Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Duke's North: Italian Beef

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

Next up on the Italian beef tour we go up north to Duke's: North, located in Skokie, IL. No, they don't have a barbershop quartet playing music while you eat. Duke's just like any of your other beef stands around town does a busy lunch business with locals from the area. This is the second location of Duke's with the original being located on Central Ave in the city. They have all of the regulars on a Chicago style fast food menu including homemade beef and sausage.


Duke's North is a popular stop for shoppers coming and going to Old Orchard

This was my first visit to the North Duke's and I haven't been to the original in quite a few years. The beef was pretty much how I remembered it from the original location. Nothing special but by no means anything bad. What I mean by that is that if you are in the area this is a totally acceptable beef sammich but it is not destination beef driving. If I lived or worked near Duke's I would be a regular for lunch but since it is in the suburbs and I live in the heart of the city I wont get back there too often.


Duke's beef with hot

I said it before and I will say it again "no beef will be forgotten" and what I mean by that is I will be bringing you a review of every single Chicago beef joint within the Chicagoland area that made the cut thru the years and didnt taste like rubber shoe soles. They wont all be first teamer's but any place that takes the time and effort to make their own recipe will be part of this segment. Still the best resource for Italian beef in Chicago and where to get it, no matter what neighborhood or suburb your in. This Duke's stand has no affiliation or anything to do with Duke's Drive In on Harlem in Bridgeview, which will be reviewed soon. There are over 10 beef joints ready to be posted on here as the days go by and every month that list grows so please stay tuned and spread the word because...every beef has its day.

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 3
bread: 3
gravy: 3
hot peppers: 3


Score: 12/20

Duke's North
5237 Golf Rd
Skokie, IL 60077
(847) 966-5533

Duke's
5659 N Central Ave
Chicago, IL 60646
(773) 763-1866

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AL's #1 Italian Beef

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

AL's is a Chicago original, anyone born and raised in Chicago has to have been to AL's at least once in their lifetime...if not you should have your Chicago birth-rights taken away. AL's has a cult following and is loved 'til death by its fans. AL's #1 sits on Taylor St, one of Chicago's best streets to take a stroll down. In the Taylor st. area there are a number of beef stands but AL's is by far the most attended and well known, both in the city and around the world.


AL's #1 IB has quite a diverse loyal following

AL's is the most unique in a good way of all the beef stands in the city. First off the beef is basically shredded as opposed to sliced paper thin and is very tender with little scraps of pieces. Whether or not you prefer it this way or sliced thin its hard to argue either is bad. The gravy has a flavor all its own and is a red color loaded with spices with a heavy fennel kick, it cant be duplicated, its a very unique flavor. The giardinara is also homemade and cut into very small pieces and is heavily coated in oil and has decent kick. Extra kudos to AL's for allowing the choice of a big beef which is 50% bigger than a normal sandwich. As far as the bread goes, with the rate of traffic of every type of person imaginable, the bread is always fresh.

video
Fresh Beef being sliced

Wanna make it a complete meal? get a beef with some their twice fried fries and a Italian Ice from Mario's across the street, that's about as Chicago as you can eat. Sure its a love/hate thing with AL's, with it being loved much more than hated. This is by far the most recognizable IB in the city, once you had a beef with hot from AL's you could easily identify it in a blind taste test for the better in this case. The Taylor St. area is Chicago's Little Italy and I would recommend AL's as the best place for a beef closest to downtown.


and a very good one they have here

I DO NOT recommend any other of the AL's other than the location on Taylor st, it is franchised and the beef can differ greatly at locations, so stick with the original. Anybody coming in from out of town can get over to the neighborhood in a quick cab ride and they will be greatly rewarded for not slouching on their taste buds. Its nice to know that the original AL's will be here for the next 100 years and never fail me once during that time.


beef with hot from Al's #1 Original

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 5
bread: 5
gravy: 5
hot peppers: 4


Score: 19/20

AL's #1 Italian Beef
1079 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: (312) 226-4017

Monday, January 5, 2009

What's the beef?

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

What's the beef is located on Clybourn ave in Lincoln Park. It is the best options for a beef in LP...but thats not saying much. In fact in some bogus claim by Chicago magazine, "what's the beef" was named the best beef in the city in a 2007 article. Ya and Chicago Magazine is the best dining guide in Chicago. They even went so far as to make the following moronic statement "Demon Dog's is gone and residents of LP could care less, they have What's the beef's juicy homemade beef..." ok lets get one thing straight, I don't know where the hell the writer of that comment is from and what big 10 school he/she went to but DD's and WTB are not to be spoken of on the same level again. Got it? Good.


Heya Whatsa da beeef? eeta donta tasta like cheekin, eets a cow!

I'm not here to trash WTB, in fact I hadn't had a IB from here since it first opened at least 8-10 years ago, so one day recently I decided it was time to try it again and document it for the beefies that follow my site. They do make their beef homemade and this means it is worth a try in my book. So the beef was sliced thin and had a good tender texture, meaning it wasn't sitting in the gravy all day. The bread was good and the gravy was just ok, makes me wonder if that is homemade, not to say it isn't, but it tasted like it came from a carton. The main problem for WTB was and is a major problem in the decision of what makes a good beef and that is their hot peppers, they are absolutely horrible and similar to the slop served at Novi's.

With all of that said, in an area where a good IB is rare, WTB can get the job done for some, its not bad. The fries are homemade and fresh fried which is a big plus and many other items on the menu are popular there. WTB is approaching a decade as a independent owned restaurant in the LP area so you gotta salute them for that. Most of the menu items are homemade and they have regulars so thats always a great sign.


beef with hot from WTB

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 3
bread: 4
gravy: 2
hot peppers: 1


Score: 10/20

Whats the Beef
1863 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 477-7200

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Johnnie's Beef

Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production


Johnnies beef in Elmwood Park

Ask 100 Chicagoans what there favorite place for a beef is and more than half will say Johnnie's. Located in Elmwood Park its a straight shot down North ave where it sits at 7500 w. North ave. Rain, snow, sleet or shine, there's always a line of people at Johnnies for a beef, hell they even got a security unit. Johnnies is the most consistent of all beef slangers and so it is probably #1 on my list for that reason. When it comes to regional sandwiches, the IB is King, it Bruce lee's the competition. Johnnies is the holy grail. Sure there are bigger IB sandwiches out there but they dont melt on your tongue like these do.

I don't care if Jay Leno loves Mr. Beef, he lives in NY, he knows as much about a good beef as I know where to get one of those dirty hot dogs from the carts in NYC, but that's for another day. Yo Jay! next time your in town go here and thank me later, if the only burger I ever ate was a double cheese from McDonald's than I would think those are good too. Get it? good. If you have to choose one greasy roadfood type place to eat while in Chicago then this is the place. It's the holy grail/Wrigley field of all beef shacks. It gets no better than this.


beef with hot from Johnnie's

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 5
bread: 5
gravy: 5
hot peppers: 4


Score: 19/20

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

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Uncle Johnny's Grocery

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

Welcome back beefies, off to da south side we go for stop number twelve on the Chicago beef tour. Over on 35th st in Bridgeport is Uncle Johnny's grocery & deli, the definition of a ma & pa grocery shop. My man Johnny does a grocery business with a fully stacked deli meat case including homemade Italian sausage as well as hot sandwiches like beef, sausage, meatball and cold cuts, also available are all your pasta needs as well as drinks and a few toiletries.


Ole Uncle Johnny's

I rarely make it to the stomping grounds of Cell Block #9 but a few times a year. There's the times when the real fans of the Northside invade Comiskey and piss off Ozzie that his team has an away game at home and then those times when I'm doing some real eating. Chicago is referred to as the world's largest neighborhood due to the fact its a bunch of different vibrant neighborhoods in what also happens to be one the largest city's in the world as far as square miles. The Bridgeport neighborhood is home to the White Sox and quite a few long time neighborhood taverns and independent food spots that have been there more than a few decades. Its this that makes Bridgeport one of Chicago's most notable and for that matter real neighborhoods and Uncle Johnny's Grocery is my favorite beef in the area.


The Whole menu is great at Johnny's

I just happened to find Johnny's randomly one day a few summers ago and have been quite a few times since. This Italian beef reminds me of a few spots that are long gone from Taylor St. It really fits the mold of an old school beef. Its an old family beef recipe that they serve in both six and foot long options and is served on a homemade bread from a local bakery that isn't Gonnella which it gives it its own character. I think the beef is above average and the gravy is better than good while the unique bread reminds me of different beefs from my youth. My only real beef with Johnny's is that they use the local canned giardinara they sell in store on the beef but thats not really a big deal because its not bad at all, I just like when the peppers are made in house. On top of the fact they do one of the south sides better Italian beef sandwiches its also one of the best deals on a beef in the city.


a large from Uncle Johnny's is how it should be

Over at Uncle Johnny's you pay the same price you would at most other spots around town for double the beef and you cant beat that. He takes care of you like that uncle of yours always did around family parties when he slipped you $20 in cash for grabbing beers when you were a young lad. I'll never root for the White Sox but I'm one of Johnny's biggest fans.


Beef with hot from Uncle Johnny's

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 3
bread: 4
gravy: 5
hot peppers: 3


Score: 15/20

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

Carm's Beef (Little Italy)

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

Carm's beef is one of the many beef stands in the Little Italy-Taylor St. area. It sits on the 1000 block of west Polk street and has been with us since 1929. If you wanna slang a fiendish beef then it needs to be homemade, which of course it is at Carm's. They slice the beef fresh daily and put into the gravy little by little to guarantee it doesn't get rubbery and stays nice and tender. Beef shouldn't be sitting in the gravy all day unless you have a really fast turnover. Carm's is a neighborhood favorite with locals, UIC students, St. Ignatius kids and the local grammar school it sits in front of. Its roots are traced back to the 1930’s when it started as a little grocery store that made and sold Italian ice. Once UIC came around in the '60's it turned itself into a beef/hot dog stand.



Carm's was inducted into the Vienna beef hall of fame in 2006. Popular menu items include the natural casing hot dog's, subs, Italian Ice and of course...DA BEEF. I have been eating beefs from Carm's since my days of basketball camp at UIC as a youth so its easy to say that I enjoy a beef from there from time to time. Anyplace that's been around since 1929 in the heart of Chicago's Little Italy deserves mine and your business. Any of you that are eating at places like Pepe's and Potbelly in that neighborhood need to hit yourself upside the head. The beef at Carm's as previously mentioned is homemade and sliced very thin, the peppers have only a medium kick even though sliced jalapeƱos are present along with celery but the bread is good and the gravy is very subtle in flavor so you can really taste the roast beef without much seasonings in it, not my personal preference but still a damn fine sandwich worthy of your eats. This location of Carm's is in no way affiliated with the Carm's in Hillside, IL.


beef with hot from Carm's in Little Italy

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 2
hot peppers: 4


Score: 14/20

Carm's Beef
1057 W Polk St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 738-1046
www.carms.com

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chickie's Beef

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production

Chickie's beef at 28th and Pulaski is a locals favorite that still remains deep under the radar. It also happens to be one of my favorites and the home of the best giardinara in the city. This is a beef shack that is relatively unknown to those who love themselves a good IB and I cant figure out why that is. They recently went under new ownership to a family of longtime customers and they have wrinkled out the kinks that come with starting a restaurant and are at full strength. The IB here is a favorite amongst Streets and Sans workers so you know its good. It is also on my starting five all Chicago-beef team. Now you really know its good.


The old beef shack at 26th and Pulaski (Chickie's)

I'm not saying Portillo's is awful but if you think they have the best beef in Chicago you haven't been to Chickie's or almost any of the other round-ups throughout this site. Most good beef stands are nowhere near downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. This means your going to need to venture out if you want to understand why the IB is king of all the regional sandwiches. Chickie's is a good place to start if you disagree with that statement.

The beef at Chickie's is of course homemade and cooked and sliced perfectly but what puts them over the top is the gravy and hot peppers. The gravy has the deepest most rich beef flavor of all the stands around town and the homemade hot peppers are loaded with jalapeƱos and celery creating a neon color that is really, really pleasant to my eye. The fries are also the best set of fries served at any beef joint around town. They are very, very similar to the now gone Fazzio's in Lincoln Park (RIP) that was the place that made me love beef like PETA made Pamela Anderson love tofu.


Chickie's top notch fries

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beef with hot from Chickie's

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 5
hot peppers: 5

Score: 18/20

Chickie's
2839 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 277-2333

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Frannie's Beef

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production


Frannie's beef in Schiller Park, IL

Frannie's beef is located in Schiller park near O'Hare. Frannie's was one of the few beef joints that looked worth trying that I hadn't been to...until now. Check! another one off the list. They use Scala's preferred at Frannie's and serve the beef in a gravy that is heavily seasoned with oregano and other dried green herbs. The peppers to my knowledge seemed to be homemade and were probably the best part to the beef. There is nothing wrong with ordering a beef from Frannie's with some of their fresh cut fries when in the area. Its not destination: Beef, driving but its still a tasty sandwich that is better than alot of other places around the city. Dont be scared off by a score given by me in the 12-14 's from the beef joints, that is a respectable score and doesn't mean its not worth trying, just not on my "All-Chi" beef team, which is hard to reach. Scores in the 13-16 are still damn good players who have had careers like that of Robert Horry and James Posey...very, very respectable.

FYI scores in the 17-20 range are excellent. Don't even try anything that scores under a 10 and just be happy I did so you don't have too.

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Beef with hot from Frannie's

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 3
bread: 3
gravy: 3
hot peppers: 4


Score: 13/20

Frannie's Beef
4304 River Rd
Schiller Park, IL 60176
(847) 678-7771

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Italian Beef

Got Beef? Italian Beef
a chibbqking production



You know that old saying "I love you like a fat kid loves cake"? Next time, tell them you love 'em like DaBeef loves beef. I don't care how old you are or how much you too enjoy eating Italian beef or how many you have had in your lifetime...you haven't had as many as me, from as many different places as I have. Got it? good. Everybody loves beef, from 50 cent to Jared from subway...its enjoyed by all.


Got beef? They do.

Rating Scale 5/5

beef
bread
gravy
hot peppers aka giardinara


best score: 20

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