What makes a Valentine’s Day special? Better yet, what makes one memorable? Is it the taste of those delicious milk chocolates and caramels received from that special someone? Is it the sweet smell of hand-cut roses? What about the candle-lit dinners, the Hallmark cards, or those little candy hearts with the dime-a-dozen love statements stamped on the surface? Certainly for most people these things make up the modern Valentine’s Day. But after the chocolates are gone and the roses are wilted, what is left of Feb. 14?
Almost 20 years ago, White Castle began offering its customers an alternative to the fine dining experience that, for many, is the staple of Valentine’s Day. The option was simple: Make dinner reservations at White Castle, then come enjoy themed decorations, tableside service and a candlelight dinner. Since then, people like Sherry Beckert, a University of Louisville graduate, have taken the fast food burger joint up on its offer.
“This will be our sixth year,” said Beckert. “We started going in 2006.”
Beckert said that her first experience at a White Castle on Valentine’s Day happened after she saw a marquee sign advertising the event outside of a local branch. Beckert, her husband, and a group of their friends and family members have been celebrating Valentine’s Day at White Castle ever since. The group gathers at the Beckerts’ house before and after their excursion to White Castle.
“We are right around the corner from the one on Hurstbourne and Stony Brook,” said Beckert. “We have appetizers before, and desserts after.”
Beckert’s tradition over the last half decade has grown into a large affair. This year she expects to have about 30 people join she and her husband, with the group varying in age from 24 to 85.
“You can find fun at a place most people would thumb their nose at,” said Beckert.
Karen Bockting, general manager of the White Castle at 739 Eastern Parkway, said their branch will be participating this year with all the bells and whistles: white linen tablecloths, flowers on the tables, special menus and table service.
Christina Dziak of Paul Werth Associates does public relations work for White Castle. She highlighted one of the special offers, known as the Sweetheart Meal Deal, which is an online coupon for $1 off a Sack of Sides with the purchase of a No.1 or No. 10 Sack Meal.
“It’s affordable, fun and different,” said Dziak, “There’s one time out of the year White Castle has tableside service, and it’s Valentine’s Day. Plus, couples and groups get a complimentary digital photo taken that will be available on the White Castle website after the event. It makes for a memorable event and isn’t cliché, like dinner at an upscale restaurant is.”
The affordability of a Valentine’s Day spent ordering off a White Castle menu may be attractive to some U of L students.
“When you’re a group of college students, you’re looking to mooch your way through college,” said Beckert.
To some U of L students, however, it’s doing what they love that makes Valentine’s Day special, not the amount of money spent.
“That’s the day of love!” said Cambron Little, a sophomore music performance major. “I usually do things I love, like Chinese restaurants for lunch and nice restaurants for dinner. However, if you and your partner love White Castle, then why not?”
So what makes a Valentine’s Day special? What happens when all the steamy singles and doubles with cheese have been eaten, and have left their consumers with nothing more than a brown paper sack, salty lips and a slight case of onion breath? What will be left to take away from Feb. 14 when the white linens are stripped away and White Castle once again becomes the place that the inebriated crave late on Friday and Saturday nights? The answer is up to each individual. It’s making it a memorable day and enjoying the special people in life that makes the difference.
“You’ve got to make fun doing it, not make fun of it,” said Beckert.