As a Vegas obsessive with far too few trips planned, it’s difficult to satiate my Sin City appetite. I frequently turn to blogs, podcasts, and YouTubers to hold me over until my next visit, which is so far away I’m afraid, by that time, my beard will be fully grayed and my hair fully receded. Enter Chicago’s Logan Square restaurant, The Whale.
The Whale is an overt homage to a Las Vegas of yesteryear, a time and place many with a passion for Vegas wish they could have experienced. The term whale is a reference to the highest of high rollers in a casino—those who can do pretty much whatever they want. You know, those slightly above #influencer status. Despite my low roller tendencies, my party and I were very much welcome at The Whale.
The themed decor mixes obvious with subtle. There pictures of old school Vegas legends and casinos lining the walls. A small, retro slot machine separates some tables near the entrance. And the host stand is a replica blackjack table, paying 3:2, of course. Though my favorite casino hint is the back of the bar. Carefully placed televisions centered in the half circle built-ins resemble a row of slot machines, which I’m sure was anything but accidental. They don’t dispense monies, unfortunately, but bar attendants make up for it with well constructed cocktails.
The menu at The Whale reminds me a lot of Las Vegas in general. It’s trying to be a lot of different things to a lot of different appetites. Some dishes are, naturally, better than others, but no matter your budget, you’ll find something that works. I was quite surprised by how good the spicy ahi tuna sushi was. The fish tasted fresh and the combination of sauces and flavors rivals that of many other sushi-centric restaurants. Plus, calling appetizers “Antes” gets bonus points in my book.
For my main event, I ordered the fried chicken. It was tasty and juicy, though the skin didn’t hold up as well as I’d hope. The “side bets” here are a better deal than any you’d find in your local casino. The pimento mac n’ cheese is worth doubling down for.
The cocktail menu is diverse and, I’m happy to report, they get the my favorite classic, the old fashioned, just right. Starting with a good base of Buffalo Trace certainly helps. They also feature a couple mocktails on the menu as well, which I appreciate. Sober friends deserve something tasty besides soft drinks to enjoy.
If the theme were stripped away, it would be a fine restaurant experience with minimal complaints. The staff were friendly and engaging, much like a great casino crew. The food was good and the cocktails hit all the right notes. But as someone with Vegas in my heart and often on my mind, The Whale just feels good. With the level of reverence I have for Vegas current and past, finding The Whale in my hometown is like hitting a video poker royal, and not of the Fanboy variety.