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Mr. Beef

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According to the "experts"-the food/travel networks this place is THE spot for Chicago beef. Is it? If not, any suggestions for the shaved beef sandwich in the downtown/near North area are appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. There are many beef stand recommendations for Chicago, in a number of other discussions. If you do a search you'll see the volumes written thus far. Mr. Beef is one of the favorites, but. like choosing pizza or hot dogs in Chicago ... ask 10 people for their recommendation and you'll likely get 10 different suggestions in response. Count me as a Mr. Beef fan, though.

    1. You can do ok at Portillos on Ontario Street as well. If you wanna kill a few birds with one stone, you can get a decent hot dog there too. Better yet, you can get a combo (Italian beef and Italian sausage on the same sandwich)

      P.S. you are searching for an "Italian Beef," or "A Beef." If you ask for a "shaved beef," you 'll likely get some funny looks.

      Portillos is a chain of mostly Chicago area fast-ish foods. They are known for quality products even tho they are a chain. Everything they do is pretty good, and usually consistent. might not be the BEST beef ever, but it's definitely respectable or better.

      Portillo's - Chicago, Illinois
      100 W. Ontario
      Chicago IL 60654
      312-587-8910

      My vote for best beef sammich - a little further than "near north" would be Tore's on Diversey, Elston, Western. Their giardinera is usually sizzling hot, and the beef is not too salty. Just my opinion. Like gomexico stated, everyone will have a favorite.

      8 Replies
      1. re: gordeaux

        Yup, Portillo's does a good job at Italian beef as well as Chicago hot dogs. So does Al's #1 Beef ( www.alsbeef.com ) which has a location a block away from the Portillo's on Ontario. Nothing against Mr. Beef; all three are places where you can get a good and authentic version of the local Chicago specialty, the Italian beef sandwich.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Al's in River North is probably the worst of the worst beef places ... with little resemblence in product with the main, original location on Taylor St. Other than the company-owned location on Taylor St. I suggest you not patronize the franchised places where the beef can be an after-thought. The original Al's quality has slipped over the years but remembrances of old days when things were better still propel the location and it's popularity ... and Mario's lemonade stand across the street helps it as well. Portillo's serves a good product, though, and I'm a fan of the River North location. Portillo's 'Chicago-style' hot dogs are amongst the very best in the city ... fresh, dressed properly, good service in the restaurant (even though it's mobbed much of the time).

          1. re: gomexico

            Al's has its fans too. Like you yourself said, "ask 10 people for their recommendation and you'll likely get 10 different suggestions in response".

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I think it's important to distinguish, and that's why I've mentioned it earlier ... that the reputation Al's has developed as one of the best beef stands in the city has evolved from the product served at the original, Taylor St. localtion ... not the franchised locations. Comparing one to the other is an apples to oranges exercise. What one serves is, from what I've experienced, not related in just about any way, to the original recipes. If you like the River North location, fine - but I think people might wnat to like that different product for reasons other than the name Al's is on the side of the building. ;-)

            2. re: gomexico

              Agreed that most of the Al Franchises are pretty medicore. But the original on Taylors is top notch in my book. I don't like the fries though. A lemon ice from Mario's across the street is a perfect capper too. Summer through food.

          2. re: gordeaux

            For someone who doesn't have the distinction "Italian Beef Sammich," Portillos or Mr. Beef or even Al's on Orleans is going to give you a pretty good sense of the thing.

            You could trek out to Al's on Taylor or Johnnie's on North Avenue and debate which is better, but for someone who just wants to sample a true Chicago Italian Beef, any of those will do just fine.

            One recommendation to schaf1 is to order it "wet" (more of the juice) and that you can get "sweet or hot" which refers to the peppers that go on the sandwich. Sweet is roasted green bell peppers; hot is a spicy guardinara. Personally, I like both.

            1. re: chicgail

              >> For someone who doesn't have the distinction "Italian Beef Sammich," Portillos or Mr. Beef or even Al's on Orleans is going to give you a pretty good sense of the thing.

              I agree. Note that Mr. Beef is on Orleans, whereas Portillo's and Al's are on Ontario.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                It really won't cost that much to try all three and have yourself a mini beef-off!

                FWIW, I like Mr Beef out of the three.

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                Mr. Beef
                666 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654