Perched on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan is Chicago, Illinois, a city comprised of premiere visual and performing arts venues as well as genuine ethnic cuisines. Chicago’s urban culture and entertainment nightlife is highly acclaimed within the U.S. because of its renowned performing arts theaters, sidesplitting comedy clubs, fine art museums, and as the pioneering hub of House music. This lakefront city is also home to some world-famous food specialties, including the Chicago deep-dish pizza, the Chicago dog, chicken vesuvio, and the authentic Italian beef sandwich.
Since its early creation in the 1930’s, the Italian beef sandwich has been a long-standing tradition among locals and tourists alike. On a daily basis food stands that serve these great sandwiches are swarmed with hungry lunch crowds, sometimes with lines spilling out of the doors. So what exactly is it about this sandwich that makes it so popular? We will tell you. The seasoned roast beef is thinly sliced, dripping with au jus (gravy) on a fresh Italian roll topped with “hot” giardiniera or “sweet” sauteed Italian peppers. The roll comes “dipped” in the gravy to retain the juice, but you can order it “dry” if you prefer. Sounds good, right? Pair your Italian beef with fresh cut fries and a cold glass of Italian lemonade for a grand slam lunch! Find out below where you can get your hands on mouthwatering Italian beef in the Chicago area that’s also easy on the wallet.
Al’s #1 Italian Beef
Al’s #1 Italian Beef restaurant has had a legion of loyal followers since its early days in 1938. That is when Al Ferrari, his sister Frances, and brother-in-law Chris Pacelli, Sr., developed the original concept and recipe for the Italian beef sandwich (Alsbeef.com). Al’s #1 has appeared on Travel Channel’s Food Wars and has been dubbed “Chicago’s Best Italian Beef Sandwich” by Good Morning America and the TODAY show. This once small restaurant in the “Little Italy” Chicago district has grown a tremendous fan base spanning outside of the Chicago area with locations in California, Nevada, Illinois, and Texas. Menu items at Al’s #1 include the original Italian beef sandwich, char-grilled Polish sausage or Italian sausage, tamales, and Al’s famous beanless chili.
Johnnie’s Beef restaurant may be small in size, but the wait lines are huge-and for good reason! Located in the northwest district of Elmwood Park, Johnnie’s Beef restaurant is a notable establishment within the area serving up great tasting food at reasonable prices. If it’s your first time dining at Johnnie’s Beef, locals will tell you to try the Italian beef sandwich (of course!) and the pepper & egg sandwich (served Fridays only). Both the pepper & egg sandwich and the Italian beef come topped with your choice of hot or sweet peppers. This cash-only restaurant also has other great menu items, including tamales, hot dogs, and char-grilled spicy Italian sausage. And for your drink, you must get the frozen Italian ice- you’ll be glad you did!
Bari is a popular lunch destination spot in the Grand Avenue neighborhood of Chicago. Since its opening in 1973 by Joseph and Grace Pedota, this family-run business also serves as a neighborhood Italian grocery selling specialty imported items like Italian coffee and olive oils . Bari’s is highly known for their subs and homemade Italian and Barese sausages. Popular menu items include the Italian beef sandwich with hot giardiniera, Italian sausage sub, meatball sub with added fresh mozzarella, and the Italian tuna salad sub all served on fresh baked Italian bread loaves. A variety of subs come with a 3 foot family/party size option so, buon appetito!
Frannie’s Beef & Catering, Inc.
Frannie’s Beef and Catering is located in the northwest Chicago suburb of Schiller Park. Since its establishment in 1991 by brothers Vincent and Joe DiVincenzo, this family owned and operated restaurant has been serving up genuine Italian beef and sausage for locals at great values. Other notable menu items include custom-order hot dogs, Frannie’s original Italian steak sandwich, homemade Italian ice, and the banana milkshake topped with whipped cream and a cherry. If you’re looking for a catered lunch for your business office party, Frannie’s can do that for you too! Their catering menu features 3 party package options large enough to feed your whole group.