Chicago's iconic Italian beef is one of the most unwieldy sandwiches ever created by man. At first glance it looks like the less dignified cousin of the French dip, but instead of coming with a nice little side of jus for you to wet the sandwich's ends with, this bad boy is saturated from the start. Ask for it "dipped" and the whole sandwich is dunked in meaty juices, soaking the bread to the core. There's no respectable way to eat one of these, but it's well worth the mess. If you don't live in the Chicagoland area, here's how to make one at home.
'Italian beef' on Serious Eats
Recreating an authentic Italian beef at home sounds easy, but it's surprisingly hard to do without an industrial meat slicer. I don't know about you, but that's one piece of kitchen gear that I don't have. Fortunately, if you give up on roasting the beef yourself, there's another way.
Pop's is probably not worth making a trek for, but it's a dependable and solid local stand, and I'd be lucky to have one nearby.
Not that we need some Iowa perspective on our native sandwich, but it's obvious that the restaurant is attempting to address certain issues of most Italian beefs, which is mostly a good and noble thing.
Like the subs the beef is assembled quickly and frantically by one person. This is ridiculously inefficient, but important, because it ensures that the sandwich has some semblance of proportion.
Joe Boston's is one of those places that's outlasted the businesses that it was started to serve, and waits for a new crowd to find it in its lonely little plot in the American industrial desert. Check it out before it gets decorated and the prices go up.
Combos, the classic Chicago sandwich of Italian sausage and Italian beef, can be made and held for a crowd in the slow-cooker.
Turns out there is a whole world of unexplored Italian beefs hiding in plain sight—ones that use high quality meat that is shaved to order. You just need to know where to look.
Swing by the esteemed Italian grocer on Grand Ave and you'll see an Italian beef special scrawled in black ink on a sheet of paper by the scale in the back (one of the employees assured me had been around for a month). Do me a favor and order one. It might be one of the best Italian beefs around.
The place is a great example of "all in the family," as those are the only people who worked here when they first got rolling. Today they still offer Grandpa Tony's housemade Italian beef, but there are also lot more options than there were originally. Basically, if you like sandwiches, you'll find one for you.
Most of the people visiting Rosebud Express for lunch seemed like they were coming for the convenience of a fast lunch. If that's what you need, it's a pretty serviceable place to eat with no surprises. The problem is, I like surprises.
Like all great cities should, Chicago has a collection of dishes that were invented within its borders and that you can't get anywhere else. I decided to create this list to help keep track of them all.
Unexpectedly given its name, it's the Italian beef where that effort pays off the most. Is it better than Johnnie's? No, but just having many of the same virtues as probably the best beef on Earth puts you way ahead of most of your competitors.
This post is bittersweet in more ways than one. Firstly, because this is the first and presumably last time I will go to Johnnie's Beef, and I'm here to persuade you to not make that same mistake.
Little Joe's in Countryside is a must for Italian beef and hot dogs, topped with shaved celery giardiniera.
Though a relatively new addition to North Ave. (it opened in 2007), Jay's Beef actually has some serious history behind it.
Fasano's Pizza in suburban Justice serves an exemplary thin-crust sausage pie, along with a respectable Italian sub, chicken Parmesan sandwich, Italian beef and Italian sub salad.
The Italian beef at Marco's Beef and Pizza in Belmont Cragin is a beauty—tender, beefy, and spicy. Why I am so shocked?
For awhile now, I've been on the lookout for new versions of the Italian beef. So when I saw the Tony Beef ($11) at Bar Toma, Tony Mantuano's pizza and wine bar off Michigan Avenue, I got excited.