Al's Beef  (Second Visit)
Chicago, Illinois    Date of Visit:  11/18/16
 Click Here for Original Visit

Thoroughly disappointed with our first meal in Chicago at Summer House we started our day with visits to Chicago classics. Italian beef is a struggle…do we go to Al’s, Mr.’s, Johnny’s? Turns out Al’s has a location close to our second lunch and our first Uber lands us right out front. The staff (even though they are proudly wearing Cubs gear (they are stupidly nice to us re: our Indians loss) and connect superiorly well for counter service.


  No question here…although Mary Beth is an issue. She has some deeply rooted dislikes which are so strong if you mention them, you can see a sort of psychic wretch in her eyes. Warm fruit, cinnamon, soggy bread…ahhhhh, there’s the rub. For in that sandwich of Chicago what sog may come? Gorgeously roasted beef, sliced to disappear with minimal effort, loaded into a sturdy Italian roll and then comes question 1.


Dry?  No Way, not even going to discuss it!

Regular, where the beef is dipped in the gravy (jus)?  For the weak of heart. 

Wet, where extra gravy is poured over the beef in the sandwich? Acceptable.

Dipped, where the sandwich is loaded in the roll and then the whole thing goes for a swim in the gravy? Magic.

Turns out she’s got more fluidity than I had expected, she split a wet, while I split a dipped.

Question 2.


We both went with sweet & hot. The sweet are house made peppers and the hot is the spicy vegetable mix known as giardiniera. I remain a fan, the sloppier the better. I think the spice of the giardiniera won her over, that and the ability of the bread to maintain structural integrity. So good. So Chicago.


Guess Which One This Is!

The Veg Really Stands Out


Transsection of The Wet

And That Of The Dipped

  Their fries were spectacular today…all about the potato, crispy brown exterior, fluffy white innards and a dusting of salt. I added a Chicago Dog with Mustard, Relish, Onion, Sport Peppers, Tomato & Kosher Pickle Spear as they have never had one. It’s still almost impossible to get it all in your mouth but I enjoy a good garden dog, along with Detroit, NY, Cleveland, Cinnci, etc. I took their feedback as appreciative of what the Chicago dog is…but not quite love. Back to the fries and beef.

Fries Were Superior Today

Local Classic For The Uninitiated (Not An Al's Thing, But It'll do)

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Al's Beef
 Chicago, Illinois        Date of Visit  04/10/11  

Headed to our last game at U.S. Cellular field we were downtown making good on some promises (Garretts Popcorn) and were determined to complete the Italian Beef Sandwich triumvirate. Al’s is a very different animal from Mr. Beef’s and Johnnie’s. There are several locations, they have a much more expansive menu, and they are much slicker. We stopped at the original location on Taylor and they are not open on Sundays…oooppps. We shot over to the train station to over tax the small popcorn stand there and went on a hunt for a different Al’s. West Adams was about to open and once we negotiated all of the one way streets and the blocked streets for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k we found a spot and strolled in.



How to Eat an Italian Beef

Lots of pictures of famous people eating sandwiches but this place doesn’t reek with the tradition like Mr. Beef’s; it has more of a fast food outlet feel to it. Hopefully the food won’t be the same. Going all out for our last day of evil diet we ordered an Al’s regular with sweet and hot, a combo sweet and hot, a cup of chili and fries. The only Italian Beef place with tables and chairs and whatnot we had visited, we availed ourselves to a small table and waited about 5 minutes. The employee behind the counter said everything was ready and away we went. We started with the sandwiches.

Steph took a bite of the regular and began to howl…the giardiniera is hot. Well, the sweet is savory and the hot is hot. My bite of the regular confirmed the heat of the veggies is much more significant than that of Mr. Beef which I actually preferred. Steph did not agree and scrapped all to the veggies into the paper.

The Regular Al, with Sweet and Hot

The Combo, Italian Sausage Hides Under the Beef and Giardiniera

Accolades Galore Adorn the Walls

Mild Savory Chili

The combo was good. I think the sausage really does something to improve the overall flavor of the beef…I know that likely kills the purists but it just tastes better to me. The chili has a very small grain but is very beefy and rich with a warm earthy spiciness. They offer screaming hot varieties but I was much more interested in being able to get a good sampling of the rest of the offerings. Instead of regular fries we opted to try some of the more expansive menu and ordered the Buffalo Bleu Fries. Crispy potato sticks all coated with a tangy hot sauce (Steph says it reminds her of everything she loves about the Q-Lubes hot sauce) and bleu cheese dressing. This is where the menu really paid off, perfect combination.


Buffalo Bleu Fries. Outstanding!!!

Think the Sandwiches Are Juicy???

Now the blanket statement for our Italian Beef experience in Chicago.

If it’s all about the Beef and nothing more…Mr. Beef’s is your spot.

If you are looking for more pizzazz and options, and a little comfort, Al’s will welcome you.

If you want to go to the place most haven’t heard of but to me has the most outstanding sandwich and flavor, try Johnnie’s.




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