Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fast-Food Landmark at Wabash and Cermak

Many people across Chicago grew up eating White Castle hamburgers, affectionately called sliders. One of the earliest fast-food restaurants in America, the structure at E. Cermak Rd. was built in 1930 as the first White Castle in Chicago. The iconic fast-food building is now home to Chef Luciano and Gourmet Chicken, landmarks in their own right since they've occupied the space at 43 and 49 E. Cermak Rd. since 1982.

Preserving a Landmark
Co-owner Rocky Gupta, of Chef Luciano and Gourmet Chicken, worked with the city's commission on historic preservation to restore the building to its 1930s glory. This included rebuilding the tower on top of the building.

Roadside Architecture
While not a historic structure designed by Louis Sullivan or Daniel Burnham, the architecture of the original White Castle restaurant is significant according to Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner Chicago Historic Preservation. According to Goeken, the original White Castle represents what is called "roadside architecture," which is part of American culture and history and that makes it significant and important.

Making Hamburgers Safe to Eat
The hamburger chain was founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. After the publication of Upton Sinclair's 1906 landmark bestseller The Jungle, Americans were reluctant to eat ground beef. In a effort to convince customers that their beef was safe to eat, the founders established small restaurants that emphasized cleanliness at every stage of hamburger preparation. The public embraced the small, square burgers with onions and they've been with us ever since. Today you can find White Castle sliders in frozen food section of most supermarkets.

Are you a White Castle fan? Do you think its history is worth preserving? Share your thoughts here.


  1. I grew up having White Castle burgers and I think it is really neat to have this piece of Americana in the South Loop. Thanks to Chef Luciano for preserving the building and our Chicago history!

  2. So we have the White Castle burger building and the Original MacDonald's in Des Plains! Aren't we the culinary hub of the country!

  3. LOL,Knitting Goddess. Better to be famous for something than for nothing!


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