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Jul 15, 2010 03:11 PM

Mr. Beef of Chicago - Venice boardwalk

While strolling the Venice boardwalk late last month, I spotted a Mr. Beef stand. Being from Chicago, I inquired to the attendant if this was the same Mr. Beef from back home. It is! For the uninitiated, Mr. Beef in Chicago has consistently been ranked at the top of many "Best Italian Beef" lists. Well, I ordered one up and while being very good, it seemed to be lacking some of the flavor that I remember. The guy told me that they ship the beef in from Chicago and they hadn't officially had their grand opening yet. Regardless, I will go back and try again. Hopefully they will get the kinks worked out. It would be great to have a top-notch food shack on the boardwalk. I already make monthly treks to OC for Portillo's Italian Beef. With traffic and parking hassles in Venice, it may just take as much time to schlep down behind the Orange Curtain.

The Mr. Beef Italian Beef sandwich runs $6.99 and I think it was about 6". Whereas Portillo's Big Beef is $6.59 and maybe twice the size.

Any other Chicago ex-pats sampled Mr. Beef in Venice? How did you find the taste, compared with the original location?

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  1. I can't wait to try it. Here is a link to their LA web site.

    1. I have my fingers crossed so hard!!...but you are correct, it may be too much hassle to get to!! I will try this coming week!

      1. If they're going to ship the beef in, they should get it from Al's -- Chicago's finest Italian beef. ;-)

        Mr. Beef (on Orleans) is loved by many, but it was never my favorite. I will try the place in Venice, however -- thanks for the review, Johnny.

        1. I am about to cry! Now as for getting Big Al's on the boardwalk and some genuine chicago italian ice...

          1 Reply
          1. re: echoparkdirt

            big Al's is the chicago italian beef place, not palmdale

          2. Okay, I had my first experience with Portillo's last week. I ordered the Italian beef/ sausage combo. The sausage had the requisite fennel taste and the whole sandwich was great. What am I missing here? The beef seemed ordinary. What is Italian beef? What should I have noticed about it? How does it differ in taste from regular beef? Please clue me in.

            5 Replies
            1. re: mucho gordo

              Gordo, keep in mind that the beef is roasted with Italian spices, then sliced very thin (but not shaved) across the grain for tenderness, and finally reheated lightly -- otherwise the proteins will toughen -- in a mildly spicy jus made from the drippings, creating the thin "gravy." The bread has to be substantial enough not to disintegrate when the sandwich is dipped into the gravy, but it shouldn't be tough or crusty. According to a recent survey of Nobel Laureates, Gonnella Bakery makes the perfect bread for Italian beef.

              Many customers ask for hot or sweet peppers (sometimes both), which are added on top just before the sandwich is dipped. Like Portillo's, most beef places also wrap the sandwich tightly in paper, so everything melds together in the few minutes it takes to get to your table, counter, or car hood, unwrap, and eat. With all the spice and juice, the tender, thin slices make a sandwich that's easy to distinguish from an ordinary roast beef.

              Ever since I was a student at the University of Chicago, I've been a fan of Al's on Taylor St. and Johnnie's in suburban Elmwood Park and have had my complaints about Portillo's. But I've always thought they make the best Italian beef outside the Chicago area and would never call the taste ordinary, so I'm puzzled by your reaction. BTW, did you have your sandwich dipped (or dry)? How about peppers -- what kind?

              You might want to compare Portillo's with the best by getting Al's to ship you a package. ( ) It won't be as good as standing at a counter in the old Italian neighborhood on Taylor -- with a fabulous cantaloupe or watermelon lemonade from the tiny stand across the street -- and they certainly can't FedEx their grungy, greasy fries -- the best in America in my humble opinion -- but it's still a great experience and a character builder!

              1. re: hnsbmg

                Johnnie's brings me back to my childhood with my dad sitting in our station wagon and getting giardiniera all over my clothes. Portillo's makes a mean beef outside of Chicago, and a proper Chicago dog. I will check Mr. Beef out, and see how it compares....

                1. re: Schweinhaxen

                  Maybe stopping by Petersen's Ice Cream in Oak Park for a great turtle sundae, afterward? Well, it's a bit further from Mr. Beef in Venice to the new Handel's Ice Cream in Redondo Beach, but I intend to make the trip for a turtle sundae as soon as I can get over to Mr. Beef LA. (I sure wish MBLA had found a location with less-insane parking.)

                2. re: hnsbmg

                  It wasn't dipped; they didn't ask and I don't know about such things. I made the mistake of getting the hot peppers which weren't all that hot. They use a jardiniere that is too vinegary and overpowers the beef taste. Apparently the Italian beef has a delicate flavor that was overshadowed also by the fennel in the sausage (Excellent sausage, I might add). Next time I would order a beef sandwich and a sausage sandwich; not a combo. That way I can enjoy both tastes. I'm somewhat of a purist and not into toppings that detract from the basic ingredient.

                  1. re: mucho gordo

                    They asked me if I wanted it dipped. But they called it "juicy". "Do you want it juicy?"