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One Man's Beefathon III Report plus scores & reports

One Man's Beefathon III Report plus scores & reports
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  • One Man's Beefathon III Report plus scores & reports

    Post #1 - January 9th, 2005, 11:42 pm
    Post #1 - January 9th, 2005, 11:42 pm Post #1 - January 9th, 2005, 11:42 pm
    I've managed to pull my photos together, so I'll take the lead to start the thread and post some personal comments and reactions from Beef-a-thon III.

    One think I did learn: It is very hard to take a picture of Italian beef sandwiches in the presence of dozen hungry LTHers. You need a very quick finger.

    Stop #1: Tore's
    We kicked off the day around 11am at Tore's at Diversey, Elston, & Western. My opinion was that Tore's was among the best all-around sandwiches of the day with great giardiniera, good spice balance and a great roast beef flavor. I think most of the group had a favorable opinion of Tore's.

    As you can see, it was hard to catch a picture before hungry hands had divided and conquered the sandwiches.

    Tore's beef tasting, in progress:
    Image

    Tore's exterior:
    Image

    Stop #2: Dino & Nick's
    Next was Dino & Nick's which served a completely different sandwich than Tore's. To my taste, the whole thing was way over-seasoned and had pockets of really dry meat. The fries, from the freezer, were a complete waste of time. Dino's did get an extra point for the appearance of an olive in their giardiniera.

    Dino & Nick's beef & fries (apologies for the blurriness, still learning this camera)
    Image

    Stop #3: Roma's
    Roma's was a bit of an inconsistent experience: bland, boring beef with very good, hand-cut fries. Once we had started filling out our score sheets, the owner became interested in our crusade. Thanks to Rob, dicksond, and others, we got a nice tour of the whole back-stage operation. Bottom line: Nice people, good fries, boring beef.

    Roma's fries:
    Image

    Roma's beef:
    Image

    Backstage at Roma's
    Image

    Interlude: The Dog House 2
    Between stops, our gracious chauffeur, dicksond, noticed that The Dog House 2 was open, a rare occurrence. The Dog House is a tiny walk-up hut situated on Lawrence near Pulaski (I forget the exact cross-street). VI, dicksond, Flip, and I stopped and split a chili-cheese dog and a regular dog w/everything. I thought the dogs were tasty, but surrounded by sub-par toppings (and I wasn't really into the raw green pepper). We took our bites of the dogs in the car on the way to stop #4.

    Ordering at The Dog House 2
    Image

    Stop #4: Quick Bite
    I didn't have high hopes for Quick Bite, and they basically met my expectations. Their beef didn't leave any positive impression on me at all, and I think VI said he rated them below zero (a possibility I hadn't considered). If Roma's beef was boring like an unpainted canvas, the Quick Bite sandwich was a crappy, hotel-room oil painting. Weird, bad, and tasteless.

    Here's part of the group at Quick Bite:
    Image

    Stop #5: Max's
    Max's is my favorite northside beef, and by the time we left Quick Bite, I knew they'd be my winner that day. I can taste a Max's beef in a blind test. Their spice balance and beef flavor is excellent, and I love their giardiniera. I think Max's had a positive reaction across the board.

    If only....
    Image

    Buckets of giardiniera on the tables:
    Image

    Max's beef w/sweet peppers and fries:
    Image

    Max's ghetto fries (fries, cheddar, onion, gravy, giardiniera):
    Image

    Personally, I had a great day. I tasted some very good beefs, and some not-so. It was a lot of fun to finally get a chance to meet some of the people I've been typing to for many months now. Even a mediocre beef is fun to eat with this group. Thanks for having me along (and thanks for the ride, dicksond). I'm looking forward to Beefathon IV.

    For reference:
    The set-up discussion to this event

    Beefathon II Report

    The First Italian beef tasting

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #2 - January 10th, 2005, 12:27 am
    Post #2 - January 10th, 2005, 12:27 am Post #2 - January 10th, 2005, 12:27 am
    Hey Eat,

    Thanks for posting the pictures. I pretty much agree with your rankings. The biggest surprise of the day for me was Roma's, which was not up to its usual standards. Going into the Beefathon, I wold have put Roma's among the top contenders. I'm not sure what the deal was yesterday, but the beef lacked its usual goodness for some reason. One of the things that the owner said is that he gets his raw beef from several different sources (never Scala's). The only thing I can figure is that we hit them on a day when he got a substandard batch of beef. I would encourage any of the Beef-athon III participants to give it another try sometime bacause it's normally better than what we got. I would also like to give a special shout out to Max's fries, which were the best of the day. They were made using the double fry-two temp method which made for a crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside texture. If the potatoes were fresh (rather than frozen) they would have been perfect.

    As always, the company was truely the highlight of the day. The food was only an excuse.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - January 10th, 2005, 4:22 am
    Post #3 - January 10th, 2005, 4:22 am Post #3 - January 10th, 2005, 4:22 am
    Out of all the places we visited on the Beefathon, I'm probably most likely to return to Max's. It's probably the best beef of the "Italian" school (meaning a more garlic-oregano flavor, as opposed to the "American" school, more "beefy"-tasting beef of places like Tore's or Johnnie's) and the fries were outstanding, even in their oh-so-bizarre "Ghetto" variant. I can imagine that the red giardinera they're so famous for would be really good on just about anything. I'd even be willing to go back and request the fries with cheese sauce and Italian beef gravy, creating a sort of poutine a la Chicago.

    Thanks to all of you for being such great company, with special props to Kman for driving me. I can't wait to attend more events with you all-I'm hoping that there will be something involving Little Three Happiness soon, as I'm very anxious to know what to order at a place like that. I've been very impressed with their salt-and-pepper squid, by the way.

    Also, bringing up a point that I brought up in passing at the Beefathon: out of the three high-profile foods of Chicago (pizza, hot dog, Italian beef), the Italian beef is the only one without a quality local vendor represented at one of the airports. I can get a respectable hot dog (Gold Coast) at O'Hare and Midway, as well as a decent exemplar of pizza at both places. However, if I want Italian beef, I have to settle for the inferior Gold Coast Dogs. One of the local beeferies should absolutely set up shop at the airports, much in the same way as Interstate Bar-B-Q sells its impressive sandwich at Memphis International. I'd even take Buona's or Al's.
  • Post #4 - January 10th, 2005, 8:03 am
    Post #4 - January 10th, 2005, 8:03 am Post #4 - January 10th, 2005, 8:03 am
    Evan B. Druce wrote:Out of all the places we visited on the Beefathon, I'm probably most likely to return to Max's.


    If the past 20 years repeats itself, I'll definitely be returning to Max's. I'll also be back to Tore's, but mostly because I can walk there.

    I forgot to mention that Roma's has their own recipe for Italian sausage that is made for them. No one tried the sausage, but if I were in the area, I'd stop in to try one (and for some of their fries).

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #5 - January 10th, 2005, 8:24 am
    Post #5 - January 10th, 2005, 8:24 am Post #5 - January 10th, 2005, 8:24 am
    EC, thanks for the report. I only differ with your opinions on Tores and Dino and Nicks. To me, Tores was just bland. It was not a bad beef but it really did not stand out at all in the palate. On the other hand, I really liked the ultra-aggressive spicing of Dino and Nicks. I'm kinda surprised that more people did not. I guess Tores would be the classic, restrained and balanced Bordeaux and Dino's would be the hedonistic California fruit bomb, no?

    Steve, you missed Larry from Max's who came around after you left, "where's the Zar... kid" he accosted us. We spent a long time chatting with him and getting his takes on a lot of place and things (although never the secret of the giardinara*) and never exactly who was the big winner at cards at your house.

    Big, big thanks, again to George and Dickson, who make this most enjoyable of events possible.

    Rob

    *The only thing I managed to pry out of them at Max's was that the giardinara was made in two processes. One process involved the vegetables and oil and vinegar; the other process involved flavoring another batch of oil with those mysterious red spices. Then, the two got combined. Me, I tasted something very Asian in Max's gravy/giardinara, and wonder if they use some chile oil or something.
  • Post #6 - January 10th, 2005, 9:56 am
    Post #6 - January 10th, 2005, 9:56 am Post #6 - January 10th, 2005, 9:56 am
    Beefathon Masters,

    Sounds like a wonderful afternoon, I would have liked to attend.

    I'm surprised at Roma's poor showing as I like their Italian Beef, can only hope it's a anomaly and not a downhill alert. As far as Roma's sausage, damn good Italian sausage, even though it's prepared on a gas grill, and recommend EC give it a try next time out.

    I'm also a little surprised at Torre's high marks, as I've always found it reliable, as opposed to exceptional, though it's one of the best value for dollar Italian beef sandwiches. Merrill Powers, a BBQ buddy of mine, thinks Torre's the best in Chicago, and Merrill knows his way around a hunk-o-beef.

    I'm not surprised at Dino and Nick's, been there twice and did not like it much either time. Though I get a kick out of the grumpy owner yelling into his microphone with orders when the 'kitchen' is just a few feet away.

    Dino and Nicks Italian Beef, sausage and fries
    Image

    Max's is a long time favorite for Italian beef, love their giardiniera. My guess on the secret spice in Max's giardiniera is hot Hungarian paprika, for a while I thought it was cayenne, but now am about 80% convinced it paprika. In EC's excellent Max's giardiniera picture I notice a few added ingredients since I took my Max's giardiniera photo, maybe their veg ingredient list is like Roma's, variable according to the marketplace.

    Max's Giardiniera
    Image

    Quick Bite, for me, falls in the good value, just ok beef. I don't like the physical space, don't like the hot in the summer, cold in the winter slamming door, but have found the beef reliable. Though I understand Quick Bite was not-so-good yesterday. Not just slightly off their game, like Roma's, but just plain not-good.

    Dog House is a cool as hell place, only thing I don't like about Dog House is they use skinless wieners. When I asked why they used skinless my answer was a shrug and "that's what people seem to want"

    Looking forward to Beefathon IV.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #7 - January 10th, 2005, 11:20 am
    Post #7 - January 10th, 2005, 11:20 am Post #7 - January 10th, 2005, 11:20 am
    I want to thank all the particpants for literally welcoming me with open arms even though I was not on the guest list. I had some appointments scheduled for the day which made me late for Torre's. But luckily , for me anyway, I had some cancellations so I could take the rest of the ride.

    Someone must have had a preminition that I would be there as they even brought a couple of children with so I would have someone of my own intellectual range to chat with. By the time we got to Max's I think the kid (his name was 3 ????) was getting over his fear of cave men.

    I got to Torres just in time to be offered a cup of gravy, which tasted well seasoned but not overwhelming.


    The seasoning at Dino & Nicks overwhelmed my sample. I could only taste garlic and the meat did seem a bit dry. the bread was good and the fries seemed average.

    Roma, which is one of my old haunts due to it being an in law favorite, was having an off day. This isnt to say you would have liked it any more even on a good day as it is not at the top of my hit parade anyway. But generally the beef is more flavorful than it was. The fries are very good and would have been the best had we not gone to Max's. They are getting very stingy on the portions of giardenaerra and especially on the sweet peppers. I only got a 1" cross section of sweet pepper to taste but it seemed about the best of the day.


    Quick bite. Probably the one place where I can honestly say you could do better at home, or by buying the scala's at chefs kitchen. The sample did not have a lot of flavor. gravy thin and bland, bread was ok. The sweet peppers tasted way off, either sour or canned and beyond expiration. Probably all around my worst sample today.

    Max's. I have llived here my entire life and I like to think I know where to eat. how this gem has escaped me I do not know. The beef was excellent, spice balanced and good cow flavor coming at the finish, just what I like. Probably the best commerical spuds I have had in a long time. They had the giardenerra out in the open for self serve which is how it should be (Take THAT Mayor Daley-said in my best walter jacobsen voice) and it was very good, albeit pink. I do not know what made the special fries Ghetto nor if that is an appropriate name for anything. But they looked good and I guess they wouldnt sell as much if I had my way and they had to call them garbage fries.


    Like everyone else I am eager to see the offical tally for the day. It seemed to be a rather large turnout given the time of year and I really enjoyed meeting and talking to everyone. I also am looking forward to the next trek.

    Bob
    Bob Kopczynski
    http://www.maxwellstreetmarket.com
    "Best Deals in Town"
  • Post #8 - January 10th, 2005, 3:28 pm
    Post #8 - January 10th, 2005, 3:28 pm Post #8 - January 10th, 2005, 3:28 pm
    Wow, I wish I could have made it. Of the 5 on the list, I've been to 3 of them in the past. Max's, Torre's and Roma's. Unfortunately for me it's been at least 10 years since I've been to Torre's and probably longer that that since I've been to Max's. It's only been a few years since I've been to Roma's and I've only been there once. I just didn't find anything there to make it worth the drive.

    When I worked in the area Torre's was a favorite spot of mine. It's been through so many owners over the years that I'm surprised it's any good at all anymore. But at one point in time it no doubt would have been in the top 5 in the city. I know the last time I was there it was nowhere near it's former self.

    Max's, I don't know why I haven't been back. I always enjoyed it. I guess the location just never fit into my plans. And, of course, I live about 10 minutes from Johnny's :o
  • Post #9 - January 10th, 2005, 9:13 pm
    Post #9 - January 10th, 2005, 9:13 pm Post #9 - January 10th, 2005, 9:13 pm
    Just as a follow up. I had my physical today. My cholesterol and my weight are the same number. Doy uo think it had anything to do with drinking that gravy at tores??
    :wink:
    Bob
    Bob Kopczynski
    http://www.maxwellstreetmarket.com
    "Best Deals in Town"
  • Post #10 - January 12th, 2005, 6:20 pm
    Post #10 - January 12th, 2005, 6:20 pm Post #10 - January 12th, 2005, 6:20 pm
    Perusing the coupon booklet we received today and noticed a coupon for buy one,get one free at Fluky's.Italian Beef with fries and drink.Yes,I know it is a risk but I'm hungry and on a budget.Anyone tried IB there and lived to tell the tale?And I know Max's would be the better choice.The booklet coupon seems to apply to the Lincolnwood and downtown Chicago locations only.www.saveoneverything.com is the website.
  • Post #11 - January 12th, 2005, 6:42 pm
    Post #11 - January 12th, 2005, 6:42 pm Post #11 - January 12th, 2005, 6:42 pm
    The Fluky's on Western Ave. is owned by the same people as Max's. The others aren't. Get a hot dog or a polish instead.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - January 12th, 2005, 7:02 pm
    Post #12 - January 12th, 2005, 7:02 pm Post #12 - January 12th, 2005, 7:02 pm
    SteveZ is right. We tried the Italian Beef at the Flukey's on Western and concluded that it's a place for hot dogs not IB.
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #13 - January 13th, 2005, 8:13 am
    Post #13 - January 13th, 2005, 8:13 am Post #13 - January 13th, 2005, 8:13 am
    All good reports should start with some context. Or a tease. So here goes. First, a link to the Beefathon I tasting thread on CH: http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards/chicago6/messages/34657.html

    Next, since we all know this address is likely to change, disappear, or... here is the text of the report. for your reading pleasure:

    Part I of this report is not being copied, as it was an introduction and teaser, just like this:

    Part 2 - The condiments and sides.

    I think that it is safe to say I will never pay for sweet peppers on my sandwich again. Al's had the best, real steamed peppers with a good pepper flavor, followed closely by Chickies and Johnnies, and then a bit further back by Mr. Beef. Patio and Boston had terrible peppers. But these are, at best, steamed peppers that sit around waiting to be dished up. It just is not any way to treat a sweet pepper, and let's not even talk about the places serving canned peppers.

    Giardinera was more interesting with some good, some indifferent and some bad. Freddy's was the best with the highest score in any category, but with only two raters it is mildly suspect. Chickies and Al's were close behind, so we know who takes their peppers seriously. Then Boston and Johnnies, but with a fair drop off in ratings. The others were not good.

    If you want Fries with your beef, try Carm's, Al's, Johnnies, Patio or Chickies. All respectable; none were wonderful. This category was right up down with Sweet peppers as the lowest rankings. Perhaps there just is not enough time to make wonderful beef and wonderful fries, though they seem to be trying at a number of the places.

    For atmosphere with your beef, try Chickies or Patio, but all the places, except Scatchells, had decent ratings and were close together.

    Almost every place uses Gonella bread, except for Freddys and Johnnies which seem to use Turano. Gonnella seems a better, crisper, fuller roll to me and most others, tho Dave and George R seemed to love Johnnies Turano roll, for reasons that escaped the rest of us.

    Okay, let's not get annoyed - this is the post you want to read.

    There were three styles of beef - thin sliced, thick sliced, and shredded (Al's). Then there was beefy beef and gravy dominated beef. For beef alone, these tasters preferred thin sliced, it seems, with strong gravy flavor. Johnnies was the choice, followed closely by Chickies. A fair drop off to a group of very good places - Mr Beef, Patio, Boston and Al's. But know this about Al's - it is a polarizing place with very high scores and very low scores. More on that follows.

    Along with the beef comes the gravy. The best gravy is meaty, with good herbs and garlic and enough beef fat to give it beefy flavor, but not to the point of being greasy. Johnnies and Freddys were head and shoulders above the others, but with only two ratings each so far, this could change. Then a familiar group - Chickies, Mr Beef, Patio, and Al's with Scatchells a bit behind. Boston and Carm's had serious problems - cheap powdered garlic dominating Bostons, and way too much beef fat in Carm's. But once again, if we did this the way they score figure skating and threw out the high and low scores, Al's would win the best gravy. Different herbs, maybe fennel, and some people just did not like the flavor (me, for instance).

    As to the best sandwich, it does not exactly equal the sum of its parts. Johnies was best dry and dipped, though there are not a lot of ratings for them. Close behind was Chickies dipped. Then things started to drop off, with a group fairly close together - Mr Beef dipped, Patio dry, Boston dipped (despite the gravy issues it came together very nicely), and another group a bit behind - Patio dipped, Al's dry, Mr Beef dry, Chickies dry, Boston dry, and Al's dipped. Sorry to repeat myself, but most tasters loved Al's, and a few of us did not like it much at all, particularly dipped with that gravy.

    So if we had to eat one Italian Beef Sandwich, where would it be? Based on this comparision tasting, what is the best Beef Stand, top to bottom, in Chicago? Every one of these places is pretty good, except Carm's and Scatchells, which were a step below the rest. Carm's almost seemed like a French Dip - beefy gravy, thick chewy slices. And Scatchell's just seemed mass-produced.

    If you add it all up, great sandwich, atmosphere, good peppers and giardinera, these tasters as a group pick (scores in parentheses, with 10 being perfect) -

    1. Johnnies (7.9) - they just do not do anything wrong
    2. Chickies (7.7) - ditto
    3. Freddy's (7.4) - as previously noted, this is based on a small number of ratings and Freddys is a great Italian grocery, so the odds are you won't even get a beef sandwich. Still it is very good.
    4. Patio (7.0) - Surprisingly good
    5. Al's (6.8) - to repeat myself, if you throw out one terribly low score of 3.7 (!) Al's ties for third. Drop one more, Al's wins. A very large range of scores.
    6. Mr. Beef (6.6) - yes, it is a good sandwich, but if you do not care about service, have a fast food joint atmosphere and offer pretty lousy condiments, it counts for something.
    7. Boston (6.3) - a decent sandwich, but many of the same issues as Mr Beef, except we really liked the owner.
    8. Carm's (5.9) - great atmosphere, friendly people, good fries and a beefy, greasy, under-seasoned sandwich.
    9. Scatchell's (5.0) - They don't care, why should we?

    The best sandwich is Johnnies, but you won't go wrong with Patio or Chickies, and Al's is wonderful if you like that gravy. Freddys is a grocery store that serves a good sandwich, but it is the condiments.


    And here is the link to Beefathon II reports http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=461 which need not be copied here, since it is on a safe, secure, and trustworthy forum....

    Results from Beefathon III will be tabulated and posted this weekend.
    Last edited by dicksond on January 13th, 2005, 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #14 - January 13th, 2005, 8:21 am
    Post #14 - January 13th, 2005, 8:21 am Post #14 - January 13th, 2005, 8:21 am
    And some personal thoughts to further tease.

    Each tasting has its own memories that stick with me, and become themes. VI has often mentioned that tasting I was the one where he thought there was no such thing as a bad Italian Beef. He admits this was proved wrong, though Beefathon I remains about so many great beefs and Gary's special bonding with the guy from Boston... I also thought there was no such thing as a good sweet pepper. I was wrong, and Beefathon III, without reading notes, sticks out in my mind for two things - pretty decent sweet peppers, and the most Italian, Italian Beef which was prepared and served at the Jewish place, Max's. Of course.

    And how badly I feel about Roma's, the owner was so nice, and the Beef so profoundly mediocre. (The beef is boiled, though, which I have some doubts about).

    Beefathon II is about the almost perfect sammy at Johnnies, and the italian ice, fries and deck at Frannies - a very pleasant joint, if a lousy Italian Beef.

    Anyway, I had a great time last Saturday and will be tabulating and reporting this coming weekend.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #15 - January 13th, 2005, 5:47 pm
    Post #15 - January 13th, 2005, 5:47 pm Post #15 - January 13th, 2005, 5:47 pm
    Oh man, I'm hungry...

    I returned from my Chicago trip 10 days ago, and had my share of IBs, but these Beefathon's just go after my heart AND stomach! I just did a quick Google search for "Best Italian Beef" and came up with a couple of interesting websites...
    Chi Trib Metromix on Ultimate Beef on Ashland
    http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/dining/44769,0,1670810.venue
    White Sox Interactive Message Board talks about several places
    http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=43409&page=1&pp=15

    Looking forward to seeing the results from Beefathon III and hoping to be there for one some day! Until then, I'll look forward to Portillo's opening up here in SoCal this year. Not the best IB, but pretty darn good.
    Bob in RSM, CA...yes, I know, it's a long way from Chicago
  • Post #16 - January 13th, 2005, 6:03 pm
    Post #16 - January 13th, 2005, 6:03 pm Post #16 - January 13th, 2005, 6:03 pm
    RSMBob wrote:Chi Trib Metromix on Ultimate Beef on Ashland
    http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/dining/44769,0,1670810.venue


    I noticed Ultimate Beef the night before the Beefathon on my way home from Pilsen. Had I not been full of chicken, mole, and taquitos, I would have stopped. It's definitely on my short list of places to check out in the near future.

    Thanks for the link.

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #17 - January 13th, 2005, 6:07 pm
    Post #17 - January 13th, 2005, 6:07 pm Post #17 - January 13th, 2005, 6:07 pm
    RSMBob wrote:White Sox Interactive Message Board talks about several places



    As a cross-over poster, you'll all be happy to know that in the Whitesoxinteractive thread, I threw in my 2 pennies for Johnnies/Al's and Carms. Tho its the Carm's that nobody here seems to like, off taylor.

    http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/vbul ... hp?t=39053
  • Post #18 - January 14th, 2005, 8:54 pm
    Post #18 - January 14th, 2005, 8:54 pm Post #18 - January 14th, 2005, 8:54 pm
    I just need a bit of clarification. When you speak of Roma's, which one are you talking about: the one on Cicero or the one on Milwaukee down the street from Superdawg. Are they the same owners? I grew up on Roma's (milwaukee ave) beefs and they are and will always be my sentimental favorites. The gardinera there is a bit unique. I have never tried the Cicero ave. one so maybe they are different.

    After reading the OP, I stopped at Max's yesterday to satisfy my beef craving and I was not a big fan. The beef was tough and the garlicky taste was more like garlic powder rather than fresh garlic and I was burping it up all day. The gardinera was good, though.

    Today, I was close to the AH location of Johnnie's so I had to stop and do the back to back comparison and Johnnie's wins by a long shot.

    Perhaps tomorrow, a visit to Roma's is in order.
    "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es."

    ~ Brillat-Savarin ~
  • Post #19 - January 14th, 2005, 10:34 pm
    Post #19 - January 14th, 2005, 10:34 pm Post #19 - January 14th, 2005, 10:34 pm
    The Romas that we always talk about is the one on Cicero. A place that is your sentimental favorite will be tough to beat, but generally, the Cicero Roma's is considered better than the one on Milwaukee, which is called "The Original Roma's" (even though it isn't). Keep oin mind, that I think most beefathon participants will agree that Johnnie's is in a class by itself. Most of the ohers paled in comparison. Al's on Taylor is in the same class, although it's a love it or hate it type plcace.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 9:02 am
    Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 9:02 am Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 9:02 am
    As I finish toting up the scores, I see it will be necessary to be a little more firm in how we fill out our sheets.

    It was my impression that the most important thing was scoring the sandwich . Yet, some of you failed to score the sandwich at one or more places. So let's see if we can fix that somehow.


    VI, when you put just one score on the whole sheet, I will assume that applies to the sandwich, too.

    EC,KMAN, Evan, Dave, SteveZ, where you did not put down a score for a sandwich, what should I use? PM me if you want the specific places.

    I will post scores on other things later today, and hold off on the sandwiches (which are the important thing), until I clear up this matter.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 1:13 pm
    Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 1:13 pm Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 1:13 pm
    dicksond wrote:VI, when you put just one score on the whole sheet, I will assume that applies to the sandwich, too.



    Yes
  • Post #22 - January 23rd, 2005, 2:35 pm
    Post #22 - January 23rd, 2005, 2:35 pm Post #22 - January 23rd, 2005, 2:35 pm
    Beef scores part 1

    While we await the last set of sandwich scores, probably from Florida, here are the other ratings.

    We had ten scorers for this tasting, and pretty much everyone scored all the places - we had at least 7 scores for each item. Of the scorers, 4 have attended all three tastings to date, I believe - VI, George and Dave R, and myself.

    Atmosphere:

    None of these places rated great, or terrible. The best place was Roma's, a traditional Chicago beef stand with a good counter. And the boss was a great guy, which rated a 6.8. Close behind was Max's at 6.6, A "quirky, spacious" place, with TV's and lots of tables. A little too cute for me, but not for most.

    Tore's 6.2, Quick Bite 5.4 and Dino & Nick's rated 5.3 were all good, but not too special. Tore's did open up a back dining room for us, which was nice.

    Bread

    I believe every one of the places used Gonnella bread this time, so any differences in ratings could be attributed to storage, freshness, or handling. Ratings ranged from 7.2 at Max's down to 5.4 at Quick Bite, which abuses its bread by wrapping the sandwich in a tight little package of foil.

    I guess it all comes down to how you make a sandwich.

    Sweet Peppers

    Heaven help you if they use canned peppers, which are generally limp, bitter and generally unpleasant. Quick Bite earned what may be a record low score of 1.7 for its peppers in just this way. Truth be told, we have had others as bad, though they did not score quite as low. Dino & Nicks was almost as bad at 2.7 - maybe a better quality canned pepper?

    The others had real peppers, briefly roasted, I suspect, and then held in a warm moist environment of one form or another. The less time they are held, the better the taste and texture, so the differences may be more luck than anything else. Tore's won this with a 6.1 and a pretty good pepper (though like Carm's, they were chunks that were not exactly sandwich friendly), followed closely by Max's at 5.6 and Roma's at 5.5.

    Giardinera

    So much better than sweet peppers, in almost all cases. First, it is usually made at the store, and each has its own recipe. Then, it stores so much better. As always, there were some great, and some very interesting ones.

    For those that like really hot giardinera, none of there were, and none of the places offered extra hot options, as far as I could see.

    Tore's was rated best with an 8. Decent heat but not really hot, a different blend of vegetables including olives and at least three types of peppers. Quite enjoyable.

    Max's was very good - nicely oily, with a red color. Good mix of vegtables, and large bowls on each table. Scored a 7.7.

    After that, there was a big dropoff, and none was very exciting or terrible, ranking as follows:

    Quick Bite 5.6, Roma's 5.3, and Dino and Nick's 5.2.

    French Fries

    There was one very good place, and couple of decent ones, and a couple of okay places. None was terrible.

    Roma has very good, fresh made, skin-on fries, and rated an 8 for that. "Hand cut, fried crisp."

    Max's were "crisp and well-flavored," getting a 7.3 - not bad for what they are. The Ghetto fries - a mix of fries, cheese, peppers, were a new treat for me, and a few others.

    Tore's were nothing special, but cooked right, crispy and pleasant, scoring a 6.4.

    Quick Bite and Dino and Nicks were nothing special, but tasty enough, scoring 5.5 and 5.1 respectively.

    I will make the section of the gravy, beef and sandwich a separate post.

    From the above, one could conclude that for a good Chicago beef stand experience, pick Roma's and be confident everything will be pretty decent. Not completely true, but not bad.

    For good peppers, sweet or hot, go to Tore's.

    And for a generally enjoyable experience, Max's is worth considering.

    But those comments do not take into account the sandwiches, and the beef, which is the point, so stay tuned.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #23 - January 23rd, 2005, 9:07 pm
    Post #23 - January 23rd, 2005, 9:07 pm Post #23 - January 23rd, 2005, 9:07 pm
    dicksond wrote:Beef scores part 1


    Bread

    I believe every one of the places used Gonnella bread this time, so any differences in ratings could be attributed to storage, freshness, or handling. Ratings ranged from 7.2 at Max's down to 5.4 at Quick Bite, which abuses its bread by wrapping the sandwich in a tight little package of foil.

    I guess it all comes down to how you make a sandwich.



    Allow me to take part of the blame for the Quick Bite beefs being wrapped in foil. I did the ordering and didn't explicitly indicate it was for "in" vs. "takeout" and the sandwiches were wrapped. While I was waiting for the various group members to arrive (Either Bob and I took the quick route or others took the slow route) I noticed that they did indeed prepare the sandwiches intended for "in" without any wrap and placed them in the ubiquitous plastic sandwich baskets. I suspect that by ordering 3 sandwiches they assumed I would be a to-go customer (though they could have asked).

    Definitely the foil wrapping was to the detriment of the sandwiches. To their credit, without prompting, once the staff realized their was a group of us sharing they offered to slice the sandwiches for us and placed them in baskets.

    The "sweet" peppers were indeed dreadful and appeared to be canned. The giardinera was good and was available on the counter for free - as it was at Max's.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #24 - January 24th, 2005, 5:11 pm
    Post #24 - January 24th, 2005, 5:11 pm Post #24 - January 24th, 2005, 5:11 pm
    Interesting point, KMAN. I guess if you like bread, never get a beef to go.

    Perhaps one of the results of the beef tasting could be some rules for ordering an Italian Beef.

    1. If you like sweet peppers, ask if they are canned before ordering them. If they don't know, ask for a taste.

    2. If you like bread, never get your sandwich to go, as the wrapping will destroy the sandwich (some chains, Portillos for example, wrap the same for here or to go, so unwrap quckly!). If you really like bread, bring your own and ask them to make you a sandwich on it.

    3. Get the giardinera on the side so you can control the application and enjoy the sandwich with, and without.

    4. Never order a dry sandwich, or a dipped sandwich. If the place is any good, they will apply the proper amount of gravy without any special instructions. Let them do so before you try to improve upon it.

    5. Unless the place is very, very busy, the beef should come out of one (dry) container to be dipped into the gravy and then put into your sandwich. Beef that is sitting in the gravy for any period of time will be overcooked, tough, and dry.

    Please feel free to add others. I think I have all the sandwich scores and will post the final results this week.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #25 - January 24th, 2005, 10:11 pm
    Post #25 - January 24th, 2005, 10:11 pm Post #25 - January 24th, 2005, 10:11 pm
    dicksond wrote:5. Unless the place is very, very busy, the beef should come out of one (dry) container to be dipped into the gravy and then put into your sandwich. Beef that is sitting in the gravy for any period of time will be overcooked, tough, and dry.

    Please feel free to add others. I think I have all the sandwich scores and will post the final results this week.


    But Johnnie's serves their meat from a gravy bath :?:
  • Post #26 - January 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Post #26 - January 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm Post #26 - January 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Vital Information wrote:But Johnnie's serves their meat from a gravy bath :?:


    But, of course, there is almost always a line at Johnnie's. The first time I saw *no one* waiting in line was on this past saturday evening. And I think that was just because no one in the city had decided to leave their house.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #27 - January 24th, 2005, 10:20 pm
    Post #27 - January 24th, 2005, 10:20 pm Post #27 - January 24th, 2005, 10:20 pm
    Most places serve their beef from a gravy bath. The trick is to have just enough beef soaking to service the flow of customers, while not leaving it in the juice so long that it drys out and becomes tough. I would hope that if a beef stand puts beef in the bath to order that they leave it in long enough to heat thoroughly. Leaving it in too short is almost as bad as leaving it in too long.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #28 - February 2nd, 2005, 8:33 pm
    Post #28 - February 2nd, 2005, 8:33 pm Post #28 - February 2nd, 2005, 8:33 pm
    Ok, come on...where's the REAL scores???
    Inquiring minds want to know!
    Bob in RSM, CA...yes, I know, it's a long way from Chicago
  • Post #29 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:05 pm
    Post #29 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:05 pm Post #29 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:05 pm
    On the way to Rush today, I caught a glimpse of Ultimate Beef (851 N. Ashland), swerved to avoid a pedestrian, and stopped for a sandwich. The bad news: the fries were soggy and covered with way too much season salt. I'm more partial to crisp fries with a good quality non-iodized salt myself. The good news: the beef is pretty tasty. It tastes fully of beef and not much else, with the right amount of fat and herbs. Plus, it's the right color. I forget to check, but I think the bread was Gonella. I probably had too much giardiniera (which was better than usual, but not great, and included a few olives in it along with celery, carrot and peppers,) so I might be sacrificing a little accuracy in tasting the beef. I had it dipped and ate it in the car (not recommended), but they wrapped it in aluminum foil and stuck it in a plastic bag, so no damage to the Corinthian Leather. The dining room is serviceable, but you wouldn't want to have a confirmation dinner there. It's not in the empyrean with Johnnie's, but today's sample was up there with Tore's. Since I'll be back visiting a sick relative again this week, I'll be able to make a repeated measures analysis of UB.
  • Post #30 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:46 pm
    Post #30 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:46 pm Post #30 - February 3rd, 2005, 8:46 pm
    IIRC the giardiniera at both Booby's and Char House have olives.

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