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White Castle is coming back to Florida after a 50-year absence

The Ohio-based fast-food chain is opening one of its biggest restaurants just off I-4 near Walt Disney World.
This is a rendering of the White Castle coming to Orlando in 2020. It will be the chain's first Florida restaurant since 1968. [White Castle]

White Castle, the fast-food chain known for its small, road-trip-inspiring burgers, is bringing its signature sliders back to Florida for the first time in more than 50 years, the company announced Monday.

The company is bringing a 4,500-square-foot restaurant — one of its largest in the world — to the Village at O-Town West, part of the $1 billion O-Town West mixed-use development on Daryl Carter Parkway off Interstate 4 in Orange County, just a few miles from both Disney and SeaWorld. Construction is expected to begin in April, with the restaurant opening as early as the end of 2020.

White Castle executives said Florida caught its attention thanks to groups like “Bring White Castle to Florida,” a Facebook page with almost 10,000 followers.

“The people of Florida caught our attention,” White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson told the Tampa Bay Times. “Their devotion — as evidenced by Facebook pages like Bring White Castle to Florida — help us know that we’ll have a group of friends and loyal fans from day one.”

White Castle hasn’t had a restaurant in Florida since the late ’60s, when it operated a location in Miami. The chain’s founder, Billy Ingram, spent his winter months there. But the chain left in 1968 to focus on growing in cities where it had more of a presence, Richardson said. White Castle, which at 98 years old is often considered the first fast-food chain, has 375 restaurants in 13 states, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast. Florida makes it 14 states.

“We’re a family-owned business that focuses on thoughtful growth and expansion,” Richardson said. “For a number of years we have emphasized growing in cities where we already have a presence and investing in our consumer packaged-goods business, which allows us to have a presence in grocery store freezer aisles in all 50 states.”

While White Castle made a name for itself with its low-cost, square-shaped burgers called sliders that get steamed on a grill top, it’s probably most well known thanks to the 2004 stoner comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which followed the misadventures of two roommates who get the munchies after smoking marijuana and go on an Odyssean quest for sliders.

The Florida location, like many others, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s the only location planned in the state so far.

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