Landmark status for White Castle? It's what the city craves

March 2, 2011

If the Chef Luciano & Gourmet Chicken place on the Near South Side looks like a white castle, it's with good reason: The building was originally a White Castle, one of the earliest built by the world-famous restaurant chain.

And tomorrow, city staffers will seek preliminary landmark status for the building at 43 E. Cermak, saying the 80-year-old building is the city's best surviving example of an original White Castle restaurant. Built in 1930, the building, originally White Castle #16, was among scores of first-gen White Castle restaurants that made eating hamburgers acceptable--it was low-brow carny food before then--and created a construction and business model that paved the way for modern post-war franchise systems like McDonalds and others, according to a city report.

The city's landmarks division will make its case before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

So...I can hear some of you. You've been by this intersection a million times and you know the actual White Castle restaurant across the street on northwest corner of Wabash and Cermak, but this building isn't ringing a bell, visually. That might be because the Chef Luciano building for years looked like this until a deft 2010 restoration brought back the building's original detailing, including its crenelated tower.

If granted, preliminary landmark status would grant the building protection while staffers do further research and study in order to recommend full landmark status in about a year.