SOUTH LOOP — White Castle is back and bigger than ever in the South Loop.
The fast food chain will debut its newest restaurant at 9 a.m. Thursday at the northwest corner of Cermak Road and Wabash Avenue, said Darrin Cotton, a district supervisor at White Castle.
Once open, the restaurant at 2140 S. Wabash will serve guests 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include a drive-thru. Unlike its predecessor that was torn down in May, the new South Loop White Castle can also seat about 50 guests inside, where they can watch TV, use Wi-Fi and see cooks work in an open kitchen.
The new-and-improved White Castle is the latest addition to the quickly changing area around McCormick Place, where a new Green Line station opened two years ago and the Wintrust Arena will start hosting events next month.
White Castle will honor the occasion by debuting a new, deluxe "1921 Slider" sold for $1.69 with never-frozen beef, Lawry's seasoned salt, lettuce, tomato, and onion. The burger's name nods to the year the first-ever White Castle opened.
The 1921 Slider will only be sold at the South Loop White Castle. [Provided]
The South Loop White Castle is one of five in the city, and sits on an important intersection for the chain.
A former White Castle built in 1930 across the street at 43 E. Cermak was landmarked by the city in 2011. Then, city officials said the building was the "best-surviving example" here of a White Castle, which popularized hamburgers in America and is considered the "father" of this country's fast-food chains. Chicago was once home to many more White Castles, most of them on the city's south and west sides, and the chain's founder once said he loosely modeled his restaurants' distinctive designs on the Old Water Tower on North Michigan Avenue.
Prior to White Castle's 1920s founding in Kansas, hamburgers were dismissed by most Americans as "carnival food" that resembled meatball sandwiches lumped between cold slices of bread. But the chain improved the food with thin patties, onions and warm buns grilled quickly in front of customers in clean-looking, white-glazed restaurants. The store at 43 E. Cermak, the 16th in the company's history, was built for $4,500 during the depths of the Great Depression.
The new restaurant's debut will follow an 8:45 a.m. ribbon-cutting Thursday that will be attended by local officials including 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D.-Ill.), as well as state Rep. Juliana Stratton, also a candidate for Illinois lieutenant governor on the ticket with governor's candidate J.B. Pritzker.
The old South Loop White Castle that was torn down in May. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]