"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Monday, June 23, 2008

Roney's Hamburgers

If you’re driving along Rt. 130 north on the edge of Collingswood near the Cooper River be sure not to miss one of the few remaining vestiges of New Jersey hamburger history: Roney’s Hamburgers. A must stop for any true roadfoodie, the gleaming orange and blue structure has had a few updates since its former life as a White Tower restaurant. As a matter of fact, if you look real close at the sign mounted above the building you can still make out the words “White Tower” faded into the wood beneath the more freshly painted “Roney’s Restaurant”.
Inside the compact structure is a lunch counter with eight stools plus a few more up front. There’s a small able in the corner. Upon seeing the small grill and fryer tucked away at the end of the counter you are left to wonder how they can keep up during the rush.
The scant seating does not act as a deterrent. I’ve seen quite a few people packed into this place. Occasionally, one has to wonder whether the place might be bigger on the inside than out.
Technically always open, Roney’s is probably the safest place to eat in the whole area. Turns out that this old hamburger stand is a favorite meeting place for police officers from several municipalities. I don’t think that I’ve ever been there without an armed escort. I wouldn’t feel quite as safe at the big Dunkin Donuts across the street. The cops around here prefer hamburgers.
It was late and I hadn’t had any dinner, so I was pretty darn hungry. Roney’s menu is compact but well rounded and more than affordable. You can get breakfast all day and night along with just about anything else that can be grilled, fried or toasted. This time around I settled on the Double Big “R” Cheeseburger with Bacon. Roney’s serves two sizes of burger, a four-ounce and a six-ounce. So, this one was 2 six-ounce burgers with cheese, grilled onions and pickles.
On the overnight shift at Roney’s your server is also your chef. So having taken my order, the waitress headed over to the grill to put it all together. In no time at all I was faced with a hot and ever so wonderfully greasy Double Big “R” Cheeseburger with Bacon. With some care it can be lifted in both hands and eaten with a minimum of sloppiness. Rush into it all helter skelter and you could end up with a mess on your hands.
It was everything I hoped it would be. All of the ingredients blended together into an experience in burgery goodness. For about another buck and a half you can platter it with lettuce, tomato and fries. Next time around I’m planning to dive into the breakfast menu.
Although the menu will accommodate most people, please be aware that it is all cooked on the same grill. So if you don’t eat meat, your eggs, grilled cheese and whatnot will be cooked where the meat was. Sorry, but that’s the price you pay for such a compact set-up. So, be sure to stop by Roney’s for a for a bite to eat and while you’re at it check out the classic surroundings. They really don’t make them like this anymore.

(photo courtesy of RoadsideArchitecture.com)


Anonymous said...

I discovered this place today and while it is still open and serving, sadly learned that it is scheduled to be demolished after summer of 2011.

Allenm52@comcast.net said...

Roney's was in existance for than 50+ years starting out as White Tower. I had been going there for the better part of 40 years until about a month ago after working there for White Tower when I was 15 years old.I and my freinds have many hours of history we can not beleive all it took to bring it down was Peter (PJ'S food court). He finaly killed it when PSE&G cut the gas & electric in Jan.2011 and Peter ran to the Dug Out to destroy that. (The sign in the window says that Roney's is closed due to road construction by NJDOT) Peter being being what he is will never know the true history of Roney;s or will he care that he destroyed a land mark of Collings Wood. RIP Roney's

Anonymous said...

i ate there when it was a WT
i sold paper from there when i was a kid
i bought the other Roney's in mt ephriam and took it home
it was a modular"valentine" diner
so i could move it


the one in collingswood was built- on -ite
why they don't just move-it-back to the back-of-that-lot??, i don't know
that was supposedly the largest piece of land WT ever purchased

Camden Courier-Post - February 23, 2007

Transplant craves old diner



The Harwan Theater is coming down, but the adjacent DiNic's Roast Beef, a former White Tower restaurant, is moving on.

To West Virginia.

A self-described "dinerholic" who grew up in Collingswood is paying to have the.

landmark little eatery picked up and trucked about 300 miles from the Black Horse Pike to his home in Morgantown, W.Va. The Mount Ephraim site is being cleared for construction of a Walgreens.

"I always wanted a diner," John Shoaf, a 64-year-old retired teacher and respected preservationist, said Thursday. "Most people pretty much think it's crazy. My better half thinks I'm out of my mind."

A 1960 Collingswood High School graduate, Shoaf is hardly unique in his love of diners, which have inspired numerous scholarly and pop-culture books, as well as fan sites on the Web. The Mount Ephraim White Tower meets the definition of a diner despite its minuscule size because it's a manufactured structure and was shipped to its site (in 1946 or thereabouts, Shoaf believes).

Accommodating the removal rather than the demolition of a building "is a little unusual, in our experience, unless the building is historic," said Jake Todd, senior project manager for the Bannett Group, the Cherry Hill firm constructing the Walgreens.

"It could be the only one left in existence," said Shoaf, adding the Mount Ephraim White Tower was one of 15 manufactured by the Arthur Valentine company of Wichita, Kan.

Paul M. Hirshorn, who co-authored White Tower -- the definitive (and only) book on the subject -- said the Valentine buildings were designed to the specifications of White Tower's in-house architect, Charles Johnson.

With its gleaming porcelain exterior, big windows and brightly lit tower, Johnson's iconic design "was able to communicate its message . . . in a sophisticated and successful way" to passing motorists, said Hirshorn.

Nostalgia is clearly a part of the affection for these buildings, said John S. Flack, a Marlton resident who maintains a Web site devoted to the defunct Burger Chef chain.

"People like to go back to their childhoods," he observed.

Indeed, as Shoaf shared via e-mail, "when I was younger, my parents told me I could go anywhere for my birthday, and I always (went to) White Tower (on) Admiral Wilson Boulevard . . . for a sack of hamburgers." So Shoaf is willing to spend his hard-earned money -- Shoaf won't say how much -- to bring the one-time home of that taste to West Virginia.

He'll place the old White Tower on land he owns overlooking I-79.

And someday, Shoaf said, he'd like to fire up that grill again.

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