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Sep 25, 2012 10:19 AM

BJ's Hot Dog Shoppe - Best Chicago Experience in Twin Cities

As I believe that the Italian Beef Sandwich is the greatest thing going between two slices of bread and have driven to Chicago just to eat one on a Saturday whim, I was excited to hear that there was a new option in Maplewood called BJ's Hot Dog Shoppe. It is located in a strip mall with no view from the street so if you go, make sure you map it out or you will have a hard time finding it. That's too bad because it's the best one in this town right now going.

The Pros:
BJ is one of the most outgoing guys you'll ever want to meet and frankly worth the trip alone. He's from Joliet, IL so he knows what's what when it comes to the food. The Italian beef itself was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of heat. My wife said the giardiniera reminded her of Portillo's in Chicago. The bread comes as you order it which has to be wet for my tastes and you have your choice of other condiments like cheese, onions, etc. Compared to some others in town, this is as close as you are going to get to the Windy City. All of his desserts are also handmade by his wife.

The Cons:
This isn't the Windy City. BJ rests his meat in the juices versus cooking to order. This can lend it to being slightly overdone around the edges. Plus, the meat absorbs so much liquid that the wet bun can't handle it and it falls apart. He ran out and cooked my wife's to order which allowed her sandwich to stay together much better than the other two. If he started cooking these to order, look out. All of the great Chicago beef shops cook to order just to avoid this pitfall.

BJ's also has a full range of hot dogs varieties (didn't confirm, but 95% sure we're talking Vienna Beef) and makes his own chilli (too much cumin for my taste, but your mileage on that may vary since I'm not a cumin guy). For a true Chicago experience here in the Twin Cities, BJ's is as close as you are going to get and far outperforms Chris & Rob's in this CH's opinion.

BJ's Hotdog Shoppe
1990 Surburban Avenue, Maplewood, MN 55119

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  1. Thanks for the review. However, as a Chicagoan, I have to point out that it's the norm for Italian beef to be sitting in its juice on a steam table all day. I've never heard of a place that "cooks to order."

    6 Replies
    1. re: Jordan

      Mr Beef takes it from a warming area and then drops it in the gravy for a minute or two and then it goes to the sandwich. I meant that instead of letting it sit in the hot gravy for hours, they keep it slightly warmed and then finish it in the hot gravy/juices. That's what I meant by cooked to order.

      1. re: Db Cooper

        Doesn't Al's keep their beef in the gravy? I seem to remember it being that way when I went last year.

        Anyways, thanks for the heads up. I've been looking for a great Italian beef around here.

        I wasn't overly impressed with Al's, for what it's worth.

        1. re: BigE

          Not really. Al's keeps adding beef to the gravy every few minutes, at least at the original stand. They go through so much so fast that they don't have to worry about letting it sit in there for an hour. I went one time early and they too dropped the beef as I ordered it. I don't care for Al's vs. many of the others, but that's because they shred the beef. I prefer it sliced.

          I'm not comparing BJ's to Mr. Beef, Johnnie's, Portillos, or Al's. It's not at that level. But around here, I think it is as close as you can get.

          1. re: Db Cooper

            Man you just made me crave my favorite order at Portillo's that I buy everytime I visit my parents in Indy. One order cheese fries. One chili cheese dog. One beef sammy (dipped once), and a chocolate cake shake.

            Yes I know, probably the worst thing to have before another 3 hrs on the road. But it's worth it.

            1. re: brlattim

              BJ told me that his favorite is Portillio's. I'd urge you to try it. I'm not sure about the cake shake, but I'm certain he'll cover your needs on the beef and chilli dog/fries.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                The key is some spice to the chili and cheese sauce..not sprinkled cheese with flour to prevent caking. I def will try it. Thanks Db. I always am up for a new try.

    2. I assume that he needs the through-put (high customer volume) to make the cook-to-order work. Maybe I'm wrong. I'll have to check this out though