Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Sep 30, 2009 11:15 AM

Authentic Italian Beef Sandwiches in OC?

A friend swears that an Italian beef sandwich from Chicago is one of the best sanwiches around. Any one know of a place I can get one in Orange County? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Portillo's on La Palma in Buena Park. It's a Chicago-based chain. They also do Chicago-style hot dogs.

    9 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            In Chicago I never go to Portillo's, but they undoubtedly have the best beef in the hinterland, which doesn't actually say a lot, since it's much easier to find a decent Chicago-style hot dog than a thin-sliced, juicy, and delectable beef. The OP should be sure to have it dipped (in that beautiful juice, or gravy) and order it with hot giardiniera (sport peppers and other pickled vegetables). I do recommend Portillo's chocolate cake shake without reservation.

      1. re: Jack Flash

        I hate going to Portillo's.....
        can never make up my mind what to have.
        They got good Italian beef, hot dogs, chop salads and now I've found they've got good burgers too.

        1. re: monku

          Yeah, I tried the burger for the first time on my last visit to Portillo's, and I was impressed. That and the Italian beef with cheddar on croissant made for a great meal.

          How is the strawberry shortcake there? I've been meaning to try that on my last 3 visits, but I don't think my stomach will stretch enough.

          1. re: Wonginator

            I couldn't make it to Portillo's so I stopped at a favorite taco truck in ELA and had carnitas on a kaiser roll with mayo and honey-mustard.

            Whatever thought is going through your head right now is probably similar to mine when I read about that "[allegedly] Italian beef with cheddar on croissant." I see from their menu that Portillo's does indeed offer such a thing (I'd never noticed it in dozens of visits -- a psychological block?), but the OP is acting on information "that an Italian beef sandwich from Chicago is one of the best sanwiches around" and should, therefore, be pointed in the direction of Portillo's "Italian Beef" or "Big Beef" or "Combo Beef & Char-Grilled Sausage," not their "Beef-N-Cheddar Croissant," which was probably invented by White Sox fans.

            By the way, when I ordered my carnitas w/mayo, several nearby 'hound-types gave me really dirty looks -- or was it because of my "Chicago 2016" T-shirt? You know who you are.

            1. re: Harry Nile

              Mayo is a typical condiment for a torta. Applied to the bread which is then grilled prior to loading up the ingredients.

              1. re: JAB

                Yeah, mea culpa, I was rolling too fast, but, actually, I now see torta recipes on the Web that include honey-mustard or use kaiser rolls! I have a couple of nieces from Mexico, so I'll see if they would recommend those to someone who wants to try tortas. I hope not, and I hope the OP in this thread goes with the real Italian beef at Portillo's or Chicago's Best. This famous sandwich needs not only tender and thin-sliced (not shaved) beef roasted with Italian spices but also a fragrant and tangy gravy, deliciously oily giardiniera, and substantial Italian loaf to hold it all together.

      2. I won't disagree with the other's but, there's Chicago's Best in Irvine owned by the son of the former Giorgio's from Aliso Viejo. I haven't been but, if it's half as good as his fathers place was ...

        4 Replies
        1. re: JAB

          OP, you've got the 2 main choices here...Portillo's in BP and Chicago's Best in Irvine. Both are very good renditions of what you can get in and around the Chicago area.

          Portillo's is a quasi-fast food place with a lot of good food...burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and featured both indoor and outdoor seating. A great place for a casual family lunch or dinner.

          Chicago's Best is in a non-descript food court and they do a LOT of local catering business. Hours are strange (close at 6 and no weekends), but the food is great. Very good ribs there as well and some of the best french fries around. Their sandwiches tend to be a bit bigger than what you get at Portillo's. They also do some great pizza, but only on the 2nd and last Fridays of a month (to avoid conflict with the food court pizza place).

          FYI, one of the real ways to enjoy italian beef is to order a "combo"...a combination of the italian beef and an italian sausage. Really good stuff.

          1. re: RSMBob

            Re: Chicago's Best hours, the food court gets most of its business from the business lunch crowd, so that's why there are no nightly or weekend hours, as the nearby business areas become ghost towns outside the Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM hours.

            When ordering the Italian beef sandwich, don't forget to add the spicy or sweet peppers. I prefer the sweet peppers.

            Just a warning on the ribs at Chicago's Best, they are very popular and sometimes run out, as they did in 2 of my last 4 visits.

            1. re: Wonginator

              Definitely get the spicy giardiniera with the Italian beef. The bread Chicago's Best uses is not an Italian roll like Portillos though...more like a french roll, probably from a Vietnamese bakery. It not dense enough to hold up well to the wetness of Italian beef, so it disintegrates as soon as you pick it up.

              1. re: Tapeworm

                I made it to Chicago's best and got the Italian Beef sandwich, with hot peppers. Since I wanted to taste the beef on its own, I got the juice on the side. I'm glad I did. Tapeworm describes the bread perfectly and when the server pulled the beef out of the hot tub of au jus, the bread was plenty wet already. I can't imagine if they dipped the roll. It was difficult to keep together but the taste was great. It remided me of a Cheesesteak minus the cheese and with the great italian flavors. The fries were also good but be careful because they fry them up for each order and were lava hot. Thank you all for the info and I will repost when I get to Portillos. Can't wait.

        2. Thanks for the input. I was pleased to find Chicago's Best close to my home so tomorrow I venture into Italian Beef territory. Nice. I will follow that up with a trip to Portillo's next week. Chowhounders, many thanks. I'll keep you posted on my findings.

          1. Di Pilla's is a small italian restaurant in the city of rosemead. They are known for their pizza and house bread, but they have the best beef sandwich in LA. Their sandwiches are only available for lunch. It's the basic beef and cheese on a roll style served with gravy and pepperoncini on the side. I can't get enough of this sandwich. They have been in business for 50 years, and for good reason. Their good at what they do!
            Definitely worth the drive.