A video was recently produced by Justin Bolois about Jersey diner burgers, highlighting White Mana and Ringside! We had the chance to speak to Justin and get some insight on why he decided to visit Jersey City and the experience of producing a video about White Mana and Ringside.
Tell me more about the inspiration for this short film.
I can give you a little bit of context. This is the first season of First We Feast’s Burger Show. I saw that there was all of this interest and obsession with burgers, but there wasn’t a show that brought it all together and tapped into this zeitgeist of what we love about burgers. That’s why this show came about. It’s hosted by Alvin Cailan, who was sort of a brand name in LA. He started Eggslut, but little did people know that he was actually obsessed with burgers. Alvin grew up in LA, but had cousins in Jersey City. As a kid, he would go and visit his cousins, and they would often end up at White Mana after a night of drinking. It sort of became this legendary place in Alvin’s burger universe.
I had friends at Complex who knew about White Mana, one of them being Pat Byrne and his friend Dan. I had initially thought of shooting at the White Mana in Hackensack, but when I dug into the story more and got to talk to the owner Mario Costa and really see how he left a legacy on this little corner in Jersey City, it became much more about a place and this enduring spot, and these casts of characters that make Jersey City so unique and special.
That’s awesome. Where are you from?
I’m from LA, like Alvin. I live in New York writing for First We Feast. Before I started doing The Burger Show, I had this other series called Food Grails, which looks at food through the lens of socioeconomics, race, culture, and food being more about telling the identity of a place.
To me, that’s why I love this Jersey City episode. It was more about getting a feel for people like Jimmy the Juice, people like Jimmy Ryan (the guy behind the counter), the legacy behind Ringside, the legacy behind Mike Tyson, and how that common thread is White Mana and those sliders.
Did you get to try them?
Of course! I’ve been to White Mana a few times before shooting there. It’s a holy grail burger. If you’re obsessed with burgers, care about the history, and care about what this all means, then you go to White Mana.
After watching it, I’ve been dreaming about the burger. I usually go there late at night after going out at like 2 or 3 in the morning. It’s one of my favorite burgers. It’s so good!
The history of it is interesting because White Mana, both in Hackensack and Jersey City, and all the other diners you see in Jersey like White Rose are all copycats of White Castle. White Castle basically spawned all of these copycats who wanted to replicate the efficient service and cleanliness, so you have words like White and Castle for purity and strength. From all angles, whether you just love burgers or you love history or you love these characters, people are enamored with these White Mana legends.
So basically, you get to travel and eat burgers for a living?
My latest project explores burger culture in all of it’s different forms. We went to Jersey City on this expedition, we’ve done kitchen tutorials where we learn about regional burgers, and we’ve done crazy Instagram stunt burger showdowns with Matty Matheson and Sean Evans from Hot Ones. It’s supposed to be fluid because that’s representative of what burgers are. You can enjoy them and appreciate them in all these different settings.
What’s your next stop?
We’re actually gearing up for season 2, and that’s going to be in Los Angeles. That’s the land of In N Out, drive-thrus, all that good stuff.
That’s awesome. Where can people find you?
We’re First We Feast on YouTube, and people can go there to check out all the episodes of The Burger Show. We just released our season finale, and that one’s awesome because Alvin makes burgers for H. Jon Benjamin, who voices Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. They’re eating burgers from the show in real life. That was a cool opportunity.
Thank you so much, thanks for your time!