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Oct 2, 2008 12:45 PM

Italian Beef - where to go (while visiting for short time)?

Basically I am struggling between Luke's and Portillos, and if you know a better choice please do tell!
The criteria:
1. I only have about 5 hours. So easy access via public transportation from Midway Airport.
2. My preferences are usually Asian food (but I want to try local street food as much as possible when I travel.)
3. Beer is a perfect companion with most of food to me.
4. Service is not the most important thing to me, as long as they are not rude ...
5. Price makes a psychological difference to me.

What would you recommend?


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  1. If this posts twice to you shengtang, I apologize! Please go to Portillos! I have been there at least 25 times and love it. I am at the point now (living in Columbus, Ohio!) where I may have to have their beef delivered to Ohio. You have to have the Italian beef sandwich, with the cheese and sweet peppers, also the chopped salad with their sweet and sour dressing, and finally their crinkle cut fries---amazing! Portillos has so many locations that it should not be a problem to visit one or two of them :) I always fly into Midway as well, and I go to the Niles location. I am sure there is one much closer to you, to fit into your 5 hour time period.

    They do have beer and after over 25 times, I can tell you that I have never had unfriendly service. You walk up, place your order, pay and pick up your food when your name is called. The price is great, especially in this economy, it can't be beat.

    Enjoy---take one for the flight home. You will never forget the taste :) Karen

    1. Portillos places near the middle of the pack of the Italian beef offerings in Chicago.

      Not bad for a regional chain but nowhere near as good as Johnnies in Elmwood Park, Carm's, etc. Lukes would be a good choice and more along the lines of what you would find at the best Italian Beef stands in Chicago. Portillo's might be a good choice due to your limited time in town, and the fact they serve beer. Other than that check out one of the many Italian Beef threads on the Chicago board for other rec's for better options.

      An Italian beef is typically not ordered with cheese, but with sweet or hot peppers. I go for extra hot peppers on mine. Another option would bee a beef and sausage combo, then I go for sweet and hot peppers

      The above coming from a lifelong Chicagoan, who eats at least one IB sandwich a week, and rarely goes to Portillo's for one.

      Enjoy your visit, and beef sandwich.

      1. Personally I forgo both Portillio's and Lukes and go to Al's on Taylor Street in Little Italy. It is a Chicago classic. Drippy, messy, and oh so good. No cheese on a IB. Get it dip with sweet and hot peppers. Pretty easy to get to from Midway.

        1079 W. Taylor St

        I hope that the hopstop directions show up but if not you can plug in Midway Airport and the 1079 W. Taylor Street and it will give you detailed directions via the el and bus.

        1. I live in L.A. but I'm from Chicago and when I come into town I always go to Al's. It is one of the best and plus Taylor Street has so many other places to check out while you are there. Just walk up and down the street for a taste of what is left of Chicago's Little Italy. Great cannoli's as well at the Grocer store with the Italian guys sitting out in front. Awesome!

          1 Reply
          1. re: juanitadiana

            I'd go to any non-chain Italian Beef place before Portillo's.

          2. I'd say Al's on Taylor or Chickie's on Pulaski. Chickie's would be a pair of bus rides, Al's would be a pair of train trips. Both are on the near south/southwest side, so wouldn't take too long to get to from Midway. You could always cab it, also.

            I'd give the nod to Al's for the atmosphere, but Chickie's has a great beef, too.

            Note that none of these places will cost you more than about $10 all told, neither has any service to speak of (counter service, eat standing up), and neither of them serves alcohol. But if you want good chow, this is where you go. Cash only. You want either a beef or a combo, juicy, with hot/sweet/both.