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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.

http://www.redsdipsandflips.com/
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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: http://www.redsdipsandflips.com/blog/...

          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.

            http://beefwithhot.blogspot.com/

            http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/10/th...

            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 matters...it doesn't make me an expert. As I've always said, rules and food?!?! LOL.

                  Certainly not the "law" --

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_...

                  And...

                  http://www.italianbeef.com/how-to-ord...

                  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.

                  2. I've been thinking about this for 3 days now.. the wife wants to go spend a bunch of money at IKEA this weekend.. thats pretty close to West Caldwell right? :-P

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: coldsolderjoint

                      In my experience the definition of "close" is very fluid. When it comes to good food, if I don't need to refill my gas tank more than once to get there, then it's close.

                      To answer your question more seriously, West Caldwell isn't what I'd call close to IKEA (assuming you mean the one in Elizabeth), but I don't know where you're coming from. It may very well be on the way.

                      1. re: creamfinger

                        I'm coming from the 117 area. We've done the IEKA to Rutt's Hut trip a number of times, looking on google maps, Red's isnt that much further in terms of miles. So its a good chance I'll make it this weekend. :-D

                      2. re: coldsolderjoint

                        there is a nice ikea in paramus, right off the parkway. it's kind of on the way back to south jersey, taking exit 154 (?) onto 46 west,then passaic ave. exit. in the tj maxx mall at corner of passaic and bloomfield ave. hope to see you soon!

                        1. re: bignewms

                          We just got back from the shopping trip. Lunch at Red's was awesome. First off, let me preface this by saying I've never been to Chicago, and have never had an Italian Beef sandwich before.

                          Before we unwrapped our sandwiches, my wife and I couldn't stop eating the fries. Easily the best fries we've had in a long long time. Red does it right here, deliciously simple, and crispy. My wife really enjoyed the chipotle mayo too.

                          My wife ordered the pulled chicken sandwich which I had a bite or three of. It was excellent. Wonderfully balanced, rich flavors, and savory. I would have thought it was pulled pork if I didn't know it was chicken.

                          I couldn't resist and ordered the beef and sausage combo dipped with sweet peppers and provolone. I'm not much of a fan of spicy anything, so cautiously, I ordered the celery relish on the side. As I unwrapped the hefty sandwich, I could tell this was good quality meat and a lot of it. I sampled a bit of the roast beef by itself, and it was so tender and flavorful. Sampled a bit of the relish by itself and it was surprisingly fresh and very good, with just a hint of pepper on the finish. It was an awesome balance to the savory meat, so I dumped it on. I must have told my wife 900 times how good this sandwich was. I just about licked the juice up from the wrapper.

                          I don't like to admit it, but this sandwich was a monster. Having not eaten breakfast, the sandwich and a half order of fries filled me up, excellent quality and quantity food for the money.

                          We did however manage to save room for an ice cream sandwich and a slice of gingersnap pumpkin cheesecake to go. I think my wife had planned to eat them later.. (how a melted ice cream sandwich would be appealing, I have no idea??) but needless to say, they never got as far as leaving the parking space. Both were delicious and full of flavor. I know a lot of places either skimp on the desserts, or purchase them pre-made. Not here, you could tell someone here cares. Its amazing to see all the different kinds of food being put out here.

                          My only regret is that Red's is not closer to my home or job.. well maybe not.. since I'd probably be 10 or 20 pounds heavier :-P

                          Oh.. I also forgot to try the limeade.. for some reason, I just didn't see it and just grabbed a soda from the case. Next time...

                          1. re: coldsolderjoint

                            Nice review....one question about the celery on the side. My intent was to visit and do the same. Was the amount give the same as you would have expected to be served on the sandwich.i.e., compared to a picture offered....or was it in a little souffle cup and you wish you could have had more? I ask only so I know if I should order extra as a side....or to try a different version is available.

                            Thanks in Advance.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              I believe it was a 4 oz soufflé cup. It was plenty enough for me to put on the sandwich

                      3. Thanks for this post. My husband loves Chicago Style Beef Sandwiches. I am going to have to surprise him with a visit to Reds.

                        1. I've been to Red's a few times and had the Italian Beef sandwich twice and honestly I wasn't all that impressed. Good fries though. They often offer coupons on Groupon, Yipit, Living Social.

                          1. Was in that area today and stopped in. I loved the sandwich, the celery giardinera was terrific. NO cheese, cheese is sacrilege for Chicago beef. Sweet potato fries awesome, regular fries very good.

                            This place, though, reminded me of an independent burger joint that had poor signage, near me in Paramus. Red's has NO signage from the highway. Is there anything that can be done, or does that mall not allow small store signage at the highway?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: lemarais

                              Thank you so much for giving us a try, I lived in Chicago for a while and take my beef seriously. I am bugging my landlord now for months and forwarded your signage suggestion to him. I hope it works and I hope to see you again.

                              1. re: bignewms

                                Any chance of you telling us what cut of beef you use to make your sandwiches? TIA.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  She mentions it on the website; on the menu page. Top round.

                            2. Just back from lunch there. I am also a huge fan of Mr. Beef and perhaps the mother of all these US sandies, Nerbone in Mercato Centrale in Florence. IMO, this one was pretty good!

                              Celery relish will not supplant the green sauce from Italy or the spicy mixture from Chicago but it is good. Worth the 1 hr drive? Maybe. But if Red's was closer I would be there a lot.

                              1. Went to Red's today as planned...this is a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich...without question. Don't say "it's not Roma's" or it's not Portillo's and so on. This is a good Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. Red's is not a fancy place, no waitress service, order at the counter and then they'll call your name and you pick up your own food -- and all of it good. Nice kind of place for what they are trying to be.

                                So, for those of you who have had real Chicago style Italian beef...you know what it is. Good beef, cut and served right -- tender, tasty, cut thin -- as creamfinger said, kind of like a French dip sandwich thickness/cut. As I said, it was good beef. Now, add the giardiniera -- a celery focal point relish, with a nice "spice" to it, more so distinct flavors and taste. Their version is good -- picked, vinegar, chopped celery, peppers, etc. It adds a very nice flavor and compliment to the beef -- just like in Chicago.

                                The jus, as creamfinger also talked about, IMO, was very flavorful -- not salty or overpowering, just very good. The sandwich is packed well -- not overly messy, but messy enough, LOL. I liked the French bread roll -- strong enough to hold it together, but not "hard". The sandwich was very good. I've spent a lot of time in Chicago and have been to most of the major places -- and while I can't speak to actual #'s, based upon my recollection, my many times at many places, and the last time I was there (about 2 months ago) -- Joe Boston's, Tony's, Jay's, Roma's, and Portillo's -- all offer cheese. I hit the last two last time I was there, and after I ordered they asked me if I wanted cheese.

                                I had each version -- with and without sausage -- both very good. I liked them both. The sausage was a good compliment, added a nice dynamic/complexion. Also, the fries -- were excellent IMO!!! Russet potatoes, cooked very well -- according to the menu, double cooked and hand cut. Regardless, they were excellent. Try the chipotle mayo. A little to like Russian dressing mayo for me, but it was nice to dip and alternate with ketchup. The fries were not too salty -- something that can be common with fries. The roasted turkey hero (special) was good -- nice sandwich, good flavor, with a cranberry relish. The BBQ chopped chicken sandwich...just try it. It was excellent. Nice BBQ sauce, basic, not too much of anything -- good balanced sauce, and the sandwich is topped with a good cole slaw, not the mayo, creamy diner type version.

                                I like this place. Nice place to stop by for a bite, quick, good food, good experience. It's very good for the type of place, and what they are. I would go back...and I will.

                                1. Forgot to mention that we also bought some of the little frozen mushroom tarts and lobster cobblers to take home. We made them today and the mushroom tarts were pretty good but the lobster was just ok. Kinda pricey too.

                                  1. Don't get up there much (we're down near Princeton) but I'll put this on my "Must Taste" list - after all, a guy named Maroni from Chicago ("That's a Trick Question!") has got to know real Chicago-style Italian beef.

                                    Before you condem NJ as unknowing about BBQ, however, get out of that Essex/Union/Hudson area and come down to Central and South Jersey. You've got some national BBQ teams in Jersey, and an increasing number of real-deal BBQ places in the lower two-thirds of the state. The board has any number of threads on the subject.