The 1939 World’s Fair in Queens was themed “The World of Tomorrow.” Forty-four million people visited Flushing Meadows–Corona Park for exhibitions of ingenuity that would forever reshape the human experience: These revolutionary concepts included air conditioners, televisions, fax machines, and a diner that now sits at a busy intersection in Jersey City.
The “diner of the future” was round, compact, and glistening. Thirteen stools lined a circular counter, helmed by an open-air kitchen where one employee was able to take orders, fill drinks, and cook the customers’ food without having to take more than a few steps. It was an early example of modern fast food.
The diner was purchased by Louis Bridges shortly after the fair’s closing, disassembled, and sent across the river to Jersey City. After opening in 1946, it quickly earned and has maintained local fame for its never-frozen beef burgers. In short time, Bridges opened four more locations. All the branches were named White Manna, save the original. When Bridges received a Coca-Cola privilege sign with the diner’s name misspelled, he ran with it and White Mana was born.
Only two of Bridges’s diners survive today: the original White Mana in Jersey City and a White Manna in Hackensack. Sold to two separate owners after his death, a beef emerged between the Hackensack diner and the original. A Food Network episode of Food Feuds even pitted the two against each other to see who had the better burger: White Manna came out on top, but there’s still only one original.
While recent years have seen an addition of breakfast options, soups, and sandwiches, White Mana’s burgers are its one true beacon and an ode to simplicity. They’re served on Wonder Bread with chopped onions, Heinz pickles, and beef patties that are delivered fresh daily. The future never tasted so retro.
Know Before You Go
The diner is cash only.