5 Best Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago

Whether you take them for granted or gospel, Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches are an integral part of the city's restaurant scene--much like hot dogs and deep dish pizza. The difference being, you can't get the beloved Italian beef anywhere else, which means Chicagoans? love affair borders on obsession, and opinions about the best one run strong. It's understandable, though: a good Italian beef?with chewy bread and a jus-y interior piled with aromatic, tender meat and peppers--is truly a work of art. Here, in no particular order, are our five favorite Chicago Italian beef sandwiches. (Photo: Portillo's)

Updated: June 14, 2010

Best Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago

Carm's Beef & Italian Ice

1057 W Polk St, Chicago, IL 60607

To call this restaurant a mainstay would be an understatement. Order its hand-held Italian beef, topped with giardiniera and sweet peppers, alongside salty fries and the famed, fruity Italian ice, and you'll find eating here to be a near-ethereal experience.

Mr Beef on Orleans

666 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60610

A roster of famous folks (Jay Leno included) frequent this fabled stand when in town. It's no surprise, really: Its headily scented, full-flavored Italian beef beats the pants off of most. Sure, it's sloppy as all get-out, but it's well worth the investment in stain remover come laundry time.

Portillo's Hot Dogs

100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60610

The bread on this Italian beef has the perfect chew--even when dipped in savory jus; its giardiniera is just brow-mopping enough; and its cheese fries are in a category all their own.

Al's #1 Italian Beef

169 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60610

A unique, slightly sweet potion flavors this meat, giving it a unique taste. Love it or hate it, this is where many blue and white collar-types roll up their sleeves, rub elbows and proclaim--with greasy hands--their love for this institution and its iconic Italian beef.

Johnnie's Beef

7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707

The service is surly, the line is perpetually down the block and the narrow, standing room setting is smoky-from-the-grill institutional. But after one bite of the perfectly seasoned slivers of beef--dipped and ordered in combo form with charred Italian sausage--all is forgiven. Go all out and snag a mounded cup of lemon Italian ice, too.