Mar 31, 2022 - Food and Drink

Food fight: Italian beef sandwiches

Italian beef sandwich
There's nothing better than Al's Beef on Taylor Street. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

In this week's Food Fight, we take on a century-old Chicago sandwich that despite its name is not found in Italy — the Italian beef.

  • Hot or sweet. Dipped or dry. However you like it, we can all agree on one thing: no cheese.

Justin's pick: Picking a beef is one of the hardest decisions I've made in my entire life. Is it Johnnie's in Elmwood Park? Mr. Beef on Orleans? Portillos? But for my money, the best might be at Al's #1 Beef on Taylor Street ($7.35).

  • The spices used for seasoning the beef bring out a unique sweet-like flavor.
  • I like my beef dipped (who doesn't).
  • The giardiniera is a must, but the sweet peppers are also worthwhile.
  • Pro tip: Have a jar of giardiniera at home to spice it up even more.
Italian beef sandwich
An Italian beef from Johnnie's in Elmwood Park. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Monica's pick: Despite its long lines, Johnnie's Beef in Elmwood Park gets my vote. At $4.69, Johnnie's regular-sized sandwich offers one of the best bargains in town.

  • I get it "dry," which still means juicy, just not falling-apart juicy.
  • I skip the sweet peppers and go for lots of their fantastic, carrot-spiked hot giardiniera.
  • The beef is always brightly flavored and tender, the bread is pleasantly chewy and the crisp, fragrant fries are some of the best in the area.

📫 Which of our beefs should win? Take the survey.

  • Also, email [email protected] with your favorite local Italian beef for a list we'll publish next week.
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