Food & Drink

The 12 Best Under-the-Radar Italian Beef Joints in Chicago

Published On 01/13/2015 Published On 01/13/2015
italian beef
mike gebert

You know that Al's No. 1 Italian Beef makes a great Italian beef. But what you probably don't know is that Hot Dog Station totally does, too. That's because the former is probably on every "Best Italian Beef" list ever made, and the latter, well, isn't. So we decided to fix that, dipping back into the Italian beef well to identify 12 spots that fly totally under the Chicago media radar.

mike gebert

Bari

Near West Side, Noble Square
Italian beef doesn’t seem to be an official item on the menu of this Italian deli and grocer. It’s just been a special tacked on the wall for as long as anyone can remember. In any case, it’s a solid beef with thicker-cut meat, lifted to greatness by the place’s terrific house-made giardiniera (which you can buy jarred to put on whatever you want).

mike gebert

Hot Dog Station

Albany Park
This spiffy hot dog stand, located on a quiet stretch of Kimball opposite the end of the Brown Line, also does an excellent beef, with a brightly seasoned broth and hand-roasted peppers.

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Flub A Dub Chub's

Lakeview
This friendly neighborhood hot dog stand a few steps down Broadway also does a delicious Italian beef with a brightly spiced broth. Which spares you the embarrassment of asking for a hot dog with ketchup here.

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Bombacigno's J & C Inn

Greektown
This old-school Italian deli feels like the tavern it used to be, with the whole family pitching in to make fresh Italian sandwiches that are descended from Italian beef royalty: the family's Mom’s Stepdad was Al of Al’s No. 1 Italian Beef.

fab freddie's

Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery

Bridgeport
This Bridgeport pizza/sub joint covers all the Sou’side Italian bases, from steak sandwiches to Italian ice. Like most of the sandwiches here, the beef is a monster, densely packed with lots of meat and the house giardiniera.

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Jimmy's Homemade Italian Beef

Dunning
Tucked along a quiet stretch of Addison at the city’s edge, you could live your whole life in Chicago and never stumble across this little beef shack with a diner counter. But it does a first-rate Italian beef combo, with flavorful sausage from a local deli and toasted bun from nearby Sicilian Bakery.

mike gebert

Nottoli Italian Foods

Norwood Park
This great-smelling Italian grocery and deli slices up your beef fresh to order before soaking it in the broth. The broth is a little restrained in flavor, so be sure to ask for the excellent house-made giardiniera to give it some kick.

mike gebert

Tony's Italian Deli & Subs

Edison Park
This Northwest Side Italian grocery is best known for its subs, but it uses a house-made sausage in the beef combo. And it’s pretty great, too.

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Beef & Burger

Irving Park
This is the kind of Greek burger stand with a menu consisting of approximately everything you’ve ever eaten in your life, where you might not think the beef (or anything not spelled G-Y-R-O-S) is going to be a standout. But it’s quite credible, and the fresh-cut fries make everything even better.

mike gebert

Celli's

Niles
A Milwaukee Ave suburban joint with roots on the Northwest Side of the city, Celli's offers one of the most aggressively spiced (and salty) broths around, and does a great char on the sausage in a combo with sweet or hot peppers. If you’re starting to think all beefs taste the same, reset your palate here.

mike gebert

Parisi's Drive-In

Clearing
This vintage Southwest Side hole-in-the-wall makes a pretty solid beef (as well as a pretty solid burger, a pretty solid dog, etc.), all of which are just an opening act for the super-solid milkshakes.

mike gebert

The Butcher & Larder

Noble Square
This famed artisanal butcher shop does a rotating lunch special every day. And once in a lucky while, it’s Italian beef. The quality meat, well-balanced broth, and house-made giardiniera lift this into the realm of a classic Italian restaurant dish.

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Mike Gebert is a James Beard Award-winning food video producer and writer and Founder of SkyFullofBacon.com. Follow him on Twitter @skyfullofbacon.

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1. Bari 1120 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (West Loop)

Bari's an Italian grocer known for delicious sandwiches like their Italian beef -- house-made giardiniera, thick-cut beef with savory gravy, and a sturdy roll that will hold up to all that hearty stuff inside. The West Loop hot spot, therefore, serves up some of the best sandwiches in the city, and the sheer variety on the menu makes it difficult to just pick one sandwich to choose from. We recommend going for the footlong prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, which perfectly combines salty and creamy flavors.

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2. Hot Dog Station 4742 N Kimball Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Albany Park)

This reliable hot-dog joint is right across the street from the Kimball Brown Line stop, and will impress you with a few gourmet-style dogs. Traditional Chicago dogs are served alongside the "Long Island" (kraut, chili, onions), other geographically-named wieners, and popular Italian beef sandwiches.

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3. Flub A Dub Chub's 3021 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

This Lakeview eatery is nestled in a basement along Broadway and it serves up quality greasy eats like burgers and 'dogs. Pro-tip: try the extra thick hot dog called the Chubby.

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4. Bombacigno's J & C Restaurant 558 W Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60607

Bombacigno’s J & C Inn, which is a lunch-only joint, makes a mean meatball subs. They makes everything from scratch, except the bread it goes on -- for that they use the great crusty-fluffy Italian loaf from D’Amato’s.

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5. Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery 701 West 31st St, Chicago, IL 60616 (Bridgeport Sox)

This Bridgeport pizza/sub joint covers all the classic Italian bases, from steak sandwiches to Italian ice. Like most of the sandwiches here, the beef is a monster, densely packed with lots of meat and the house giardiniera.

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6. Jimmy's Homemade Italian Beef 7542 1/2 W Addison, Chicago, IL 60634 (Dunning)

You could live your whole life in Chicago and never stumble across this little beef shack with a diner counter, as it's tucked along a quiet stretch of Addison at the city’s edge. But, they do a first-rate Italian beef combo, with flavorful sausage from a local deli, and toasted bun from nearby Sicilian Bakery.

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7. Nottoli Italian Foods 5025 N Harlem Ave, Chicago, IL 60656 (Norwood Park)

This Norwood Park Italian grocery and deli slices beef fresh to order before soaking it in the broth. The broth is a little restrained in flavor, so be sure to ask for the excellent house-made giardiniera to give it some kick.

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8. Tony's Italian Deli & Subs 6708 Northwest Hwy, Chicago, IL 60631 (Edison Park)

This low-maintenance, down-to-Earth Northwest Side Italian grocery is as famous for its Italian goods as its subs -- for instance, the beef combo. In lieu of something bought from, well, the grocery store, it incorporates a house-made sausage -- and it’s pretty great, too.

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9. Beef & Burger 4148 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60630 (Irving Park)

This is the kind of Greek burger stand with a menu consisting of approximately everything you’ve ever eaten in your life, where you might not think the beef (or anything not spelled G-Y-R-O-S) is going to be a standout. But it’s quite credible, and the fresh-cut fries make everything even better.

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10. Celli's 8080 N Mikwaukee Ave, Niles, IL 60714

A Milwaukee Ave suburban joint with roots on the Northwest Side of the city, Celli's offers one of the most aggressively spiced (and salty) broths in the Italian beef game, and does a great char on the sausage in a combo with sweet or hot peppers. If you’re starting to think all beefs taste the same, reset your palate here.

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11. Parisi’s Drive-In 6216 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60638

This is a Clearing staple for it's beef hot dogs and awesome sammies, even if it doesn't look very nice from the outside.

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12. The Butcher & Larder 1026 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (West Town)

From the man who used to run the meat-centric kitchen at Mado, B&L is a boutique whole-animal butcher procuring all of its product -- from T-bones & tenderloins to obscure cuts & offal -- from local farms, also using them in soups, charcuterie, and more.

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