Original White Castle bldg. considered for landmark status

March 2, 2011 3:36:41 PM PST
As the slider celebrates its 90th birthday, an original White Castle location heads toward official landmark status.

These days at the corner of Wabash and Cermak we find a shrine to the White Castle slider. It's not a White Castle anymore ... It's actually the Chef Luciano and Gourmet Chicken restaurant and has been since 1982. But last year when the exterior looked like this the owners here and the city's commission on historic preservation got together and recreated the original White Castle from 1930.

"We pulled down all the brick above the windows. Came back down ... rebuilt it with new brick and then added the tower to fix the tower back on top of the building," Rocky Gupta, co-owner of Chef Luciano and Gourmet Chicken.

The whole purpose of the rehab is to turn this diner into an official Chicago landmark. So no you can't get sliders there, but you can drive by and get one of those old time cravings for those little square slippery burgers, which, by the way, you can get right across the street at a modern white castle. It's today versus 81 years ago.

"It actually looks more like a White Castle than the new White Castles do. It's a very historic period look," Gupta said.

Why would the city of Chicago honor the slider? Well, it's because this isn't just bread, beef, onions and pickles. This is a bite of hamburger history. In 1930, when the White Castle opened, it was the beginning of a revolution for Americans dining out.

"It's one of the early fast food restaurants in the United States and it's one of the most important," Brian Goeken, dep. Comm. Chicago Historic Preservation.

And even though the architecture is not the work of Louis Sullivan, it's still important.

"You also have what's called roadside architecture or popular architecture and this is just as important in many ways as the high styled buildings," Goeken said.

The landmark process begins Thursday. It could take a year to make it official.