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Mar 25, 2007 10:40 PM

Chicago Italian Beef inside SF??

I frequently visit the great Chicago, and boy do I miss its food, from the different brand chips (Vitners) in the cool liquer stores (white hens) to the giordano pizzas, als and portillos italian beefs.

So...are there any good places to get an italian beef in SF (cant leave city)??


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  1. Rosamunde's on Haight used to offer it, but by all reports it was pretty bad.

    1. I remember seeing a Vienna Italian Beef sign inside Moishe's Pippic but I don't remember seeing it on their menu.

      425 Hayes Street
      San Francisco, CA 94102
      (415) 431-2440

      1. i'm sad to say that in all my years here i have never once seen anything that resembles the distinctive loveliness of a Chicago Italian Style Beef. This may be a case of having to gorge when you go back to Chicago, or making them yourself...

        2 Replies
        1. re: sfoperalover

          The places known in the BA to have them (none in SF) are discussed here:

          I have found the best way to fake one is to make your own giardiniera, or even just cut up some sport peppers (vienna beef- you can order these easily on line). This gives you the spicy, vinegary taste. You can easily get the right kind of bun (Colombo's are a good fit for an Italian Beef bun). Take some weak broth/jus and punch it up with some oil, thyme, oregano, toss on a Johnsonville mild Italian sausage (not the sweet) and some OK store roast beef and you are there. A reasonable facsimile for the desperate. I know this because we had leftover gravy/jus from Gumbah's in Vallejo and we tried this.

          Also, unbelievable, I just saw a mention of Italian beef and Chicago Dogs at Pizz'a Chicago in Palo Alto, and while it is outside the city, I think you can definitely reasonably get there by Caltrain.

          1. re: P. Punko

            I'm going all out and growing my own sport peppers this year, but those are for hot dogs, a beef sandwich requires giardinera. I'm making a large batch this spring as my supply has been disrupted by the new airline security rules. My brother used to fly out a couple of quarts with him every couple of months.

            I've found crock pot peperoncini beef to be a marginally acceptable substitute, kind of like methadone for a kid who grew up in Chicago.

        2. The closest to the city is Windy City in San Mateo. (I don't know how close it is to Caltrain).

          You are pretty much hosed. We have tried very hard. If Gumbah's in Vallejo shipped, that would be amazing. Even though it sounds silly because it is relatively close, it would not add that much in price, as ordering from Chicago places that ship is reasonable within about 2-3 states (these shipments must go on dry ice, and all the way to SF doubles the price).

          2 Replies
          1. re: P. Punko

            The ferry to Vallejo is a couple of blocks from Gumbahs ... true a hearty walk ... but if you are desparate ...

            1. re: rworange

              Ferry Terminal to Gumbah's in Vallejo is roughly the same distance as walking from the Ferry Building to the Palace Hotel on Market & New Montgomery in San Francisco, so it's doable if you're in walking shape. Also, now that they've tacked on some additional hours of operation Monday thru Saturday, it's a lot more feasible.

          2. A bump on this thread to post good news about one of the necessary ingredients for a real italian beef - sicilian style giardinera.

            Crossroads market in Hayward on Jackson/92 is now stocking quart jars of it imported from the far reaches of Chicago. Great looking stuff for $5.99 a jar, this is about a weeks supply for me, but I like it on ice cream too.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Scrapironchef

              You are killing me!

              I am so there:

              Crossroads World Market

              230 Jackson St
              Hayward, CA 94544
              (510) 582-2231

              1. re: P. Punko

                If you go, stock up on olives (cheapest olive bar in the bay area) and feta, usually 6 or 7 kinds on hand fresh.

                If it is more convenient they have a location on San Antonio down in Palo Alto, but I'd call first to check if they have it in stock.

                1. re: Scrapironchef

                  Scrap- I just went to the Palo Alto location- they had some giardiniera, but it wasn't quite the smaller chunked stuff that is "Chicago" style, but it wasn't the HUGE chunked Mezzeti (the Napa company) that you can get at Safeway- what kind did you pick up? the olives looked good- half the price of Andronico's I think-

              2. re: Scrapironchef

                Native Chciagoan here living in San Francisco. I think I can get to Chicago as quick as I can get to Hayward or Vallejo for Gumbah's.

                Seriously though, the Portillo's and Vienna and other online care packages have everything in them and taste great. Also, did you know Portillo's has a branch in SoCal, so if you're ever down there (not much further than Hayward is it ?? tee hee) that's a good option. I actually wrote them about 6 months ago and asked about SF possibilities and they said none were in the works. Too bad they don't franchise, I'd invest.

                1. re: NoeMan

                  Actually, what kills me about finding this there is that the day before I'd made a gallon jar full of it for myself. Now that all the farmers are showing up with peppers I don't think it cost me six bucks for the whole gallon.

                  For whatever reason, the whole Chicago hot dog/beef experience doesn't travel well. A number of franchise and independent places have tried in various locations and never really been a success. Gumbah's is a very low rent operation that never made the previous owner rich and was perpetually for sale. It's just something you had to grow up with to love.

                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                    The problem is they just don't adapt- they don't explain the food, or generally try to proselytize about the food. You want to have a hybrid style menu (like offer burgers and char dogs, as well as maybe some local stuff)- some people that might not "get" a chicago style-dog, might all of a sudden love it if you can give them a grilled hot dog instead of a boiled one.

                    I have seen other markets with Chicago style places that come and go, and the common theme is just not explaining the food to the locals. Sometimes just a little bit of "try it, you'll love it!" does the trick. When you say "gravy" and Italian beef, I know what that means, but a lot of people won't get it and might shy away (thinking Thanksgiving style gravy or something like that). I was just in Salt Lake City and they have a new place (only one in town) seemingly doing well, but the owner was working the crowd and chatting with every single customer on top of offering a good product. If they can get it to work there, they can get it to work here.

                    1. re: NoeMan

                      Called Johnniebeef's- it is off Ft. Union in the Family Center, in the back by Babies R Us. They have the beef/sausage combo on the daily specials and the Italian Sausage is GREAT, everything else is standard Chicago stuff (not homemade like Gumbah's)- I don't know where they get their sausage but it taste like a Johnsonville with ever more flavor, but they give it a really nice char on the grill. The giardiniera is a little oily but good. Gumbah's beef is over seasoned but they get super props for making their own stuff.

                  2. re: NoeMan

                    Portillo's...Mmmmmmmmm-mmmmmmm-mmmmmmm-good!! ;)

                    I must now proceed to order a care package online. ;)