Both places pride themselves on their “system,” using every inch of the grill in perfect harmony to create a steamed smashed slider topped with onions and slung into a roll. But the Manna puts it to the test, by remaining a small burger counter with just enough seats around the grill. I’ve been here when it was so packed it looked like a phone booth stuffing contest. The building itself is an icon, a squat chrome toadstool on the Hackensack that’s served sliders for 63 years.
It’s seven years younger than the Jersey City joint, but they do things a little bit differently. They use a potato roll for the bun, which better fits the burger and has better flavor. Their burgers are a smidgen smaller, starting life as ruby red meatballs gridded out on the griddle looking like a maze for a carnivorous Pac-Man. Then the spatula smashes them down, and after they cook a while, a messy string of raw onion ringlets are deposited on top like tinsel. Once they caramelize, cheese and bun-top arrive to steam-finish the meat and you get your slider with s few slices of sour pickle on a plate.
Don’t bother the griddle man with orders for drinks or fries; he has minions to do that. The grill is his domain, and requires his full attention. And once you get a taste of the fruits of his labor, you’ll agree that he should not be disturbed. These are much juicier, and much richer than any other sliders I’ve had. Within the same week I had some flame-broiled Lil Burgers and a fantastic HB Burger, and these were a lot like the HB, which is one of my new favorites. They lack the crust, but being steamed under a bun makes that impossible.
So my favorite slider is the White Manna. It packs a lot of flavor into that tiny burger, which is what sliders are all about. I might like the White Diamond better, but they’re much bigger than a slider. Sometimes it seems that my favorite burger is the one I ate last, but I’ve neglected to tell some of the horror stories here. I’ll rectify that soon. You have to try average burgers now and then, so you know what good tastes like. And that’s how you know when something like the White Manna stands out.