Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA

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love2bake
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2013/05/20 16:32:02 (permalink)

Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA

It's man food time!  After many setbacks and delays, Al's Beef finally opened in San Jose in mid-April, and I got there today to try some of their specialties. Of course, there's the Italian beef--I appreciated that they offer a little version.  This one's dipped with sweets:

 
I admit to preferring the flavor and spice of the jus from Johnnie's in Chicago; however, they're a long ways away!
What I loved, though, was their Maxwell Street Polish sausage, which came with grilled onions, mustard and sport peppers, and fries on the side.

Great snap on the sausage, delicious combination, and their fries were tasty--a lot like boardwalk fries from the east coast.
 
Being 20+ miles from my house, I'm not likely to get to Al's very often, but it's nice to know I can.
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    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/20 17:15:56 (permalink)
    I am a Maxwell Street Polish addict...it's my crack!  They get even better when the onions caramelize a dark, rich brown!   How's the crowds...
    #2
    EdSails
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/20 17:36:39 (permalink)
    Lucky you! I would love to try al's some time. We have Portillo's here, which I love, but I have heard much about Al's and really would (neon green) relish trying them. Next trip up north!
    #3
    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/20 17:41:09 (permalink)
    Just a handful of people in front of me at noon on a Monday, and the people at the counter were on their game, so moved customers through quickly.  Dining area was about half full.  I'd expect it to pick up later. 
     
    When I look at other photos of Al's Italian Beef sandwiches, they seem to have more spicy jus on them than mine.  I'll have to give them another try.  Yes--some of those onions on the Polish were a little light on the saute--only a few really caramelized ones in the bunch.  Still a great sandwich, for sure!!  ChiTown--you're lucky to live where these places grow naturally.
     
    Ed - YES!  I'm ready to try Portillo's now--I guess Buena Park is where I'll go.  Sometime later this summer I want to get to L.A. 
    post edited by love2bake - 2013/05/20 17:43:48
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    EdSails
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/20 18:48:27 (permalink)
    Let me know when you're coming down and I'll take you to a few good places.
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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/20 20:31:48 (permalink)
    Awesome--thanks!!
    #6
    smokestack lightning
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/21 01:40:05 (permalink)
    Not the same but not bad. Da beef cart at 7th and Folsom. Vienna products. Schedule available form her FB page. Mostly days weekdays and evenings weeknights.
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/21 14:18:30 (permalink)
    L2B, this quote say's it all...........Being 20+ miles from my house, I'm not likely to get to Al's very often, but it's nice to know I can."
     
    I'll be in Chicago NYC, Philly, in a few weeks, I'll think of you...........I am hoping for an Italian Beef in Chicago, a Roast Pork and Cheese steak in Philly. I'm still trying to figure our NYC, I'm not sure if the Italian or the Roast Beef is associated with New York, or if something else is a better choice.....nothing like Italian meats and cheese with pickled vegetables on crusty bread .............I have a feeling if you make the 20 mile drive, there will be a planned dessert stop on the way home...........pnwc
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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/22 03:22:03 (permalink)
    You have a mighty fine trip coming up.  I'm envious!  I'm really a newbie to Italian beef--there are definitely some aficionados on here with their favorites, too.  I've only tried Johnnie's in Chicago and the franchise version of Al's.  I loved Johnnie's, I liked Al's.  A lot of it for me was the flavor, some of it was the vibe and location.  Although there are undoubtedly some exceptions, I think most food is best enjoyed in its "natural habitat."  You are going to have fun!  Looking forward to hearing about it.
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/22 10:44:38 (permalink)
    L2b, I agree on the 'natural Habitat" thought, I never had a bad piece of pineapple siting on the beach in Hawaii.
      The Italian beef Idea may not agree with how I would make the sandwich and serve the sandwich. imho, I like the bread to be fresh baked and crusty, the meat juicy with texture of the sweet peppers being charred/soft and flavorful. I would rather have the juice on the side so I could control the amount of liquid in the roll. Boy, is that wanting your cake and eat it too ????????? you betcha..........The East Coast makes the bread an important part of the sandwich. The Italian crusty roll/loaf in NYC and NJ and most of the East Coast cities. Philly has the Amoroso rolls and other crusty breads, Ct, has the Grinder Roll. They make the bread a real important part of the sandwich. I think San Francisco does also and some places in the South for Po'boys..........What did you think of dipping the bread and how would you do it if you could reconstruct it at home ????????? I know your all about quality, your baking experience shows that, always looking for perfection is a good thing................pnwc
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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/22 15:41:53 (permalink)
    If we could do a taste test, that would be fun: line up dipped, not dipped, sweet vs. hot peppers/gardiniere, etc. 
     
    You're right--there are some great loaves of bread on both coasts. But of course the Italian beef is mostly about the meat rather than bread, so the originator(s) might not have wanted any bread to compete with their beef.  How the bread soaks up the juice would be an important feature, too.  So, I guess the traditional bread is an important part of the sandwich as it was conceived, but that doesn't mean another excellent version can't be constructed!
     
    I ordered it dipped because a friend recommended it, and I agree that it added more flavor and moisture and made it "fun" to eat.
     
    Here's a recipe I found for Johnnie's Beef, although I doubt it's 100% authentic.  Still, I'll probably try it:
    http://www.italianbeef.co...5/johnnies-beef-recipe
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/05/22 17:40:36 (permalink)
    l2b, I think I need to just shut up and eat, here I am changing it before I try it. I'll post some pictures and review when I get back. The Polish you show above looks good, nice char. One thing I have noticed with peppers and onions on sausage is, they only cook them about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way. they don't cook them like Caramelized onions on a Hamburger....thanks for the help..................pnwc
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/12 05:50:25 (permalink)
    L2B, This is the Italian Beef with sweet peppers I had in Chicago. I got it wet, I now agree with "wet" when it comes to this sandwich. The 6" Italian beef was moist, full of flavor and packet with a real nice amount of thin sliced roast beef. I like the sweet peppers, they added just enough to the sandwich, but, didn't take away from the roast beef. I wanted to really get the roast beef flavor in this sandwich. The sandwich was dipped, not to soggy, just enough so I could pick up the sandwich   " with care" knowing it may fall apart. This was a real good sandwich, I would do it again in a heartbeat..............I think your right about being in Chicago, and having an Italian beef sandwich. I would feel the same having a Lobster Roll in Iowa, it just wouldn't feel right eating it looking out over the corn field.
      I went to Katz's Deli in NYC today, to me, this place is the real deal. This is the one deli everyone should go to before they die. I had the best Pastrami of my life, and imho the best Pastrami on earth. I talk with the owner of Katz's for awhile. He was a real nice guy, want's and knows how to do it right.......................

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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/12 09:05:02 (permalink)
    Oh my gosh - that sandwich looks incredible!  I'm so envious.  You ordered it the same way I like them, too.    So glad you enjoyed it in its indigenous state.  Looks like you went to Portillo's--they've started franchising and have a couple of stores in SoCal.  I can't imagine they're as good as the ones in Chicago, but I'd try them, anyway.
     
    Mmmm... pastrami at Katz's.  You are having quite the trip!!
     
    Thank you for this update and gorgeous sandwich photo.
     
     
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    EdSails
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/12 13:03:27 (permalink)
    love2bake

    Oh my gosh - that sandwich looks incredible!  I'm so envious.  You ordered it the same way I like them, too.    So glad you enjoyed it in its indigenous state.  Looks like you went to Portillo's--they've started franchising and have a couple of stores in SoCal.  I can't imagine they're as good as the ones in Chicago, but I'd try them, anyway.

    Mmmm... pastrami at Katz's.  You are having quite the trip!!

    Thank you for this update and gorgeous sandwich photo.



    Love2Bake: when Portillo's first came out here, I was taken there by a Chicago ex-pat. You know, the kind of guy who won't go to his father's house first, but makes sure they go to Portillo's on the way. He said it is exactly what he gets in chicago. Come on down and have a taste of the windy City here in L.A.!
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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/12 14:50:59 (permalink)
    Ed--that's great to hear! 
    I'm looking at a SoCal visit sometime this summer--not sure when--but when I do, I'll be sure to contact you.
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/20 15:57:12 (permalink)
    L2b, after making the trip to Chicago, NYC, Philly, I have to say the Italian held it's own. The Italian beef was real good, just needed some salt. Katz's pastrami, the best I have ever had. The Roast Pork with sharp provolone cheese and sweet pepper. It needed salt, easy fix, good. sandwich on crusty bread. I had a cheesesteak at Pat's it needed salt also, I had it with provolone wit onions. I would put Pats at the bottom of the list, Katz's first, with the Italian beef and Roast port being close. I will post a pic of these sands when I get home........pnwc.....P.S. I think the dipped idea, would be a better idea, if you we're able to dip as you go. That way the bread could stay together much better. Lets you and I put our heads together and invent this kind of sandwich, maybe call it a French dip.
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    love2bake
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/20 17:30:24 (permalink)
    Haha!!  Great idea.    If one were to have the space for guests to dine, dipping as you go might work nicely.  I don't know what the store configuration was where you had your Italian beef, but at Johnnies Italian Beef in Elmwood Park, IL, it was primarily a stand with a narrow stand-up counter inside and a few picnic tables outside, so pre-dipping was the way to go (so to speak). 
     
    That sounds like such an outstanding itinerary with so many of the national sandwich landmarks.  Odd that so many of these them needed salt.   Better than having too much, though, as it's much easier to add than take away.  Thanks for following up!!
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    EdSails
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/20 20:35:05 (permalink)
    Portillo's in Buena Park.

     


    Getting hungry for an Italian beef again!
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/21 11:42:44 (permalink)
    Ed, you are way to easy, you are the only member that is game for any food, any time.....That's way I like you buddy......... Ed, you would have a field day in NYC....take care my friend.........Bill
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/21 12:13:27 (permalink)
    L2B, I think what I don't agree with, with the dipped Italian beef is, there is a lot of room for error. I could see this sandwich being over wet with the roll being soggy. I was lucky enough to have mine just right, it was wet but the roll stayed together while eating the whole sandwich. When I was building menus I always fail safe the menu items. I can't see how this sandwich could be served the same exact way every time. Some people complain about the rolls being dry and hard to Portillo's, this may be the reason they stayed together better. If the roll was fresh it would get soggy faster and fall apart. Life I said there are to many factors in getting this sandwich right. I think if this was the preferred way for making sandwiches, everyone would be doing it. The only places I see doing this is Chicago, and Philippe's in LA, or shall I say Mar's second home. The area's of the country that make the bread an important part of the sandwich would never do it this way. I would do all of these sandwiches again in a heart beat, I am happy I had them the way of the land, if it's not broken, I'm not going to break it, not in their town anyway......I agree even more, when in Rome, do as the Roman's..........maybe someday you, Ed, Mar and I can do a taste test on all of these great sandwiches........take care.....Bill
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    EdSails
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/21 14:22:40 (permalink)
    pnwchef

    Ed, you are way to easy, you are the only member that is game for any food, any time.....That's way I like you buddy......... Ed, you would have a field day in NYC....take care my friend.........Bill

     
    Bill,
    I'm still waiting for us to do a food crawl day in either So Cal or Washington. Any time!
     

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    pnwchef
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/06/21 20:00:40 (permalink)
    Ed, if you want to do Portland and Seattle, we could do them in the fall....if you want So. Cal I'm not back down there until next yr.......talk L2B and Mar into it, the PNW would be nice in the Fall..............two great cities...........take care.......Bill
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    sandrew834
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    Re:Al's #1 Italian Beef - San Jose, CA 2013/08/20 01:56:10 (permalink)
    This makes a sandwich similar to one I used to get at a local restaurant when I lived in a suburb of Chicago. My all time favorite! I think this is the best sandwich I've ever had..everyone loved it.

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