470 Tonnele Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07307
Much like most of the people who moved into NYC, I too got rid of my car years ago. It’s a pain in the butt, time consuming money pit and unless you are loaded with moola, it’s just too much to deal with to have a car here. That does mean however, that if I need to go somewhere that isn’t near a train station, I have to rent a car. With a wife, family upstate and a burning desire to get the hell out of the rat race every once in awhile, I end up with a lot of rental cars. For this, I prefer to use Hertz. They’re reliable, good cars and most importantly, the closest car rental company to my apartment. I also like their Connect By Hertz service which allows you to rent a vehicle by the hour for one price that includes gas and tolls.
I woke up on this day in particular to discover I had to make a mandatory trip into New Jersey. Having lived in NJ for nearly a decade before migrating into Manhattan, I am grossly familiar with the pros and cons of the state. Amazing how once you leave it, the balance tips even more towards the cons. One thing that makes a trip into NJ much more tolerable is the food. Being so close to a mecca like NYC, there are some decent eats out there in the Garden State. One of my favorites and only 10 minutes from the Lincoln Tunnel is the White Mana in Jersey City, NJ.
Nothing like an old standard. This is the burger that became a legend. Originally opened in 1939 at the NY World’s Fair, it was named after the Biblical food “manna” (sometimes spelled “mana.”) According to Wikipedia; “the name of a food that God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert as recorded in the Bible. It was said to be sweet to the taste. It is narrated in the hadith Sahih Muslim that the Muslim prophet Muhammad said “Truffles are ‘manna’ which Allah, sent to the people of Israel through [Musa], and its juice is a medicine for the eyes.” This is the original White Mana, not to be confused with the one on Hackensack, NJ with an unexplained extra “n” in it’s name.
The Mana is open 24 hours a day and while there is never a bad time to go there, 2-3 am is usually ram packed with people who have just been kicked out of bars and have the munchies. It can get really busy. I will say however, that the enjoyment one gets from eating the burgers here increases when inebriated, even a little bit. That was not the case on this Friday afternoon excursion into New Jersey where I just needed a little beefy reprieve.
The sliders are served on a fluffy white bun, with 1 slice of American cheese and a small patty made from a smash ball of ground beef, flat griddled with onions. The crispy fries make nice appetizer as they usually arrive before your burgers. I heavily suggest a cup of grape drink to wash down your meal. I don’t really enjoy sweet beverages but there is something extra special about this one. It will remind you fondly of your childhood. There’s about a dozen seats all set in a semi-circle around the grill man.
One of the best parts of the Mana is watching the cook prepare the burgers. When they’re busy, he’ll have an army of burgers cooking in onion juices. If you can go at an off hour, you can get burgers right away, without the wait and carefully prepared sliders. However there is one advantage to a busy grill, the burgers cook in more juices and onions to give you that real slider experience. Unlike your A-typical slider, these aren’t greasy as the juices are sealed inside.
I will admit that it’s been awhile since my last visit to the Mana, and it seems they have changed buns. This felt bigger than in the past, creating a disproportionate bun to beef ratio, in favor of the bun. I also remember the patios being juicier but perhaps it’s the larger bun sucking up all the grease. Regardless, it’s still a classic, it’s a legend, it delicious and if you haven’t had them yet, head over and get 3, 6, 10 or as many as you can handle.