The Chicago Tribune recently released a list of top 20 Beefs across the greater Chicago metropolitan area and basically everyone expects me to come in here and shit on it. Understandably, there are some questionable observations across the near two-dozen rated and reviewed beeves and I want to be clear that would be the case for all of us. When you hit 20 fucking good old fashioned italian B's, there's going to be some crossover in opinion that doesn't sit well with everyone. So by the very nature of the rankings, I will not be completely shitting on this guy.
In fact I want to take it one step further and say that I respect the commitment to this one single article for the Tribune. If you can make it past the paywall, you'll notice there's a portrait-mode photo for each beef along with exceptional detail from price to address to notable giard nuance. The effort alone behind this undertaking is monumental and should not be overlooked. Just look at this quote. Of course I respect this guy:
I drew up a list of more than 50 restaurants, and then set off to find the ultimate Italian beef in the Chicago area. Considering the times, I ate all the sandwiches in my car, placing a half-sheet pan on the passenger seat as a sort of countertop. My poor car will forever smell of beef and giardiniera, but what a small price to pay.
That said, not everything is perfect here. There's a lot of beef info and I feel it only necessary that I offer up my observations of this great study.
For purposes of local Fair Use Law, I won't be reprinting the article in it's entirety nor will I share the complete list. For that you should actually go to the article and give the man a click because he did like 2,000 words for a local institution that would be lucky to authorize 500 on the next Sunday morning op-ed.
For now, let's get moving as I'll give you a dip in the sweet, sweet gravy that is Comprehensive Italian Beef Rankings by way of a classic threesome: Good, Bad, Ugly.
- 20 Spots! That's a lot of fucking spots and they're all over the place. Not just your classic places everyone knows, but also some suburban places that love the press. The kinda shops that laminate the paper copy and hang it near the cash register for the next 30 years til the newspaper starts to fade to that soft yellow. You know what I'm talking about. Point is that's cool we have Little Joe's from Countryside to Original Nana's in Streamwood to Bari on Grand Ave. Like this isn't just the Downtown Dog & Pony Show. It's a full bodied list of beefs.
- Detail: I want to know price, address, presentation, volume and traffic. The whole fucking bag is in play and we get it, so that's nice.
- The Patio on Taylor at #12 is a very nice touch. I think they got a brother/sister combo working the register and grill, which makes it even better because sometimes they're tense and arguing. But the food is always amazing and incredibly priced. Bonus points is the gravy bread. Of all the rankings on the list I think I like Patio at #12 the best.
- Portillos is not 4 in Chicago. Maybe in Tempe, Arizona but not in this land. Not anymore. Ever since Dick sold, the beef has been a slight decline. The gravy is still delicious and the service is still amazing. But if you know what I'm talking about then you know Portillos is lucky to be in the top 10 and that's on brand name alone.
- Bari should be higher than 18. I know they aren't known for their beef, but based on experience alone that's a 9-12 beef.
- Mr. D's beef is good but when they have a top-3 steak sandwich, it's hard to come back and give them a top-10 beef. It's not that it's a bad sammy, just that you have to respect the steak so much that you can't expect the beef to be that good. It's like being a tits guy or an ass guy. Obviously would be nice to get both but there's a reason we've been asking that question for 10,000 years.
- I don't want to start a fight but Buona at 9 is about as high as I'd let the Buona beef get right now. They just keep expanding and expanding and I just don't know if you can vouch for a Buona beef at each location. Again I don't want to start a fight but Buona has a lot to prove to me the next 12 months. I think they're up for it but just putting it out there.
- Back-to-back Cicero-based locations on the board makes me uncomfortable, especially in the top-10. You could easily throw a Pappy's in there from Evergreen Park if you want to space it out but I understand that Pop's is on the list. Thankfully it's not the Palos park one but the Mt. Greenwood location. Again not starting a turf war here I just think the Mt. Greenwood location lives in higher standards of Italian beef.
- Johnnies should be #1 and that's coming from a southsider that reps Al's on Taylor Original. Personally I think he's taking a risk in the rankings but overall it's just a stupid move to slap Johnnie's like that. No joke people have been murdered for a lot less around here so be careful next time you're waiting in line at Gene & Judes. That's just good common sense and again I'm an Al's Original guy.
- Luke's should be much higher because it's the #1 beef in the Loop and on that alone, you have to respect that hustle. Just traders and cops and finance guys and a lot of clientele you don't want to disappoint. Their volume is remarkable. They do stand up and sit down. It's fast as all fucking hell. Great bread and a full gravy dip as the norm. It's an amazing place and I think #15 is very disrespectful. It's much easier to sling a beef in Harwood Heights than it is at 215 W. Jackson and we can't ever forget that.
- Finally, no mention of JP Graziano and I know they don't make beefs. I KNOW IT. But I feel like any time anyone in this city even utters the word sandwich, you need to genuflect like you just walked into Holy Name Cathedral and say a prayer to God thanking Him for the bounty that is a JP Graziano sandwich. Even if you're talking about off-menu sandwiches, just a subtle nod to king is a very respectful way to start the conversation. Moving forward I hope we're all on the same page with this.
Go read the whole article and tell me what sucks in the comment section below