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Jun 1, 2004 08:19 PM

Italian Beef Journey...

  • r

I know that you guys here have a beef-a-thon or something similiar coming up, but I've been on a mission the past few weeks to taste some notable beef sandwiches. Here's my thoughts, feel free to make suggesstions for me to try in the NW burbs.

Buena Beef - Pretty darn good for a chain. Good beef, nice and thin, not fatty or greasy. Giardanera was full of chunky veggies but could've been hotter. Readily available makes it a bonus. Fry's are the worst.

Portillos - Bland beef and lousy giardanera. Little more greasy than Buena. Good fries though.

Johnnies in Arlington Heights - First time here, darn good beef. Hot giardenara. No complaints, real good.

Al's on Taylor- First time here, won't be back. Oily as heck and had a funny aftertaste (maybe was the giardanara). Personally thought it was the worst of the bunch.

Mr. Beef - Made the trek back to my hometown of Berwyn to revisit Mr. Beef. I had no idea it was popular, its a neigborhood place to me. Good beef sandwich, good giardanera. Right up there with Johnnies. Good fries as well, like Portillos.

Carms in Westchester - Holy Cow thats a beef! Best of the bunch. Haven't been there since high school, kinda remmeber going to a Carms on Roosevelt, maybe the same place. Giardanera was good, beef was the tasiest. Numero Uno.

Giordano's - I'm probably spelling it wrong, but you know who I mean, the pan pizza place. I got a beef cuz I can;t stand their pizza. It was ok, nothing special. Bread the used for the beef was better than the rest though.

Well there's my 2 cents, and it isn't worth more. Feel free to call my taste buds insane or turn me on to a new place.


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  1. Portillo's fries are nothing like Mr. Beefs. Portillos fries are well seasoned crinkled fries where Mr Beef's fries are close to shoe string - and are on the greasy side -

    7 Replies
    1. re: awbrig

      Maybe I went to the wrong Mr. Beef, cuz the Mr. Beef I went to had krinkle cut fries just like Port's and they have for as long as I can remember. The one I went to is on Ogden Ave in Berwyn, approximately Ogden and Oak Park Ave.

      Am I going to the wrong Mr. Beef????

      1. re: Rich

        Yes, I believe you are going to the wrong Mr Beef. THe infamous Mr Beef is N/NW of the loop, somewhat near the Merchandise Mart on Orleans.

        Worth a visit to say you've been there, but not as good IMHO as Johnnie's or some others.

        1. re: RSMBob

          Unfortunatly I have been gone from Chicago for some time. My favorate beef sandwich has always been Carm's, which I think now is located on or near Wolf Road. I have been looking for a web site or other contact info to order food delivered to me in California Can somebody direct me on how to contact Carm's, on or near Woolf Road?

        2. re: Rich

          that implies that there is a "right" Mr Beef. The touristy, Jay Leno photoed, Mr Beef is on Orleans and Ontario or Erie. I used to work down the street and every few years I go back just to remind myself of why I hated them so much. I think it is the attitude, or is it the pre made beefs. It doesnt matter, life is too short. Jay leno likes it though, I think he is amused by the name. In any case, good luck on your quest.
          Best wishes

          1. re: atomicman

            Your comments about Mr. Beef on Orleans are on target. There was a time when I thought they had the best beef sandwiches in the world, but it seemed as if sometime in the early 90's they changed the recipe.

            It's still pretty good if you get it fresh, but there are others that are better. Several warnings against the pre-made sandwiches have been posted on this board.

            Attitude has always been an issue. During Beefathon I last autumn, there was a friendly reception at nearly every beef place we went. Several invited us into the back room to see how they created their beef masterpieces. At Mr. Beef the attitude was much cooler.

          2. re: Rich

            The Mr. Beef in Berwyn is located in a strip mall on Ogden Avenue on the north side of the street. I believe the actual name is "The Original Mr. Beef", and it is owned by one of the old partners of Buona Beef, who didn't want to be involved in the expansion many years ago (oops!).

            The story that I have heard is that as part of the deal, he got the original Buona Beef recipe as part of the deal. The beef sandwiches there are very good, as are the meatball sandwiches.


            1. re: saps

              That's where I went, no shoe string fries there.

        3. Thanks for confirming my high opinion of Carm's beef.

          Johnnie's was the winner of Beefathon I, which started on Taylor Street but did not go west of Johnnie's. (We ran out of time and capacity.)

          My son and I are fans of Johnnie's, but weeks later did go to Carm's in Hillside which we thought was terrific. It was difficult to compare with Johnnie's because of the long interval between trying them, but we rated Carm's very highly.

          I posted about it, but have not been able to find my old post. To summarize from memory, we made the hour-long drive because I kept remembering from my high school days how great the Italian beef was at Carm's on Cicero south of the Congress (now Eisenhower) Expressway. I didn't know if this Carm's was related, but wanted to find out.

          When we got to Carm's I asked the young woman at the register if there was any relation to the one on Cicero Avenue and she said that was her grandfather's place. The beef sandwich was great, and I liked both the giardinera and the sweet peppers. We wound up having a second sandwich, and then ordering more to take home.

          Carm's in Hillside is NOT related to the Carm's on Polk Street in Chicago (which was judged mediocre on Beefathon I).

          Carm's Beef
          1801 S. Wolf Road
          Hillside, IL
          Mon-Sun: 10-9

          Below is the link to the results of Beefathon I. It's a long thread, so be patient.


          3 Replies
          1. re: George R

            I will have to add the hillside Carm's to the list of "gotta try" places when I make my semi-annual Chicago/'burbs pilgrimage at the end of the month. May be more convenient from DG than getting to Johnnie's...hopefully it's worth the visit! Of course, the italian ice at Johnnie's may missed.

            By the way, about 2 years ago, I did make a stop at the Polk St Carm's near the UIC campus. Somewhat flavorless beef sandwich, but the ice is great and they had very nice, friendly people working there (usually doesn't mean that much to me, but it did have an effect this time). Now if only the parking were better.

            1. re: RSMBob

              You're right that the people at the Polk Street Carm's are very friendly. During Beefathon I, everyone enjoyed meeting them. Unfortunately, their beef sandwiches just weren't competitive.

              Please keep in mind that the two Carm's are unrelated and under separate ownership. Thus, differences in their products.

            2. re: George R

              One of my favorites is Freddy's, which seemed to do well in the Beefathon. Also, they have the best italian ice I have ever had. Call ahead because they have short hours, ususally 7 p.m., and are known to close earlier if business is slow.

              Another place to try in the neighborhood is Novi's in Berwyn. Not the greatest beef (it was far better under prior ownership), but they do have fantastic hand-cut fries that are worth the trip.

              Freddy's Pizzeria
              1600 South 61st Avenue
              Cicero, IL 60804

              6746 Ogden Ave
              Berwyn, IL 60402

            3. Carm's makes an outstanding beef - doesn't get a lot of love on Chowhound, but definitely right with Al's and Mr. Beef at the top for my taste. Not to mention the excellent lemon ice to finish off the meal...

              1. The original Roma's on Milwaukee ave near Superdawg gets my vote. I don't know how it rates among the uberchowhounds but it is a sentimental favorite of mine. Great homemade gardinera also.

                1. Hey, I grew up in Berwyn, and moved to Oak Park. Carm's beef, Parky's hot dogs, Salerno's Pizza and White Castle sliders were staples. I went back in the Army, moved to Fort Bragg, NC, and Married a girl from Michigan. very time we visited my Ma in Berwyn we would eat all of the above. The last timewe went through Berwyn we found Parky's on Harlem Ave., and the new Salernos. Where is Carm's?