Here’s our local restaurant’s wish list for the new Bally’s Chicago casino

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In just over three years, Chicago will house a state-of-the-art casino thanks to Bally Company ($BALY). The company’s 205,700-square-foot casino will feature plenty of gaming amenities, but there’s one thing gamblers and non-gamers alike will be eager to try: the food.

If Chicagoans are worried that Bally’s is bringing outside food options, fear not.

In its 64 pages Host Community AgreementBally’s has promised to work with Chicago-based chefs, collectives and restaurants, including Punctual hospitality, which includes popular establishments like The Publican, AVEC and Big Star. Even better, Bally’s will work with Chief Eric WilliamsChicago James Beard Award winner.

In June, Williams was the only Chicagoan to win an award from the James Beard Foundation, winning the honor of Best Chef: Great Lakes. Its upscale Southern restaurant, Virtuein the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, also did Eater’s Best New Restaurant 2019 listing.

Some of the most famous chefs and restaurateurs are known to have made casinos their home. Momofuku of chef david chang (Cosmopolitan), Hell’s Kitchen of Chief Gordon Ramsay (Caesar’s Palace), and Nobu Las Vegas of Chief Nobu Matsuhisa (three locations in Las Vegas casinos) are a few that immediately come to mind. With Williams in attendance, it will be interesting to see what kind of cuisine will be showcased at the new Chicago casino once it opens in 2025.

That said, let’s explore some restaurants we hope to see at Bally’s new property.

Bally’s Chicago Casino, coming in 2025

When completed, the new casino will house 4,000 gaming stations, including 2,400 slot machines, 150 table games and 20 poker tables. In person Illinois sports betting and mobile betting will also be available.

As for dining options, there will be six restaurants/cafes and a food hall. Names and operators have not been announced (or possibly even secured), only the kind of food:

  • Three meal dinner (150 places)
  • Bally Sports Bar (200 places)
  • Dining room (175 places)
  • asian restaurant (50 places)
  • Steak house (150 places)
  • Italian restaurant (200 places)
  • Takeaway coffee bar (20 places)

When it comes to food in Chicago, there are thousands of local favorites. Although multiple vendors may play for the food hall, we will stick to the four available spots.

Let’s see who we’d like to fill this list.

Coffee to go: Big Shoulders Coffee

It’s all in the name Coffee with big shoulders.

Tim Coonan and his wife Patricia found the coffee. Together they have over 65 years in the hospitality industry. Like Williams, Tim began his career as a chef in restaurants in New York, France, Italy and Chicago.

One of my favorite beers is Bourbon honey from Mexico. It brings notes of banana, caramelized sugar and almond with a touch of strawberry, plum and cherry acidity. This is my perfect mug to start any morning, especially if I have a long day ahead of me at a casino.

With six locations around town and a solid reputation, Big Shoulders would be a perfect complement to the take-out coffee inside this Chicago casino.

Asian restaurant: Triple Crown

Established in 1996, Triple Crown specialize in Cantonese cuisine featuring lobster, bass and Dungeness crab. Located in Chicago’s historic Chinatown district, Triple Crown’s family-style layout is perfect for an upscale meal or late-night Dim Sum.

An even higher form of this restaurant (in the vein of Nobu) would fit perfectly with Bally’s vision of a world-class casino.

Steakhouse: The Publican

Although this is not a steak house, the publican specializes in the holy trinity of foods: Beer, pork and Oysters.

Chef-Partner Paul Kahana Chicago native, has created a valuable addition to Chicago’s sprawling dining scene by building a team that supplies the restaurant with hand-selected, sustainably raised fish, seafood and pork.

Publican has a simple farmhouse atmosphere with classics like Belgian-style mussels, ribs, and the restaurant’s signature free-range chicken. It wouldn’t take much to incorporate aged slices of steak and hearty upscale potatoes. The restaurant could even retain the 16th century European decor, which would do wonders for a casino.

Italian restaurant: very biased

If there’s one cuisine I’m biased against, it’s Italian cuisine. Believe me, there’s no shortage of great Italian restaurants in Chicago. That said, I offer two restaurants it would make great additions to Bally’s should the casino operator come knocking.

Veron Park Tap by Tufano (Little Italy): This is an old fashioned Italian restaurant. Even its decor makes it feel like you’re tucked away in your private villa.

If he decided to elevate some of his classic menu items, I’d be the first to try them. Linguini with clams in white sauce, stuffed artichoke, Limon chicken with angel hair… dishes like these are what goes well with the world.

Bruna’s Ristorante (Little Italy): Bruna opened in 1933which makes it the Chicago’s third oldest Italian restaurant. If there was a way to transport this restaurant – as is – to a Bally casino, I would. This retro look is one of a kind and should stay intact. However, if there was an upscale version of this local establishment, there would be no way to keep me away. Prosciutto and melon, Carbonara spaghettiand Stuffed shells are just a few of the favorites on this menu.

Food hall hopefuls: many options

Although the total number of food hall vendors is unknown, there are several restaurants that I would like to see featured. Maybe some mini pop-ups inside the casino?

Of course, this list can go on and on, but to save time, I’ll limit it to three options.

Top notch beef burgers (2116 W 95h Street)

Look, any casino can open a Shake Shack or an In-N-Out Burger; that would be the easy way out. I don’t think Erick Williams will waste valuable real estate and use his influence to recommend a standard American burger chain. I hope it goes local.

A holdover from the past, Top-Notch Burger, located in the Neighborhood Beverly, is a burger institution for over 75 years. In reality, Excellent chef Joe Flamm, winner of season 15 (another Chicago native) named Top-Notch as one of his favorites Restaurants on the south side.

A burger inside a casino food hall is a no-brainer. But let’s make it something you can’t find in New York or Las Angeles yet.

Cleo’s Southern Kitchen (4248 S. Cottage Grove Ave)

This 10-seat restaurant Chief Kristen Ashley in Chicago Bronzeville district produces, in my opinion, the best version of chicken and waffles. The restaurant has been featured in Chicago eater “Places to eat” Michelin Guide. It was also ranked #3 on TimeOut Chicago best wings in town.

The menu offers delicacies like creole fried catfish with buttered crab chunks, Smoked Turkey Salted Green Beansand the always so tasty 24 carat gold muffins. A small pop-up with portable dining options would fit right into any casino.

soul and smoke (916 W Fulton Market)

I’m from Texas and before you start asking me questions, I know a good barbecue when I see it. He may have a reputation as a gourmet chef, but By Andre Carter takes barbecuing to another level.

The menu is simple but spicy. Cajun Shrimp and Grits, smoked beef brisket by the pound and smoked ‘Nduja sausage are just some of the things that remind me of home. Plus, what better way to refuel after a long day at the craps table than with a pulled pork sandwich and cold beer.

There’s a chance that some or even none of these restaurants will make it inside Bally’s. But the company’s promise to work with local talent gives me hope that the food inside this casino will be some of the best in town.

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