Chicago Beef

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Shane
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2003/03/19 11:02:40 (permalink)

Chicago Beef

The beef selections (Mr Beef and Al's) for Chicago seem a bit touristy (is that a word?) I would suggest Johnny's in Elmwood Park. Lots of local color and lines out the door (there must be a reason!)
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    danimal15
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2003/11/21 16:18:54 (permalink)
    I agree there are a lot of tourists and celebrities at Mr. Beef. Luckily, that hasn't caused the food to change. I've been going there since about 1980 and the beef is as good as ever. Also, the atmosphere is pretty much the same. They haven't prettied the place up a bit. I do like the addition of the "formal dining room," which they built in the late 80's or early 90's, and tend to eat in there so I can talk with friends, rather than at the counter. But if I'm alone, I still stand at the counter.

    One complaint - the price has gone up and the sandwich doesn't leave me full. I sometimes feel like ordering another after finishing the first. Anyone else find this to be true, or am I just a glutton?
    #2
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 10:45:46 (permalink)
    Question: I'm going to be in Chicago for 5 days in a couple of weeks, and A Chicago beef sandwich is most definitely on my "to eat" list thanks to learning of them on this site.

    That said, I see the "Chicago Beef sandwich" talked about but also the "Italian Beef".

    1) Are these two terms interchangeable?
    1a) if not, can someone tell me about the differences?
    2) Suggestions other than Mr Beef (which I intend to stop at) as the place to go to get these sandwiches? Keep in mind that this will be a "first time" experience for me, but that I am comfortable walking/bussing/subwaying to whereever within reason

    I think I will hit Lou Malnatis and the Billy Goat Tavern for two other Chicago experiences -- I'm not big on Hot Dogs/Sausages
    #3
    hawkeyejohn
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 11:16:39 (permalink)
    In Chicago, it is referred to as an Italian Beef sandwich. Mr Beef is OK, but I prefer Buona Beef, actually a combo with mozzerlla and/or hot peppers (on the side). Johnny's is also outstanding but hard to get to or find for most tourists.
    #4
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 11:19:49 (permalink)
    Got directions? reachable from Near Sear's Tower? :-)
    #5
    hawkeyejohn
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 12:14:47 (permalink)
    Buona Beef has a place downtown at 162 Superior. Johnny's is way out on North Avenue (about 16 blocks north of Sears Tower and 100 blocks west).
    #6
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 13:43:43 (permalink)
    Thanks HJ - don't think i will be able to get to Johnny's :-)

    How is Buona superior to Mr Beef?

    Oh, and is the guardinia (spelling may be off) a necessary part of the italian beef experience, or is it an option?

    Same question: cheese on the sandwich?
    #7
    kland01s
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 14:32:26 (permalink)
    Guardinera or sports (hot peppers) make the Ilalian beef, plus have it wet, dipped into the gravy so it's all juicy and messy! I love it! Cheese is not traditional and not offered at many places. Portillo's, a Chicago area family chain. is my favorite but some of the small hole in the wall pizza joints (non-chain) serve a pretty good beef, you just have to seek them out. Unfortunetly the pizza place near work has the most awful beefs around, no flavor and DRY . Tried that place once for beef, but they do have good pizza and we return for that often.
    #8
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 14:42:22 (permalink)
    So it's really not a Chicago style beef sandwich unless you have the Guardinera on it?
    #9
    hawkeyejohn
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 16:12:44 (permalink)
    I find that Mr. Beef is overrated in flavor, I like the au jus used at Buona better. And yes, in my opinion, gardinara is a must. I just like mine served on the side so I can pick the green olives out. Can't stand olives. I also like melted mozzeralla on my sandwich, which preferably is a combo (beef and sausage).
    #10
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/06 16:15:19 (permalink)
    I saw that Holly Moore (hollyeats.com) ordered a 'combo' at one of the Beef places he went to in Chicago. Do all Chicago style beef sandwich places serve combos?
    #11
    hawkeyejohn
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 09:35:59 (permalink)
    Everyone I have been to all offer combos, I would think that it is almost mandatory.
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    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 09:56:52 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    Got directions? reachable from Near Sear's Tower? :-)


    If you are in Sears Tower, a great place for an authentic Chicago Italian Beef sandwich is Luke's, half a block east of the Tower. It's on the south side of the street in the 200 block of Jackson. It's a real Chicago place with excellent Italian beef and I dought you'll be leave hungry, especially if you get the huge order of fries. Be sure and get it with the peppers, either sweet or hot. In fact go twice and try both. I love'm.
    #13
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 10:03:17 (permalink)
    Thanks :-) Can you point me to a review or a website for Lukes?

    (I really appreciate all the good advice I am getting here, btw)
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    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 10:04:24 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    Got directions? reachable from Near Sear's Tower? :-)


    Not Italian beef, but if you're in the Sear's Tower a couple of weeks, you should definately make it to Berghoff's for lunch at least once. Wonderful german restuarant that's reviewed here. About 3 blocks east of the Tower on Adams street. Be sure and be there at 11:30 when the doors open or you'll probably have a wait.
    #15
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 10:09:33 (permalink)
    Will try to make it there, but my lunchtime will be controlled by trainers, not me, so I'll see if I can't hit Berghoffs for dinner...assuming they are open for dinner?
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    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 10:11:13 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    Thanks :-) Can you point me to a review or a website for Lukes?

    (I really appreciate all the good advice I am getting here, btw)


    It's just a local place and I've never seen review, although I've probably been eating there about 15 years. Just googled it and found:
    http://centerstage.net/restaurants/lukes-beef.html
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    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/07 10:20:10 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    Will try to make it there, but my lunchtime will be controlled by trainers, not me, so I'll see if I can't hit Berghoffs for dinner...assuming they are open for dinner?


    Yes, Berghoffs is open for dinner. You can't go wrong with any of the german dishes there, especially the wiener schnitzel. If you want a little more expensive but memorable dinner, walk a couple of blocks further east on Adams to the Russian Tea Room. It's a fairly fancy place that can be a real experience, especially if you order the vodka flights. It's very busy on Chicago Symphony Orch. nights (around corner). It's a white tablecloth restuarant with excellent but never intimidating service. The food is great.
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    glennpan
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 09:34:14 (permalink)
    TJ,

    Mr. Beef, Al's Beef, and Buona Beef are all very good. I have never tried Luke's.

    When you order, definitely order your sandwich wet (or dipped). You can have the giardinare on the side, in case you like it better without. I personally think that the best beefs do NOT have cheese on them. You should only be tasting the beef, garlic and spices. Cheese ruins the experience for me, this is an I-beef not a chesseburger or a cheesesteak we are talking about.

    As for your other choices, Lou Malnati's is good (I personally like Nancy's and Giordano's better but that is personal taste). Skip the Billy Goat though! This is one of my tourist pet peeves (along with Ed Debevics, and Michael Jordan's restaurant when it existed).

    Chicago's best eating values and flavors are in its ethnic foods. Berghoff and Russian Tea Time are excellent as someone else pointed out. Greektown is the place I would really recommend hitting in town! Most of the places (Rodity's, Athena's, Greek Islands, Santorini's) are great, and the prices are very reasonable. Nothing is better in the winter than a hot bowl of egg-lemon soup, some lamb, and a Metaxa to finish it off.
    #19
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 09:56:50 (permalink)
    GlennPan: Thanks for your extensive commentary :-)

    That said, a couple of responses:

    I'm going to the Billy Goat because it amuses me personally to have been to the Cheeboorger CheeBoorger of the original saturday night live fame. Yeah, it's touristy, ah well, it something I want to be able to say "I've been there". Call it a personal affectation :-)

    I will skip the cheese and ask for the sauce on the side on the Beef.

    Is Giordano's and/or Nancy's in the downtown area near the Sears Tower?
    #20
    kland01s
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 10:33:16 (permalink)
    Better not ask for "sauce" on the side, they won't know what you're talking about! The gardinera is the hot, as in spicy, mixiture of pickled veggies as a topping for the beef. I prefer the "sports" which are the pickled hot peppers. Make sure you ask for it "wet", that's dipping it in the cooked juices. It's messy but thats what it all about.


    http://www.recipegoldmine.com/canning/canning241.html


    #21
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 10:44:57 (permalink)
    Hehe, I only typed 'sauce' because I have a hard time remembering the spelling for 'giardinare'

    Now that brings up an important thing: how do you pronounce 'giardinare'?

    I assume 'wet' means they take the whole assembled sandwich and dip it, bread and all, into a pan of au jus?
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    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 10:44:58 (permalink)
    " />What was I thinking not to recommend Greektown! I got headed east on Adams and never even thought of going west. The Parthanon or Rodity's is probably my favorite, but all are good. The heart of Greektown is Adams and Halstead, 6 or 7 blocks west of the Tower, but you probably want to take a cab if going at night.

    Do try Luke's. It's been a long time since I ate at any of the other beef places discussed so I can't compare them directly, but I can't imagine anyone's Italian beef being better. Definately dipped, peppers and NO cheese.

    To research specific Chicago places or events you might want to visit http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/dining/
    #23
    Jim Ross
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 10:53:53 (permalink)
    There is a Giordano's on the 200 block of Jackson, just down from Luke's. I didn't recommend it because I tried it a couple of times just after it opened and was very unhappy with the service so never went back. That was 2 years ago, so they may do better now.
    #24
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 10:56:52 (permalink)
    I tried the website but they don't seem to have a link about the generalities of cuisine, ie 'what is an italian beef sandwich' or 'what is a stuffed pizza' that an out-of-towner like me might benefit from.

    Useful nonetheless....
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    kland01s
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 11:59:58 (permalink)
    garden-air but some people pronouce it jarden and I've heard ah attached to the end as well.....not much help am I?
    #26
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 12:15:06 (permalink)
    quite on the contrary :-) much appreciated.

    next question: since I'm getting recommendations to have the sandwich ordered 'wet', I have to ask if the bread/roll used is hardy enough to hold together after being dipped? Ie does it have a good firm crust, as the bread itself will probably dissolve to mush....at least that'd be my guess

    Oh, and if I get a combo (beef plus a sausage on the roll), should that also be requested 'wet'?
    #27
    kland01s
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 12:21:34 (permalink)
    The bread starts out very crusty, if you don't get it wet, you're in for some tough chewing! It gets messy but there is a lot of the flavor in the juice. Be sure to grab a stack of napkins! Can't answer about the combos.....I'm a purist....all beef for me!
    #28
    glennpan
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 12:26:35 (permalink)
    TJ,

    I have always pronounced giardinare, Jar-din-air. Always order it wet. The rolls are fairly sturdy, although towards the end of the meal it will get messy and start to disintegrate. That is just part of the fun though. I will sometimes order a gravy bread when I am not that hungry, which is basically the roll, dipped in the juices.

    Glenn
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    kland01s
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    RE: Chicago Beef 2004/01/09 13:29:55 (permalink)
    Okay, I did it to myself, I brought soup to have for my lunch but all this talk about beef made me hungry for one but I'm at work on the outer edge of the world (farm country), 50 some miles west of Chicago. I ask around work, and the maintainence guys tell me about a place in town, behind the liquour store ( very small town) I found it and it wasn't too bad though the meat was a little dry. They did give me 2 containers of meat juice and 2 containers of gardinera. I wound up eating it with a fork and then eating the bread....works! I'll have to go back because I didn't pick up a menu and there was no name on the outside but you sure could smell it! If you're ever in Sugar Grove, Il and need a beef, it's behind the liqour store!
    #30
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