For Metro Transit Safety Specialist Tim Bowman, White Castle is more than a place to get a steamed, five-hole hamburger.
The restaurant is such a prominent part of his life, in fact, that Bowman recently wrote to the restaurant asking if they’d consider including his father and him in their Wall of Fame, which for the past 17 years has recognized fervent fans like him known as “Cravers.”
This week, he traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., to accept the honors at a corporate get-together. In addition to an induction ceremony, he and other invited guests were treated to a private dining experience at a local White Castle. Bowman took the opportunity to step behind the counter to flip burgers, grill onions and fold boxes.
The experience comes more than 50 years after Donald Bowman began taking his son to the White Castle on St. Paul's Rice Street, where they'd order from the front seat of the car. Later in life, they’d meet at the White Bear Avenue location before bowling on weekends or before heading off to work. After he got married, Bowman began taking his wife there for their white tablecloth service on Valentine’s Day.
A 37-year employee in St. Paul’s street maintenance department, Donald Bowman also frequently met retired co-workers at the restaurant.
When his dad entered a nursing home a few years ago, White Castle became the final stop when Tim Bowman and his dad ventured out to run errands. It was during those visits that Tim Bowman realized just how deep a connection his father had to the restaurant and those who worked there.
“We’d go through the drive through, he’d be in the passenger seat, and there would be three or four employees hanging out the window because they hadn’t seen him in so long,” he said.
When Donald succumbed to illness in 2016, more than 200 hamburgers and cheeseburgers were served at the funeral. Tim Bowman said this week's induction into the Wall of Fame is an even more enduring way of memorializing the bond that was developed between father, son and White Castle over the years.
“When I think of the 57 years I had with my dad, and of the 53 that I can remember, White Castle is heavily included in them,” he said. “It’s a real honor for my father and I to be inductees in the White Castle Hall of Fame.”