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Posts Tagged ‘Italian Beef’

Cary, IL – Bambino’s Beef


Just like in the Pacific Northwest where you’ll see innumerable small restaurants with the word “Teriyaki” on them, in Chicagoland, you’re apt to see countless outlets with the word “Beef”, which is a reference to “Italian Beef”,  thin sliced, slow-simmered, seasoned roast beef served on a roll.   Make it a “combo” and they add an Italian sausage.   Usually dressed with your choice of sweet or hot peppers, and the roll is slightly wet from the au jus.   If you want it ‘wet’, ask them to dip it.

Bambino’s Beef is one such place in the Northwest suburban community of Cary, an hour plus on the Metra train from downtown.

Bambino’s features all the Chicago favorites, Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and gyros.  The suppliers of the latter in local Devanco foods, which manufacturers gyros, sausage, beef, and burger patties for the trade and retail.

Hot dogs come from Red Hot Chicago, started in 1986 by a grandson of the founder of legendary Chicago hot dog giant “Vienna Beef”.

Bambino’s uses an all beef skinless dog from Red Hot, which is fairly indistinguishable in taste in texture, in my opinion.  I always personally prefer a natural casing dog, with stronger flavoring.

But the beef by Devanco really stands out.   It’s very flavorful and tender, tho one must acknowledge that although this product generally comes to restaurants pre-cooked, requiring only a warm-up, it’s easy to goof up that process, and many establishments do.

If you’re heading out of Chicago on highway 14, bound for Wisconsin, and feeling a might puckish, stop in Bambino’s for a beef.   The 10” size will give you enough for a meal and more.

Bambino's Beef Cary Illinois


Bambino's Beef Cary Illinois


Algonquin, IL – Nero’s Pizza and Pub Review


(2nd contribution from our Chicagoland reporter, thanks!)

In the far Northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Algonquin is a sleepy burg, with its share of housing divisions and strip malls. In one such mall, on Algonquin Road, you’ll find Nero’s Pizza and Pub, a full menu restaurant and bar, open from 11AM daily.

On the Monday nite following Superbowl, we expected to find the joint deserted, but the bar was busy with the local regulars, and the restaurant had several tables taken as well.

Our waitress was friendly and helpful.

My guest went with an Italian Beef/Sausage combo (2nd foto below), accompanied by fries and slaw.   It was excellent.   I went with the thin crust pizza, sausage and pepperoni, also excellent.   There was a slight char on the crust, which didn’t put me off.

The tomato sauce was a bit sweeter than East Side Joey’s, down the road,  but nice nevertheless.

While I would say I preferred Joey’s toppings,  either pie is worth going to if you are in the NW burbs.

Nero's Pizza and Pub, Algonquin, IL

Nero's Pizza and Pub, Algonquin, IL

Nero's Pizza & Pub on Urbanspoon\


Portland, OR – Geraldi’s Italian Eating Place


When the sign on the door says “25 years in business” (and hopefully it isn’t left over from the last guy), well, that’s a pretty good sign.

I’ve been in here before, had an Italian beef ‘hero’ (they called it “Chicago beef”) which was pretty good, as I recall. I didn’t ask them then, or today, if they made the roast in-house or purchased it. It’s not Vienna’s product, which I usually prefer.

Odd tho, when I was here before, I didn’t notice that they served pizza, and probably the reason was last time I was focused on getting a sandwich, or the fact it’s not on their printed menus, and/or, there is a very small sign offering it, and/or, everybody local already knows this. Or some combination of the above.

Somebody has said “you should try Geraldi’s pizza,” so I thought I would spend a leisurely afternoon alone there, munching a pie, reading the paper, at least that was my intent, but my intent was stabbed in the back by a domestic crisis of minuscule proportions.

So I told them to box up the pie for consumption in BurgerDogBoy’s testing lab, er, man cave, so he could eat, pout, smoke, and do the Sunday crossword simulaneously. Multi-tasking, as it were.

I noticed they had a standard two deck gas oven against the back wall (but didn’t notice if it was Blodgett or Baker’s Pride, so I knew what I was approximately in for in the finished product. I ordered sausage, pepperoni, and double cheese, very hard to find a pie place that offers green olives around here, one of my favorite toppings, especially the marinated green Silicians from Roma, the pizza suppliers. (or whomever distributes the standard in this category).

I didn’t watch assembly, so I have no idea if they roll the crusts on the spot, or what the other ingredients shape up like, tho I have a few clues from popping the cherry on the take home box. The sausage was bulk, hand-pulled in chunks, which I always prefer. It has a little kick to it. The pepperoni slices are larger than, say Hormel’s product of pizza, and it has a distinctive pepperoni flavor. No cupping or charring, either, so it’s a lean product. Real cheese produces the “stretch” when you lift a slice from the box, and also assures the toppings stay in place during the “lift.”

The sauce was a bit sweeter than my personal preference, but not enough to put me off the pie. It also could have been cooked a little longer, for my taste, but that was not a distraction either. The crust is neither thin nor thick, has some crisp and char on the edges, but the balance of it is doughy-chewy.

If I lived closer, this would be a regular stop for me, especially if I could persuade them to stock the olives. On‘s scale of 1-8 slices, I give Geraldi’s a solid 7. And that says a lot, coming from me!

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Geraldi's Italian Eating Place on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots


“Someone” dropped me an email last week saying I should visit Wayne’s; the mail probably came from an insider since it included a bevy of photos, as well. Some of the pix were really great, unfortunately, they have people in them, so I couldn’t use them w/o permission.

I like hearing from restaurants, actually, it gives me the impression that people have the impression that these posts actually account for something. (pause while the writer laughs hysterically).

But as a frequent reader, you know I love Chicago dogs and Chicago beef sandwiches, particularly from the godfather vendor of all such things, Vienna Beef Company in Chicago.

So I wondered over to Wayne’s to scarf down a Chicago beef, and a side of “Wrigley” fries (chili/cheese). I have noticed the place on the few occasions I drive up or down MLK. Usually the only time I am in that area is when Mrs. BDB is feeling nostalgic for the Big Easy and barks “I need Popeye’s Red Beans!” And the MLK Popeye’s is the closest (3 days drive) to our house in SW.

As I approached Wayne’s, I remembered one of the reasons I had not stopped by. Parking is dear in that neighborhood, tho I am not sure why. Be prepared to either get lucky and get a spor right away, or circle the block a few times, if you are not arriving by Tri-Met.

I walked in shortly after opening, placed my order and waited. And waited. And waited. About 25 minutes. My guess at first was that employees don’t arrive with ample time before opening, but in fact, my food was delivered shortly after I saw a guy leave with a huge take out order. Inked up girl behind the counter, you could have politely told me “it’ll be awhile,” and I would have been happier.

The beef sandwich comes w/ your choice of any or all of the following: grilled onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella cheese, or giardiniera. I passed on all, preferring the taste of the beef all on its own. Inked up counter girl did ask me if I wanted it “wet or dry,” and that’s a nice Chicagoism. I went with wet, meaning the roll was dipped in the au jus prior to assembly. One other nice touch I liked was there was a pool of jus in the bottom of the paper tray, with the sandwich split in half and perched vertically. So I had a juicy end to bite into, or a little extra for dipping, if that was my want. It was.

The sandwich was as good as any – from an authorized Vienna vendor, and it had some subtle differences between it and the same sandwich served by Chicago Windy City Hot Dogs in SW Portland.

I won’t compare either to Michael’s Italian Beef, which is good for what it is, he cooks his own beef, which he says is “better than any in Chicago,” but for me, that’s kind of like saying “Wow, that Frank Sinatra Jr concert was amazing! It was just like listening to his old man!” And then there’s that old personality thing, which I won’t get into.

Subtle differences – only a persnickety guy like me would care about. Chicago’s sandwich is slightly bigger than Wayne’s; the rolls at both places are great, but Wayne’s has a definite edge, it’s very reminiscent of Leidenheimer”s bread in New Orleans, which is arguably the best sandwich roll outside of any Francophone country.

It would appear to me that Wayne warms his beef in the au jus either longer than Chicago Windy does, or at a hotter temperature, which produces a slight variation in the texture That’s neither good or bad, just depends on your personal taste.

I didn’t have fries at Chicago Windy, the chili cheese fries at Wayne’s are pretty darned good. I assume the chili is from Vienna as well, and the shredded cheese, well that could have been anybody’s from anywhere. Serves the purpose. The fries themselves were hot, crisp, slightly thicker than shoestrings, and had a little peel on them. Nice.

About “snap.” I read a couple of other reviews after I wrote mine, initially, one guy was griping about the dogs didn’t have “snap.” He must have had a Vienna natural casing in Chicago, which they also make. I prefer them, too. But less than 4% of the hot dogs sold in the US are natural casing dogs. Wayne’s is smart to go with Vienna skinless, which will appeal to the largest number of people.

The decor is pure Chicago, sports jerseys, photos, memorabilia. Some very nice b/w pix taken by the owner himself. Or hisself, as they would say on da nort side of Chicago. I loved looking at these photos. Especially the one of the Billy Goat! (Chicagoans will understand the reference, all other think John Belushi and cheezbooger bit.)

If you’re from Remulak and hungry for mass quantities, Wayne’s will sell you 30 dogs, buns, and condiments for $105. That’s a weekend of grazing for me, but you might like it for a party. He also has a little Vienna adorned cart for rent (see below).

I’ll be back. Wayne’s has apparently been spawned from a hot dog cart somewhere north of the Columbia River, which in turn became a story in Warren, wherever that is. Not sure if this is location #2 or replaced Warren.

Menu online, don’t judge Wayne’s by their website, tho! Menu.  The good news?  No matter which side of the river I am on, I can get a Chicago dog or beef!

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Wayne's Chicago Red Hots on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Michaels Italian Beef & Sausage


Man, I love Italian Beef.  Especially served as a combo, with Italian Sausage, Beef, and juice both.  They should fit into some category here.   Chicago’s Italian Beefs are the originals, but now you can find one close to home by checking out this directory.

There’s a pretty fine one in Portland, Michael’s,   and when I said it was “as good as Chicago,”, the owner (who can be kinda uppity), said “it’s better than any in Chicago.”

OK, then.  Hungry for I-Beef at home?  It is achievable.

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I like lots of different places in Chicago.  I like Al’s.

Pic: Michael’s beef /sausage combo (half).

Michael's Italian Beef & Sausage on Urbanspoon


michaels italian beef

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