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Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana: Home of chicken, music, and all things Jackson

By Carrie Steinweg

GARY, Ind. (November 2, 2021) – It may be time to resurrect the chicken sandwich wars because there’s a new contender nearby. Hard Rock Cafe in the new Hard Rock Casino in Gary opened in May and one of the highlights of the menu is “The Triumph” Famous Jacksons’ Chicken Sandwich. The recipe was developed by Jackson brothers Marlon, Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine.

Tito (left) and Marlon Jackson give an interview while showcasing the sandwich that bears their family’s name on the opening day of Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in May. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“We wanted to make sure it was what the brothers wanted,” said Mark Arnold, Hard Rock Cafe General Manager and Lansing resident. “The brothers collectively agreed on finalizing the sandwich. We made a couple tweaks on the culinary side, but they said it was a go. The name alone gives it that charisma and sparks that interest.”

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The recipe of “The Triumph” Famous Jacksons’ Chicken Sandwich was developed by brothers Marlon, Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine Jackson. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

The oversized, double-fried, panko-coated chicken breast is brushed in honey and served with pickled red onion, frisée lettuce, and a spicy aioli sauce in between a toasted brioche bun and aside a cup of freshly-seasoned fries. It’s one of the most popular menu items — sharing the stage with massive steak burgers, sizzling fajitas, crispy chicken tenders, tangy mac and cheese, savory salads, and more with a supporting lineup of refreshing cocktails and non-alcoholic lemonade beverages.

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Executive Sous Chef Norman Hargrove (left) and Sous Chef Jay Richards show off one of the most popular items on the menu at the Hard Rock Cafe in Gary – “The Triumph” Famous Jacksons’ Chicken Sandwich. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Hard Rock history

The Hard Rock brand originated in 1971 in London and has since grown to have venues in 75 countries, including 180 cafes, 24 hotels, and 11 casinos. It was started by two Americans, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, who were brought together by their love of American food and rock n’ roll. Their vision was to create a cafe that embraced everyone —  no matter their background — and to unify the world.

The cafes are filled with rock n’ roll memorabilia — clothing, instruments and more by some of the biggest artists and legends in the music industry. “The whole place is a museum,” said Arnold.

At the Hard Rock Casino in Gary guests find a variety of pieces from artists young and old — among them a suit worn by Elvis Presley, a coat worn by Billie Eillish, a jacket from Post Malone, a hat worn by Pharrell Williams, a pair of Fergie’s boots and a dress belonging to Janet Jackson. There’s also a wall highlighting Hoosier artists, including John Mellencamp.

The Jackson connection

Gary’s location is no different the the other venues, which are shrines to musical masters around the world, but this location has a major focus on Gary’s most famous residents, the members of the musical Jackson family. A centerpiece of the casino is a guitar that had belonged to patriarch Joe Jackson that his sons would steal and use to make music — the early makings of what would become the Jackson 5.

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Mark Arnold, General Manger of the Hard Rock Cafe in Gary, shows off The Original Legendary Burger. (Photo Carrie Steinweg)

“Gary is the birthplace of Michael Jackson, so with Hard Rock being so infused and in tune with music, it just made sense the family would be involved,” Arnold said. “And it wasn’t like a tug of war or anything. They were more than happy to come out and support us. It really inspired the community and our team members to come and work here. They helped us out with memorabilia and promoting the casino. We were every fortunate to have the Jackson family’s support.”

Guests can also view the red jacket that Michael Jackson wore in the “Beat It” video, one of his glittery gloves and a pair of shoes he danced his famous “moonwalk” move in. Over the cafe’s stage are the words “We’re Here To Entertain,” a line attributed to the Jacksons. Also scrolled around the stage are four philosophies of the Hard Rock Cafe, International: “All Is One,” “Love All, Serve all,” Take Time To Be Kind,” and “Save the Planet.”

A unique experience

“The brand overall is going strong and loved by so many,” Arnold said. “We have a loyal fan base. The brand is about music overall and service.”

Arnold said he loves that part of his job is having a little freedom to manipulate the playlist in the cafe, which is varied and covers many genres. “I try to mix it up. You might have Missy Elliott and then Martina McBride. I like all music,” he said.

As a huge music fan himself, he doesn’t take lightly the opportunity he has to be part of a company that celebrates it well. The Brittany Spears fan in him still gets giddy as he passes a costume piece each day that Spears wore in a Pepsi commercial that is displayed in the cafe.

The team at Hard Rock Cafe takes a quick pause for a group photo. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

The Hard Rock Cafe is one of just six restaurants in the casino. The Hard Rock Casino includes other food options like YOUYU Noodle Bar, Council Oaks Steaks & Seafood, Constant Grind Coffee Shop, Fresh Harvest Buffet (which is not currently fully open as a buffet) and the VIP Lounge. The live concert venue that accommodates up to 2,200 is opening this week on November 4 with an inaugural show by metal band Disturbed. The performance is sold out. Guests can also catch live music on Friday and Saturday nights on stages in the Hard Rock Cafe and Council Oak Bar. Also opening soon is the Sportsbook bar where guests can view a variety of sporting events and place bets.

“Even before we opened, the Jackson family walked through and saw construction work. They donated the Jackson display items that we have,” said Arnold. “No where else can you be eating a meal by one of Michael Jackson’s gloves, or his work shoes or shirts that he worked in. It gives an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is located at 5400 West 29th Avenue, Gary, IN.


Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."
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