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Dec 15, 2013 01:52 AM

Forget the French Dip, we're talking real-deal Chicago Style Italian Beef!

Maybe the best sandwich I've eaten in New Jersey! Ok, well maybe that's a stretch, but the Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwich at Red's Flips & Dips in West Caldwell really is truly fantastic.

If you've never had an Italian Beef sandwich (or Chicago Italian Beef), think French Dip, but take it a step further and top it with a crunchy, spicy celery giardiniera. It's not for everybody though; it's a messy hands-on experience; so if you're the type that eats BBQ ribs with a knife and fork, then an Italian Beef sandwich probably isn't for you. Red's sandwich is made with slow roasted top round that tastes like prime rib; it's fantastically tender, sliced paper thin and dipped in an incredible beef jus that they make from the beef drippings. It's served up in a really good French bread roll, and covered with a celery relish that would make cardboard taste good. They offer a regular and a spicy version (which is quite spicy, but it's my favorite). You can also add cheese and roasted red peppers for an extra fee.

In addition to the Chicago Style Beef, Red's also makes some of the best French Fries I've had in a long time. They're cut skin-on and fried twice (as it should be); and then properly salted.

If beef isn't your thing, Red's also has a BBQ chopped chicken sandwich that's out of this world. I have to admit I was skeptical about this one at first. In my experience NJ just doesn't get the whole BBQ thing. Maybe the idea of smoke that doesn’t come from an industrial complex is just too foreign. The chicken is slow roasted like the beef, shredded and drenched in a tasty BBQ sauce that’s not too sweet. They top it with cole slaw and serve it on a brioche bun that’s even better than the French bread used for the beef sandwich.

I've been told that the chili and the turkey burger are also excellent, but I've never made it past the Chicago beef and BBQ chicken, so it's not something I can personally confirm.

It should be said that Red’s isn’t cheap; a sandwich, fries and drink will run you around $15, but in this case you really do get what you pay for.

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  1. I have not been there yet, but have heard a lot of good things and positive comments about the place.

    Thanks for the heads up/info/review.

    1. Thank you for posting this, it is nice to hear that Italian beef sandwiches have made it to NJ.

      1. But this style of sandwich in Chicago is NOT served with "celery relish". That would be a crime and a sin there!

        Chicago beef sandwiches are served with "giardinera", usually prepared in house and is a blend of sweet &/or hot peppers. The bread is usually soft with sesame seeds. And cheese? NEVER!

        Might be a good sandwich, but it just ain't Chicago Beef!

        5 Replies
        1. re: lemarais

          I started following this post as I want to try Red's for myself. It's a little out of the way, and haven't yet had the opportunity to get there, but I had remembered something on the Red's website where there is more explanation of her twist on some food items. Check it out:

          1. re: lemarais

            Having eaten hundreds of Italian Beef sandwiches in and around Chicago, including Mr. Beef, Johnnie's, Portillo's, Al's Beef, and many small lesser known places, Red's sandwich is most definitely Italian Beef. I've seen plenty of variations on home-made giardinera in my Chicago travels and while many of them stick strictly to peppers (especially for sweet Italian Beef), the giardinera in a hot Italian beef has celery in it quite often. As for cheese, I don't know where you get the idea that cheese is verboten on Italian Beef. Almost every place I've been to in Chicago offers cheese as an add-on. Still, if you need further proof, here are two slideshows showing quite a few different Italian beef sandwiches from around Chicago... take a look.



            1. re: creamfinger

              I've had Portillo's, including via their mail order business and it is first rate. I'll have to make a point of hitting Red's during the Christmas to New Years holiday period.

              1. re: creamfinger

                Agreed 100%...thanks for the informative post...

                1. re: creamfinger

                  I'll be there this weekend...with two friends of mine from Chicago! LOL. All of us are looking forward to going. Anyway, I too have spent quite a bit of time in and around Chicago -- one trip for 2 weeks a year minimum, and numerous shorter trips throughout the year. My business partner was born and raised there as well. Oh yeah, by the way, none of this doesn't make me an expert. As I've always said, rules and food?!?! LOL.

                  Certainly not the "law" --




                  While it's true, and I know people who say no cheese -- that's their choice. It's not a rule, a tradition, or some Chicago law. LOL. Some people and places in Chicago are strictly sans cheese -- more of the well known places that I've been to for Italian Beef offer cheese than do not.

                  My one friend from Chicago -- a chef/restaurateur -- said that many Chicago natives will in fact tell you "no cheddar" and "never" -- and he said it's rare to find it offered, but he also said it is and you do (find it). Some people like chocolate and some vanilla. He said, and I don't remember if it was Al's, Mr. Beef's, Pop's, but one of the classic places in Chicago offers cheddar. They should be shut down, right? LOL.

                  I think the standard choices offered are provolone or mozzarella. I've always said...order and enjoy what you like.

                  The celery argument? LOL. Exercise in futility. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it with celery. There are so many variations, versions, etc.

                  Looking forward to a taste of Chicago right here in Northern NJ...happy holidays everyone.

              2. We could ask the Chicago Board...

                1. creamfinger, (love the name)
                  It's Barbi, owner of Red's. Your answer to lemarais is just what I would have said. Thank you for the visuals, they do show the variations on a giardeniera theme. I kind of agree about the cheese, but people seem to love it and I just aim to please (as they do in Chi town). Thanks for your enthusiasm.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bignewms

                    Welcome...and thank you for posting...hope to see you around the boards...and I will be seeing you this weekend at your place!!! And I am very much looking forward to it...with cheese!!! LOL.