. Or Texas. The closest one we could find is 600 miles away, in Columbia, Missouri. Yes, you can get frozen-food versions of the chain's slider-style burgers in DFW grocery stores, but as anyone who has ever visited an actual White Castle can tell you, that's just not the same. For certain parts of the country, White Castle is a rite of passage.
So when we were told that a Fort Worth couple won White Castle's Royal Wedding Contest, we figured that there had to be an out-of-state angle to it. Turns out that there are a couple of them.
"I'm from New York," says Adam Mandel, who won the contest with his fiancee, Whitney Wicker. "So I've been eating White Castle my entire life. We went to Nashville, and I was proposing there. Nashville has White Castles that we didn't know about. We passed a White Castle on the way to the place where I was going to propose, and I said, 'We have to stop there before we leave.' "
Mandel proposed. Wicker said yes. They went to White Castle afterward. She saw an ad for the contest at the Nashville location, and the next day, they entered.
Mandel and Wicker met when Mandel, a photographer, was traveling with a musician and Wicker was helping promote a show at one of the stops.
"We met briefly," Mandel says. "We said hello, and that was it. And then the musician I was with retweeted something I said on Twitter, and she saw it and started following me. She DM'd me, and that was it. We had a long-distance relationship for about a year and a half. We finally met again in North Carolina, where she was doing job training. I moved to Texas for her."
As usual in contests like these, there were a lot of rules, although essentially couples had to say what role White Castle played in their relationship. It sounds like a rite of passage for Wicker, who had never been to a White Castle before meeting Mandel.
"My first trip to New York, Adam took me to White Castle," Wicker says. "We basically ordered one of everything off the menu. I ended [my submission] where we're at now in our relationship. . . . We had White Castle stories throughout our entire relationship."
Contestants were supposed to post about the contest on social media. Wicker's Facebook post features a hand wearing a White Castle burger right around the spot an engagement ring would be.
The list of what the couple won is pretty impressive: Not only is there a Vegas wedding this weekend (at a White Castle, of course, but not just any White Castle — at the first White Castle of the West), with hotel, transportation, decor, reception, etc. covered — but there's the honeymoon trip to Brussels, where the couple will get to stay in a real Belgian castle for one night, in addition to four nights of hotel accommodations.
A fairy-tale ending, especially for Mandel, who says that White Castle was part of his childhood.
"The taste is so familiar," Mandel says. "I feel like I'm a kid again when I eat it. "