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Best Italian Beef

Best Italian Beef
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  • Post #451 - May 4th, 2012, 9:08 pm
    Post #451 - May 4th, 2012, 9:08 pm Post #451 - May 4th, 2012, 9:08 pm
    I have to say that Al's on Taylor Street was terrific yesterday. The beef was smaller than days of yore, perhaps, but still well packed and substantial, and the sausage sandwich and fries were first-rate.

    Add in some Italian lemonade from Mario's across the street and it was sublime.
  • Post #452 - June 23rd, 2012, 11:32 am
    Post #452 - June 23rd, 2012, 11:32 am Post #452 - June 23rd, 2012, 11:32 am
    Long time lurker and finally musterd up the courage to ask a question.

    Lookin if anyone can help me find a decent Italian Beef in the Cary / Crystal Lake area.

    Not a fan of Portillio's unfortunately.

    Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks - Steve
  • Post #453 - June 23rd, 2012, 1:37 pm
    Post #453 - June 23rd, 2012, 1:37 pm Post #453 - June 23rd, 2012, 1:37 pm
    Welcome, Steve. :)

    We've merged your post into an already exsiting thread about Italian Beef. Hopefully, you'll find some useful information here. It's a long thread and it might be a little burdensome to browse the whole thing but it's still preferable to starting an entirely new discussion about Italian Beef, especially given the depth and breadth of information here.

    Thanks,

    =R=
    for the moderators
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  • Post #454 - June 23rd, 2012, 2:03 pm
    Post #454 - June 23rd, 2012, 2:03 pm Post #454 - June 23rd, 2012, 2:03 pm
    The forum's search function isn't very good for this type of thing but you can use Google to search the forum. You can use Google's advanced search function to create searches for specific sites, or if you know the correct grammar you can create something like this search term:

    cary OR "crystal lake" OR McHenry "italian beef" site:lthforum.com
  • Post #455 - June 23rd, 2012, 8:07 pm
    Post #455 - June 23rd, 2012, 8:07 pm Post #455 - June 23rd, 2012, 8:07 pm
    My Sweet Baboo says Tommy's in Crystal Lake has very good Italian beef. I haven't been to Tommy's myself, so I pass that recommendation along "as is." If you go there to try the IB, please report back on what you thought of it.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #456 - July 1st, 2012, 1:22 pm
    Post #456 - July 1st, 2012, 1:22 pm Post #456 - July 1st, 2012, 1:22 pm
    stevenc wrote:Lookin if anyone can help me find a decent Italian Beef in the Cary / Crystal Lake area.

    If Round Lake isn't too far Big Jack's should be worth the trip. It was recommended earlier in this thread and I thought it lived up to its billing.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Big Jack's combo is an excellent sandwich with tender, not overcooked beef and spicy housemade sausage.

    Image

    Very respectable (though skinless) hot dog and good fresh-cut fries. Everything I sampled in my single visit was very well prepared. And as if that's not enough, Big Jack's serves what might be the northernmost mother-in-law.

    Big Jack's
    507 N Hainesville Rd
    Round Lake Park (Hainesville) IL
    847-548-5225
  • Post #457 - July 1st, 2012, 7:51 pm
    Post #457 - July 1st, 2012, 7:51 pm Post #457 - July 1st, 2012, 7:51 pm
    stevenc wrote:Lookin if anyone can help me find a decent Italian Beef in the Cary / Crystal Lake area.

    Rene G wrote:If Round Lake isn't too far Big Jack's should be worth the trip...

    Rene G wrote:Big Jack's combo is an excellent sandwich with tender, not overcooked beef and spicy housemade sausage.

    Image

    I also remember having great love for this combo. A tasty beef & sausage coupled with a lovely juice which tied the whole thing together (kinda like the rug).
  • Post #458 - July 3rd, 2012, 6:44 am
    Post #458 - July 3rd, 2012, 6:44 am Post #458 - July 3rd, 2012, 6:44 am
    My son and I stopped yesterday at the Al's on Western which is right off Elston.
    As good as the Original location.
    My son thought it was the best Italian Beef he had ever had!-Dick
  • Post #459 - July 3rd, 2012, 8:48 am
    Post #459 - July 3rd, 2012, 8:48 am Post #459 - July 3rd, 2012, 8:48 am
    budrichard wrote:My son and I stopped yesterday at the Al's on Western which is right off Elston.
    As good as the Original location.
    My son thought it was the best Italian Beef he had ever had!-Dick

    That's good to hear one of the franchises is doing it right. I've been to a few of them and found the food generally half a step off from the original (but still pretty good).

    A week ago I had my best Al's experience in a long time (Al's has been my favorite since the '70s). We arranged for a group of 20 to stop by for a talk and a snack. Owner Chris Pacelli presented a fun history of Italian beef and his business, then served us beefs and fries. Both were as good as I can remember. Al's sometimes gets criticized for inconsistency and skimpy portions (with good reason) so it's good to see them in top form. Definitely one of the heavyweights of the Chicago street food scene. Most of the out-of-towners were very impressed. I was proud to be a Chicagoan.

    Al's Beef
    1079 W Taylor St
    Chicago
    312-226-4017
  • Post #460 - July 3rd, 2012, 10:28 am
    Post #460 - July 3rd, 2012, 10:28 am Post #460 - July 3rd, 2012, 10:28 am
    The franchise at Western/Elston actually is a very good rendition of the original on Taylor, but I think their gravy isn't quite up to par. It's definitely a good beef, if you like Al's on Taylor.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #461 - August 18th, 2012, 9:55 am
    Post #461 - August 18th, 2012, 9:55 am Post #461 - August 18th, 2012, 9:55 am
    Am I doing it wrong!?

    Every time, save once, that I've ordered an Italian beef (10x at Portillo's, 3x at Al's Lakeview), the meat is extremely overdone and dry. And no matter how much jus you add to it, you can't save tough, dry meat. Is this how it's supposed to be, and I'm just not a fan, or do I need to head to some of these other places, peak time, and give it another shot?
  • Post #462 - August 18th, 2012, 10:13 am
    Post #462 - August 18th, 2012, 10:13 am Post #462 - August 18th, 2012, 10:13 am
    jordanhojo wrote:Am I doing it wrong!?

    Every time, save once, that I've ordered an Italian beef (10x at Portillo's, 3x at Al's Lakeview), the meat is extremely overdone and dry. And no matter how much jus you add to it, you can't save tough, dry meat. Is this how it's supposed to be, and I'm just not a fan, or do I need to head to some of these other places, peak time, and give it another shot?


    That's a textbook example of poorly cooked/warmed Italian Beef. It tends to get that way when it's either warmed in boiling jus or held too long. The best beef's are not like that. Try Johnnie's in Elmwood Park or the Original Al's on Taylor before you completely write off Italian Beef. There are, of course, many other places in town to get great beef, but these two are as sure-fire as you can get.

    Johnnie's Beef
    7500 West North Avenue
    Elmwood Park, IL 60707
    (708) 452-6000

    Al's #1 Italian Beef
    1079 West Taylor Street
    Chicago,IL 60607
    (312) 226-4017
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #463 - August 18th, 2012, 5:39 pm
    Post #463 - August 18th, 2012, 5:39 pm Post #463 - August 18th, 2012, 5:39 pm
    I had a terrific IB at Burgerwurks (Ogden, west of First Avenue in, I believe, Brookfield). The sandwich had tender, freshly warmed beef in a great mildly spiced homemade gravy. They are served as 4" at around 4.00, or 6" at around 6.00. I had the 4" and it was more than enough. This sandwich was absolutely overflowing with beef and peppers and extra juicy as ordered. Their fries are freshly cut and they will cook them crispy if asked. This place is right up there on my list of great IBs.
  • Post #464 - August 18th, 2012, 8:07 pm
    Post #464 - August 18th, 2012, 8:07 pm Post #464 - August 18th, 2012, 8:07 pm
    Oh, and don't forget the Johnnie's in Arlington Heights... if you take 90 W every so often (and crave a heaping scoop of Italian ice). I'm a fan of both locations:

    1935 S Arlington Heights Rd
    (between Illinois Route 58 & Golf Rd)
    Arlington Heights, IL 60005
    (847) 357-8100

    Hours:
    Mon-Sat 11 am - 12 am
    Sun 11 am - 10 pm
    Accepts Credit Cards:
    No

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/johnnies-beef-arlington-heights

    stevez wrote:
    jordanhojo wrote:Am I doing it wrong!?

    Every time, save once, that I've ordered an Italian beef (10x at Portillo's, 3x at Al's Lakeview), the meat is extremely overdone and dry. And no matter how much jus you add to it, you can't save tough, dry meat. Is this how it's supposed to be, and I'm just not a fan, or do I need to head to some of these other places, peak time, and give it another shot?


    That's a textbook example of poorly cooked/warmed Italian Beef. It tends to get that way when it's either warmed in boiling jus or held too long. The best beef's are not like that. Try Johnnie's in Elmwood Park or the Original Al's on Taylor before you completely write off Italian Beef. There are, of course, many other places in town to get great beef, but these two are as sure-fire as you can get.

    Johnnie's Beef
    7500 West North Avenue
    Elmwood Park, IL 60707
    (708) 452-6000

    Al's #1 Italian Beef
    1079 West Taylor Street
    Chicago,IL 60607
    (312) 226-4017
  • Post #465 - August 19th, 2012, 4:42 pm
    Post #465 - August 19th, 2012, 4:42 pm Post #465 - August 19th, 2012, 4:42 pm
    I agree with Stevez. During the Beefathons of years past, we found many places didn't live up to their reputations. Often the problem was simple failure to handle the beef properly.

    Johnnies and the Original Al's maintain proper control and have the volume that allows them to do so readily. Al's franchise locations have an uneven reputation.

    However, even a small operator can do it right if they make the effort. I recall that on the South Side Beefathon the group noted approvingly at Uncle Johnny's (no relation to Johnnie's) that the beef was not put into the juice until after our orders were placed. While not on the level of Johnnie's or Al's it was a good IB.

    You can try this at home. Just get some IB from your local grocery store (I like Scala's, but Vienna should be OK) along with the juice. Get the juice hot and then put the beef into it for only a minute or so to warm it up. You'll be pleased with the results.

    What is sad is that so few beef stands do it right.

    Uncle Johnny's
    500 W 32nd St
    Chicago, IL 60616
    312-225-6111
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #466 - August 19th, 2012, 5:02 pm
    Post #466 - August 19th, 2012, 5:02 pm Post #466 - August 19th, 2012, 5:02 pm
    George R wrote:I recall that on the South Side Beefathon the group noted approvingly at Uncle Johnny's (no relation to Johnnie's) that the beef was not put into the juice until after our orders were placed. While not on the level of Johnnie's or Al's it was a good IB.


    While I know that it isn't standard procedure, I wonder why it isn't. It really doesn't take that much more time to hold it, dunk it in the jus for a minute or so to warm it up, and serve it properly. When I make homemade Italian beef, I generally roast the beef a day earlier to about 125/130 (that's probably a bit rarer than most Italian beefs are roasted too, I think.) Then I chill it, slice it on the deli slicer, put it in a Tupperware container, and dunk it as I need it, where it goes from rare to a higher level of doneness that is usually expected of an Italian beef. There's no reason to keep it swimming in the jus for hours on end, when it's easy enough to just "feed" the jus as Italian beef is running low.
  • Post #467 - September 6th, 2012, 2:47 pm
    Post #467 - September 6th, 2012, 2:47 pm Post #467 - September 6th, 2012, 2:47 pm
    I was at Mr. Beef and Pizza on Harlem last night (also had it on Saturday). This place is probably one of the Top 5 Italian beef joints for me. I've been there 3 times and it's been perfect every time. They give you an enormous sandwich (maybe sometimes too big), but the meat is as tender as can be. For anyone who doesn't like how skimpy Johnnie's or Al's can be, this is the polar opposite. The pizza is pretty good too, but you may not have room for a slice. Fries are similar to Johnnie's (but taste better) and they give you a ton - always fried fresh when you order (which is a nice touch). A classic Chicago "o'er by dere" beef joint.

    Before we went, my brother and I were considering doing a small beef joint tour last night, with stops at Mr. Beef and Pizza, Jay's, and Roma. My brother thinks Mr. Beef and Pizza is better than Jay's after he's had both numerous times. I still need to try Jay's to decide for myself.

    So once again...

    Mr. Beef and Pizza
    3917 N Harlem Ave
    Chicago IL 60634
    773-283-7444
  • Post #468 - September 8th, 2012, 10:57 pm
    Post #468 - September 8th, 2012, 10:57 pm Post #468 - September 8th, 2012, 10:57 pm
    George R wrote:However, even a small operator can do it right if they make the effort. I recall that on the South Side Beefathon the group noted approvingly at Uncle Johnny's (no relation to Johnnie's) that the beef was not put into the juice until after our orders were placed. While not on the level of Johnnie's or Al's it was a good IB.

    You can try this at home. Just get some IB from your local grocery store (I like Scala's, but Vienna should be OK) along with the juice. Get the juice hot and then put the beef into it for only a minute or so to warm it up. You'll be pleased with the results.

    What is sad is that so few beef stands do it right.

    Uncle Johnny's
    500 W 32nd St
    Chicago, IL 60616
    312-225-6111

    Uncle Johnny's, September 2012
    Image

    It's sad that Uncle Johnny's is closed (note the "For Rent" signs).
  • Post #469 - September 9th, 2012, 7:10 pm
    Post #469 - September 9th, 2012, 7:10 pm Post #469 - September 9th, 2012, 7:10 pm
    Ram4 wrote:I was at Mr. Beef and Pizza on Harlem last night (also had it on Saturday). This place is probably one of the Top 5 Italian beef joints for me.


    Any opinions on the sausage/combo?
  • Post #470 - September 10th, 2012, 2:46 pm
    Post #470 - September 10th, 2012, 2:46 pm Post #470 - September 10th, 2012, 2:46 pm
    All I know is...the bread soaked in juice (at Banaby's in Niles) was heaven....girlfriend does not eat bread, so that's all I got...mmmmmmm....my portion of beef she granted me was great too..

    Pizza? Not good..at all...worst I've had in quite a while.....but love the atmosphere...
  • Post #471 - January 31st, 2013, 8:15 am
    Post #471 - January 31st, 2013, 8:15 am Post #471 - January 31st, 2013, 8:15 am
    Never had had a IB or combo from any of the Pop's spots before yesterday. I noticed an Orland Park location when i was out driving the other day and got a heads up on the LTH "Fried Shimp Joint" thread that Pop's was worthy and to try the Palos location if I had a choice(pretty sure I'm going to try the Orland location next).

    Palos location, tight parking lot(more parking at Jewel), no seating, just a counter to chow at:
    Image

    I rarely go for just an Italian Beef sandwich, I have to get a combo - hot, Pop's version was really good, and vaults them into my top 4:(1 Johnnies - N. Ave., 2) Al's- Taylor St., 3) Lil Joes, 4) Pop's.) - Tender, tasty beef, decent sausage, nice pepper and celery mix(actually a packed a bit o' heat). Bread was sturdy, with a bit of chew really stood up to the sausage link and the juice.


    Pops' Combo - Hot:
    Image
  • Post #472 - January 31st, 2013, 9:01 am
    Post #472 - January 31st, 2013, 9:01 am Post #472 - January 31st, 2013, 9:01 am
    I like Pops take on giardinera. When I lived in OP they would sell it by the pint, and I found I liked it best after a day or two.
  • Post #473 - January 31st, 2013, 8:26 pm
    Post #473 - January 31st, 2013, 8:26 pm Post #473 - January 31st, 2013, 8:26 pm
    I live within minutes of the Pop’s Orland Park location on 143rd Street and have never understood the love for this place. I used to frequent their Chicago location at 103rd and Kedzie and always enjoyed their food. I’ve always found the food at the Orland Park location to be extra-greasy (in a bad way). I also cannot forgive their use of “misfit” fries. These fries are the rejects that don’t make the grade for any establishment that has quality standards. However, if you like a large order of reject fries, Pop’s Orland Park location is the place for you. Not to pile on, but I just find the place to be sub-standard with greasy rolls and buns and pre-cooked, re-heated burgers. Hot dogs are uninspired and loaded to the point that the buns become a sloppy integrated mess with the dog. Maybe I just need to order a beef sandwich and stay away from their other offerings.

    I would highly recommend a visit to the Mr. Beef location in Homer Glen on 143rd Street. The owner is related to the original Mr. Beef family in Chicago on Orleans Avenue. The beef is cooked on site—you can see the commercial ovens and slicer from the order counter. The owner is on site every day and they deliver a quality product for the money.

    Just my $.02 on the beef sandwich market in the SW burbs. Whatever scratches your itch! Enjoy, Tom
  • Post #474 - February 1st, 2013, 8:32 am
    Post #474 - February 1st, 2013, 8:32 am Post #474 - February 1st, 2013, 8:32 am
    Buick GS wrote:
    I would highly recommend a visit to the Mr. Beef location in Homer Glen on 143rd Street. The owner is related to the original Mr. Beef family in Chicago on Orleans Avenue. The beef is cooked on site—you can see the commercial ovens and slicer from the order counter. The owner is on site every day and they deliver a quality product for the money.


    right on,

    I saw the Mr Beef about a mile from the Pops on 143rd(both are on my short list), turns out that area is within striking range for lunch from my office even if I am not down there visiting a jobsite. Just nice to get to try some other combo's in the general area.
  • Post #475 - February 1st, 2013, 9:18 am
    Post #475 - February 1st, 2013, 9:18 am Post #475 - February 1st, 2013, 9:18 am
    Its hard to beat the Pop's in Palos. I grew up eating there, worked down the street and had lunch there nearly every Saturday for almost 10 years...
    Hmmm might have to grab dinner there tonight!!
  • Post #476 - February 1st, 2013, 1:49 pm
    Post #476 - February 1st, 2013, 1:49 pm Post #476 - February 1st, 2013, 1:49 pm
    I grew up in Palos Heights and have known the owner: Frank R, his mom, dad, and sister for almost 35 years. I was a sophomore in high school when Frank opened up his shop. He took over a hot dog stand that had several unsuccessful owners. He hired us neighborhood kids, bought all his beef and produce at the Jewel, and it was always rumored that he paid off McDonald's Delivery Truck Drivers for fries and tallow.

    Frank is a loyal guy and took care of his longer term employees and let them open up shops using his brand name in Tinley (170th and Oak Park), Blue Island (across from Eisenhower HS) and Orland (143rd and Wolf); all of this long before franchising. The store on 103rd and Kedzie is owned by a relative of Frank's. The shops in Blue Island and Tinley folded for various reasons due in part to finance issues of the owners(one was reported to be a gambler and the others were just under funded). The store at 143rd remains open. The owner has been at odds with Frank for years. It's product is nowhere near the Original due to use of inferior supplies, product, and poor management.

    I have eaten at several of the recent franchise locations: Tinley, Lyons, and Schereville. All are ok. None, IMHO, are as good as the Original.

    I think the broasted chicken at the original has been flying below the radar for far too long. Nothing better than their broasted chicken, dipped in the wonderful giadanara with a beef on the side.
  • Post #477 - February 1st, 2013, 2:32 pm
    Post #477 - February 1st, 2013, 2:32 pm Post #477 - February 1st, 2013, 2:32 pm
    A new Al's franchise is coming close to my home at 1300 North Milwaukee Avenue, but I don't hold out much hope for it to match the Taylor Street original. Too bad - we could use a top-notch beef stand in my neighborhood.
  • Post #478 - February 1st, 2013, 5:58 pm
    Post #478 - February 1st, 2013, 5:58 pm Post #478 - February 1st, 2013, 5:58 pm
    It was suggested that I move this post of Jan 30 in the Fried Shrimp Joints thread over here.

    stevez wrote:
    jimswside wrote:Added Bonus of this trip was I spotted 2 Italian Beef spots(Pops, Mr Beef) on 143rd I didnt know about as I headed east.

    Pop's is really solid, with a unique style of giardinara. I recommend it.

    I don't know if it's convenient for you but I especially recommend the Palos Heights Pop's. It's the original and it's where Pop himself (Frank) hangs out. I haven't been to the Orland Park one but of the handful I've visited, the Palos Pop's is tops (they're all good though). One of my favorite two or three beefs.

    Pop's in Palos—Beef, Juicy, Hot and Sweet
    Image

    Pop's Italian Beef
    7153 W 127th St
    Palos Heights IL
    708-361-0087
  • Post #479 - February 5th, 2013, 8:44 am
    Post #479 - February 5th, 2013, 8:44 am Post #479 - February 5th, 2013, 8:44 am
    Got to the Mr. Beef over on 143rd in Homer Glen/Orland area for lunch yesterday. Friendly folks working the counter, really good combo:

    Image

    Combo hot:

    Image

    Combo was really good, I like their pepper/celery mix. Some really fresh, and hot jalapeno pieces in there. Beef was tender, bread was solid.

    Might head over to Turks in Orland or the Pops on 143rd today for lunch.

    Original Mr. Beef
    12320 W. 143rd
    Orland Park, IL.
  • Post #480 - February 5th, 2013, 1:40 pm
    Post #480 - February 5th, 2013, 1:40 pm Post #480 - February 5th, 2013, 1:40 pm
    Rene G wrote:It was suggested that I move this post of Jan 30 in the Fried Shrimp Joints thread over here.

    stevez wrote:
    jimswside wrote:Added Bonus of this trip was I spotted 2 Italian Beef spots(Pops, Mr Beef) on 143rd I didnt know about as I headed east.

    Pop's is really solid, with a unique style of giardinara. I recommend it.

    I don't know if it's convenient for you but I especially recommend the Palos Heights Pop's. It's the original and it's where Pop himself (Frank) hangs out. I haven't been to the Orland Park one but of the handful I've visited, the Palos Pop's is tops (they're all good though). One of my favorite two or three beefs.

    Pop's in Palos—Beef, Juicy, Hot and Sweet
    Image

    Pop's Italian Beef
    7153 W 127th St
    Palos Heights IL
    708-361-0087


    I have no idea why I assumed the Kedzie location was the original (its weathered facade and city address most likely). The Palos flag ship is where I ate my first and subsequent hundreds of beefs throughout my youth. I revisited last week and while the space has been gussied up quite a bit since the old days, tucking in to their beef brought me home again- juicy, garlicky beef, and that hot mix (their name for their house made hot giardiniera and the subject of much adoration in a recent project of mine). I'm not sure I tasted too much difference to the Kedzie rendition, but it was fun to go back to the old neighborhood. I brought a buddy from out of town along and he is still texting me about how amazing it was, I'm proud to have introduced him to my platonic ideal of Italian Beef!

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