When the Illinois Hotel opens on Wednesday with a multi-million-dollar refit, there'll be a surprise in its kitchen.
The Down N' Out burger crew, pursued for years through the courts by US giant In-N-Out, will steer the food at the Five Dock pub.
Ben Kagan, who rebranded Down N' Out as Nameless Bar after the legal arm wrestle over trademark infringement, will focus instead on another US staple, southern-style fried chicken.
Don't expect any controversially close monikers this time. Fat Belly Jacks, as it will be named, is the result of extensive research into Nashville fried chicken. "You'll be able to order it with five different levels of heat," says Kagan, who is consulting on the project.
The food will come from a purpose-built food truck in the beer garden, but customers will eat in polished surrounds crafted by Thomas Jacobsen, the designer behind Sydney interiors including Otto Ristorante.
The Illinois Hotel was known as a "gentleman's club" before it was snapped up last year by publican Bill Young. Jacobsen has stripped the interior, unearthing a terrazzo mosaic floor under the aged carpet.
"There are some really great mid-century features," Jacobsen says.
He's added some sympathetic new accoutrements, including a 17-metre curved lounge.
There's also a new direction in the Illinois' intended target market, with Jacobsen describing the pub as family-friendly and food-focused.
A second stage of the development will include a more formal restaurant.
Open Wed-Sun noon-3pm; 5pm-9pm.Open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
15 Parramatta Road, Five Dock, 02 9797 9550.