The new White Castle in Whiting, replacing the oldest White Castle in the Chicago area, opens Wednesday, and it features artificial intelligence and robots.
The Columbus, Ohio-based burger chain, known for its steam-grilled sliders, demolished the White Castle at Indianapolis Boulevard and 119th Street in Whiting after an 88-year run serving generations of region residents.
It had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Whiting Mayor Steven Spebar, White Castle leaders and other dignitaries at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The new White Castle replaces a white porcelain, castle-shaped restaurant that was built in 1935 and had the chain’s original restaurant design, which was meant to reassure customers of cleanliness at a time when fast food was a new concept and food safety at restaurants was more suspect. Complete with turrets, it opened just 14 years after the White Castle chain started in Wichita, Kansas, where it became America’s first fast food chain and introduced the world to the slider, the tiny square burger that now has become a popular appetizer at many sit-down restaurants all around the country.
The Whiting White Castle was expanded during a remodeling in 1956 and finally closed on March 28. Parts of it were moved to the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society Museum down the street and to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union.
The new restaurant at 1879 Indianapolis Blvd. is more than twice the size, at 2,997 square feet. It features an outdoor park where the old White Castle used to be that includes benches to sit on and a historic plaque commemorating the long-standing White Castle that served Northwest Indiana for more than eight decades. It was frequented by many people outside of the immediate vicinity, given its proximity to the Lake Michigan lakefront, Pierogi Fest, the Hammond Horseshoe Casino and other nearby attractions.
The new White Castle features a mural by artist Adan Ramirez from Chicago’s neighboring East Side neighborhood. The Calumet College student painted a work that represents the history of the Whiting-Robertsdale area.
The new White Castle has a robot making French fries and a menu board in the drive-thru lane that’s powered by artificial intelligence. White Castle said the new technologies let employees spend more time on customer-facing responsibilities and have not eliminated any positions.
Here’s a little peak at how the robotic fryers work: