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Nov 22, 2013 09:45 AM

Italian Beef Sandwich--Where do you go for your favorite?

Hi there, Chicago Hounds!
I was born in Chicago and moved to LA years ago as a kid. One of my favorite Chicago foods is an Italian beef sandwich. My dad would bring them home after work and they came from little mom & pop places on the West side. I have no idea the name of the place. I know Portillo's wasn't in the beef sandwich business at the time.

We, Chicago ex-pats on the LA board, would be interested in your thoughts on the best Italian beef sandwich in Chicago.


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  1. The best isn't actually in Chicago but in very nearby Elmwood Park on North Ave. Johnnie's Beef. The fries are great. If you want some sausage with your beef, get a combo and don't forget to order either juicy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hoppy2468

      Agree about Johnnie's. I grew up near there and it is awesome.

      I think the local term for a "juicy" re an Italian Beef Sandwich is "wet."

      And don't forget to ask for sweet and hot peppers on it.

    2. I may be in the minority but I think Portillo's is pretty good and you have a couple in the greater LA area. Johnnie's is often recommended here, but it's not exactly in the heart of the city and if I were visiting for a weekend I wouldn't bother going there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        I totally agree, but the OP didn't ask for where they should go for a darn good, conveniently located IB sandwich. The OP wanted to know which we thought was the BEST IB sandwich.

        1. re: chicgail

          I get it, I was just providing some needed perspective. I know I'd be pissed if I was visiting LA for a weekend and someone recommended a spot that sent me on a long-ish detour (although in LA even driving through the same neighborhood can end up being a longish detour).

          1. re: ferret

            You're right, ferret. And it's one of those balancing acts. I don't live near Johnnie's any more and I would be much more likely to hit Portillos than drive out to the burbs if I wanted an IB.

            But if I'm already out there ... well, it's hard to pass up.

      2. I was in Rosemont, IL this week for a business convention. When I arrived on Tuesday, I walked over to the L and rode it to River North/Downtown to eat at Mr. Beef. I personally think this one is the best because it tastes the most like beef to me and I think their gravy is unbelievable. I love it with peppers and raw onions and their peppers seem to accentuate the beef sandwich where some others in town overpower it.

        You can't go wrong at Johnnie's either and I won't disparage any posters who suggest it. Both are really good. There's just something about Mr. Beef though that makes me so excited to get back to Chicago for another one.

        And FWIW, I ended up eating two sandwiches on Tuesday. Not because the first one wasn't substantial. No, because I know I won't be back in Chicago for another couple of months so why not take advantage while you are there!

        1. Lots of ppl love Johnnie's and that's fine. I grew up in the area, had plenty. I still live well within striking distance. IMO, their beef is overrated. What makes or breaks Johnnie's to me, is their combo. None better. Their char-grilled snausage elevates the sammich to symphonic heights (gotta go with hot giardiniera.)

          The best beef, for me, is Al's on Taylor. NONE of the other franchised locations. The one on Taylor Street ONLY. I like beefs from other joints, but if I'm seeking the BEST, it's Al's all the way. Whatever they put in their gravy for that unique flavor just does it for me. It might not be for everyone, but it floats my boat, and there are plenty who agree. Generally, when beef discussions erupt, the top three names are Johnnie's, Al's, and Mr Beef. I like them all, and usually most of the lesser talked about joints like Boston's, Scatchell's, Portillo's, Pop's, Luke's, and the myriad of other smaller neighborhood joints, but Al's on Taylor, imo, is the Holy Grail. Sometimes, you gotta cross your fingers and hope that the person making your beef that day is feeling generous, because there is a bit of sticker shock, at Al's, and if you get a skimpy one, I think you have every right to grumble about it.

          1. Jay's beef is as good as Johnnie's with bigger sandwiches. No Italian ice though.