White Hut is a seven-decades-old burger joint just over the river from downtown Springfield. Like at White Castle (primarily NY), White Manna (NJ) and other joints of that ilk and vintage, the word "white" connotes cleanliness—something that wasn't taken for granted in the early days of the burger industry. The old school counter stools are where most of the customers sit, gazing at the griddle where thin patties cook next to a large mound of fried onions that are the signature topping. If you order a burger with just cheese, the counter staff will double check to make sure you really didn't want the onions.
The menu is so simple, there's not even a physical menu to be found, other than for drinks and desserts. It's just burgers, dogs and fries, with toppings limited to cheese, onions, ketchup, mustard and relish. You order verbally, they cook it and serve it, and at the end of the meal you tell them what you had and pay for it. I had no idea what a cheeseburger cost (it's $2.75) until I checked the website afterward.
A few small tables at the back of the room allow overflow dining while standing. The throwback look of the place in general and the sight of the beef and onions on the griddle had my juices flowing the moment I walked in.
A simple seedless white bread bun is very similar to the McDonald's standard, with more brown on the dome than McDonald's. I was hoping that White Hut would integrate the onion essence into the bun by cooking it over the onions, like White Castle (which I like), but they merely toast them, like McDonald's.
Again, just like McDonald's. Same size, same thickness, same griddled approach. The meat seemed leaner than McDonald's, and as a result wound up dry and not so flavorful (outer crusting and seasoning were both minimal). In the cheeseburger this was somewhat mitigated by the toppings, but in the au natural hamburger the dryness was hard to hide. So much for juices flowing.
The cheese was simple American, melted so fully that it had the feel of Cheese Whiz. The fried onions were voluminous, quite flavorful (not bitter) and clearly the star of the show, easily upstaging the patty but working so well with the cheese it was practically a sauce.
Another victory for White Hut. These were slightly thicker than shoestrings, and with skins on. Very crisp, not too greasy.
A competently griddled dog with a little bit of snap, served on a toasted bun. The onions were again the star.
The Bottom Line
Ambience, comfort, friendliness, efficiency, affordability, historical significance and a memorable topping all come through in spades, but when it comes down to the burger itself, White Hut comes up a little dry. Literally. There's still plenty to like, so I'm all for giving them another shot down the road.
Boston Burger Blog's review of White Hut
Yelp reviews of Five White Hut
Urbanspoon reviews of White Hut