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Chicago Italian Beef in Triangle Area, NC?

Hi, I might be moving to Durham from Florida. I need to find a place to get a good Chicago italian beef sandwich or I might die. There must be a place, right?

Also, does anyone make good NY pizza (I used to live in New York)?

Also, does anyone make good shredded szechuan beef?


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  1. I've been looking for 5 years and have yet to find even an approximation. I nearly fell over when I saw a bottle of giardinara at the Kroger off of 15-501 in Durham (across from Walmart). I always get a few bottles when we're in Chicago, just to be on the safe side.

    Since I can't find the beef, I make them at home every couple of months.

    1. re Chicago beef - I haven't seen it outside of Chicago but aren't those sport peppers addictive?

      re NY pizza - check out some old threads - there are widely varying opinions on this matter

      re good (fill in the blank) Chinese dishes - also see some of the older threads but I would recommend Red Palace in Raleigh for highly authentic Szechuan food

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockycat

        Italian beef outside of Chicago? I haven't found anything close. Al's of Taylor Street ships FedEx. Not cheap but it feeds the fix every now and then.

      2. Wish I could say there is, but NO Chicago beef in Durham.

        You can get Vienna beef hot dogs at Cloo's in Raleigh near Mission Valley. Also, Jay's potato chips at Big Lots. There is a place in Wilmington called Nancy's Pizza that has Chicago style pizza and beef sandwiches.

        Also in Asheville is Cats 'n Dawgs that has Vienna hot dogs and beef sandwiches. There's also a few places in Charlotte: Matt's Chicago Dog, Woody's, and City Dogs. I think Matt's is the only one there that has the beef in addition to the dogs.

        Finally, Poppa's Hot Dogs Mooresville, NC has authentic Chicago style food including Hot Dogs, Italian beef, Sausage & combo. The owner is originally from Alsip,IL. Poppa's is ;located in a strip mall across River Rd. from Lakeside Industrial Park where several NASCAR teams are located. Many crew members and an occaisional driver or two frequent this place.

        Hope this helps!

        4 Replies
        1. re: viennadog

          Just found out a place called "Old Chicago Pizza" will be opening in Wake Forest (just up Capital Blvd. from Raleigh) and they will have beef! www.oldchicago.com This from their website under sandwiches:
          Hot Italian Beef Sandwich
          A Chicago favorite and guaranteed to be one of yours. Tender, thin-sliced roast beef, slow cooked in rich garlic au jus, topped with spicy peppers on a French roll.
          There's also one in Wilmington.

          1. re: viennadog

            I had a serious Vienna Beef craving last week. Cloo's didn't show up on a search of their website, but I'll have to check it out.

            I came within inches of ordering some dogs and sausage via their website, but I decided to hold off until I'm up there in August.

            Related question, why on earth can't we get Old Style or Goose Island beers down here? Both are distributed by big firms but not very widely.

            1. re: brokegradstudent

              Did you mean Vienna beef hot dogs or Vienna beef? Cloo's only has the dogs and they don't have a website. They're just a small hot dog stand. Here's their address and phone, right off Western Blvd near NC State's campus:

              Cloos' Coney Island
              (919) 834-3354
              2233 Avent Ferry Rd Ste 102
              Raleigh, NC 27606

              They're between a pizza joint and a Chinese place. Call ahead, sometimes they're out of the vienna hot dogs and waiting to get more from their supplier. They do have the neon relish and the poppy seed buns. They also make their version of "sliders" and they're not bad. Great chili cheese fries too. I was there last week and it was great! Going again tomorrow and next week since I'll be in the neighborhood. What a treat!

              I dunno know why no Old Syle or Goose Island. Have you checked Total Wine in Durham? I found Old Milwaukee there, but haven't looked any further. You can call them at 489-5082.

              Oh, I forgot, ALL Target stores sell Vienna hot dogs at their little grill. You dress them yourself and they don't have pickle or sport peppers, but if you're having a real craving it's close!

              1. re: brokegradstudent

                Pizzeria Uno at Brier Creek serves a reasonable approximation of Chicago-style pizza.

                Have you tried any of the Kosher dogs, like Best, as a replacement for Vienna?

                The true answer to this question is to make you own beef. There are plenty of recipes around the Internets. You could also make your own giardinera. Finding a bread sufficiently close to Gonela could be the biggest challenge. Overall, though, this would make a nice meal for a fall party.

                As far as beer, Goose Island recently entered into a distribution agreement with Annheiser-Busch, so it's possible they'll begin distributing GI beers here in the future. I'd be surprised to see Old Style come into this market.

            2. Not too far away, Elizabeth's Pizza and Pasta on Friendly Avenue in Greensboro is planning to start serving Chicago Italian Beef. I talked to the owner this afternoon and they have a supplier that stocks it!

              1 Reply
              1. re: tmwilliamsjr

                On a related note, a bunch of grocery stores seem to have giardinara now.

              2. NY Pizza.....

                I *heart* NY Pizza on 9th in Durham
                NY Pizzeria on Franklin in Chapel Hill
                NY Pizza on Tate St in Greensboro...

                yes, they just so happen to have "NY pizza" in the name...lol

                1 Reply
                1. re: TSQ75

                  Brooklyn Boys Pizzeria in Cary is *excellent* and, according to my NY-born-and-bred-husband, reminiscent of the pizzeria his Uncle Al owned in Brooklyn back in the day.

                2. I've found a reasonable approximation of Italian beef in the heart of Raleigh. Bear with me: it's the ruben at Raleigh times Bar. It doesn't have the look or the peppers, but if you close your eyes, the taste is just about right. For me one of the key components was the way the juice made the bread get soft and flavorful.

                  Give it a try and let me know if I'm crazy.

                  1. I tried Old Chicago today, I have to say that that was possibly the worst Italian Beef Sandwich ever... seriously.

                    The bread was old, the meat was dry and the peppers did not taste good at all.

                    I suspect that they use sliced roast beef and bread from Sysco, definately not made in house.

                    Passed off as an Italian beef sandwich, I would rate this one a 2 on a scale to 10.

                    The only 10 I ever had was at Al's Italian Beef... Portillo's is a distant second.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: grunchr

                      The worst part is that it is SO easy to make passably.

                      Doesn't solve my immediate problem but Cats and Dogs in Asheville, in addition to Vienna Beef dogs and sausage, has the Vienna Beef rendition of Italian beef (I'd give it an easy 6 on a scale similar to grunchr's).

                      My Chicago trip next weekend got canceled so I'm going to have to make my own fix it seems.

                      1. re: brokegradstudent

                        I love Cats and Dawgs.Its nothing fancy,just real good. IMO

                    2. I realize you'd have to drive a bit, but a place in Winston-Salem opened up called Kernel Kustard - they have Chicago dogs (tomato/Pickle), Italian Sausage and wet or dry Italian beef with giardinara that's really prettty good - I used to go to a place in Chicago callled Mr. Beef (simple, but catchy) when I was a student in Evanston in the 70's - they also have incredible soft serve custard and carmel corn ---

                      1. If you make a trip to Winston-Salem, skip the Kustard (it's a chain and you get chain food) Try Dioli's a relatively new Itialian Market on Reynalda. I'll link to a recent story on the owners. http://www.winstonsalemmonthly.com/pr...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: schin

                          Hi Schin - full disclosure, I work on behalf of Kernel Kustard - just wanted to mention that Kernel Kustard is not a chain, as we currently only have one store, which opened this past October.

                          1. re: kendrakicks

                            Well, It's a damn fine first link. I've been to Dioli's, albeit early on, and I need to give them a second chance, so I'll reserve judgement at this time. I just wish Kernel's gave out bibs for eating wet Italian Beef's in the car.

                          2. re: schin

                            I visited Dioli's shortly after they opened and I must say compared to Giacomo's I was unimpressed. Most of the items available at that time seemed to be available in many winston groceries such as fresh market or HT(on the deli side at least) I saw no housemade salumi, no italian salads. no housemade pasta or sausages at least not while I was there shortly after they opened. it seemed as though there emphasis is on baked goods

                            1. re: quazi

                              A quick heads up: Weaver Street market in Carrboro carries Giacomo's cured meats and sausages so you don't have to travel all the way to Winston-Salem to get their products. A little pricey but good stuff.

                            2. re: schin

                              Kernel Kustard is NOT a chain. its a local store owned and operated by Chicago natives.

                              1. re: bbqdawg

                                We finally found our way to Kernel Kustard on the way back from a very cold hike in the mountains a few weeks ago. The building was easy to find off of 40 (maybe 3 minutes from the interstate). No inside seating but they share a mostly enclosed, sort of heated patio space with the coffee shop next door that was fine, even though it was in the 30s.

                                The chicago dogs are authentic. Blindfolded, I could have been convinced that it was from your good neighborhood hot dog joint in Chicago (mine was Windy's at 53rd & Ellis).

                                My wife suggested it was a bad idea to get a beef after hot dogs and fries. I'll look forward to that trip on our next trip through W-S.

                            3. We found a place in Clayton on Hwy 70 called Hungry's owned and operated by former Chicago residents. Their Italian beef is homemade and it's awesome as are their Polish. Or you can have Al's or Portillo's deliver to your door.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: bissielizzie

                                I tried Hungry's today, I have to say that that was possibly the second or third best Italian Beef Sandwich ever... seriously.

                                The bread was decent, the meat was slightly on the dry side and the peppers were just plain awesome!!!

                                Passed off as an Italian beef sandwich, I would rate this one a 7 on a scale to 10.

                                In my opinion Al's is still #1 and this sandwich was neck and neck with my second favorite... Portillo's sandwich.

                                1. re: grunchr

                                  Just tried Hungry's this weekend. Had the Chicago dog, and split an Italian Beef.

                                  First, the hot dog was quite good, complete with a sport pepper and celery salt and the right relish. I don't believe it was a Vienna beef dog, though. ...

                                  The Italian beef was quite good, it's biggest drawback being the bun. The beef itself wasn't as good as say Portillo's but it had the right flavor. I'd have to agree it wasn't as moist as you'd expect in Chicago. The giardenara was very good, though I've never had it with olives. Didn't matter. It had the right amount of spice to it. I'm guessing they make it themselves.

                                  As a Portillo's loyalist, I'd say Hungry's doesn't quite compare (mainly the bread holding it back), but for Clayton, N.C., I'm sure I'll be back.

                                  1. re: foodiesue

                                    J&J's on Miami Blvd (Hwy70) in Durham has Italian Beef as well. I thought it was pretty good for this area - no where as good as Mr. Beef.

                                    1. re: foodiesue

                                      Sadly it looks like Hungry's has changed hands...it's now (26 Oct 2010) signed as a Philly steak places, as if we don't have any of those around here....

                                2. Randy's Pizza in RTP makes good NY Style slices. You can tell by the crowds at lunch.

                                  1. There is a new place set to open in north Durham called Fat Joe's (or something like that) that looks promising from the signage. It is on Holloway Street (98) right by US-70 (sort of near the Food Lion but on the other side of the street). It took over the space of a closed taqueria that was decent.

                                    The sign mentions sausages, beef, etc. Definitely not open when I went by earlier this week but the opening soon sign has been up at least a month so I'm guessing soon.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: brokegradstudent

                                      Fat Joe's opened but closed already - they weren't getting enough business there. But good news! They will reopen in downtown Durham, where they'll do very well.

                                      1. re: Barbara

                                        Great news about Fat Joe's, Barbara! Do you know where it'll be located in downtown Durham? I did make it to their location on Holloway once for a beef sandwich before they closed and it was spot on!! Never got a chance to try their hot dogs. Wondered if the hot dogs were Vienna brand.

                                        1. re: viennadog

                                          He didn't say - I'm not sure he'd picked out a location. It was so funny - he told me I was the 5th or 6th person to show up that day looking for Italian beef! (it had been posted on another forum). Hopefully soon, though I've moved to Wilmington, and I guess I have to mail order Al's again...

                                    2. It appears that Hungry's in Clayton has been closed for good... there is a place in downtown Raleigh on Dawson and Martin called Cherry Bomb that has an Italian Beef.

                                      The sandwich is ok, the peppers need help though, I would rate this 4/10.

                                      If anyone is planning on any trips to Atlanta, Al's #1 is opening up a restaurant there.

                                      1. Two more thoughts on this. There's a hot dog cart that appears some days in downtown Raleigh in front of the Wachovia building that serve the real deal Vienna Beef dogs... even official Vienna poppyseed buns. They post if they're going to be there or not on facebook each day

                                        And there's also now a Rosati's Pizza out in Morrisville that has a good beef. With hot or sweet peppers
                                        Rosati's of Morrisville
                                        3605 Davis Drive, Ste. 107
                                        Morrisville, NC 27560

                                        1. Not beef but Sandwhich in Chapel Hill has started doing a Chicago Dog ('whichcago® ) special on Wednesdays.

                                          Poppy seed bun was nicely toasted, relish was an appropriately otherworldly shade of green, no ketchup in sight, good dog. 4 bucks (6 w/ a can of PBR). Real deal flavor.