Since I’ve lived in the Chicago area 17 out of my 38 years, I’m thinking I can now call myself a Chicagoan as well as a Coloradoan, although as the years go by I seem to forget a little more of the Colorado days. So, I am embarrassed to admit that I had never had a famous Chicago Italian Beef sandwich until last year. Why did I wait 16 years? I guess it’s because I love chicago hot dogs so much that when I go to a typical stand, I always get that and never tried the Beef.
For those of you outside of Chicago, the Italian Beef is a Chicago-only creation. It’s a scrumptious combo of thinly sliced beef simmered in au jus gravy, piled on the perfect Turiano bread, with sweet or hot peppers (and sometimes cheese if you’re being a bit of a non-traditionalist.) There are numerous places that serve the Beef, but only a few are famous for that and that alone.
Anyway, I finally had my first beef sandwich when we had Portillo’s cater our Halloween Party, and I’ll tell you it was sooooo good. I can’t even imagine the calories, so I won’t. I’ve since had Beefs at Scooters, Dog Tracks, Kooker’s and Barrington Gyros (all in the Barrington area) and none of them compare to the Portillo’s version. (My husband swears by Zippy’s – who makes a cheezy beef on garlic bread. That gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it.) I’ve never been to what most Chicagoans consider the King of the Beef, Al’s #1 Beef downtown, but it’s on the list next time I go.
If you’re from Chicago and miss your Beef, or if you want to try one – Portillo’s will ship them to you – for $65.
Long live the Beef!