Italian beef in Illinois #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!


WARNING: If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or have strong anti-meat feelings, you’re probably going to want to skip this post. Because today, it’s all about the meat. Specifically, the ITALIAN BEEF.

"Al's Italian Beef Blvd" image by Flickr user Thomas Hawk
“Al’s Italian Beef Blvd” image by Flickr user Thomas Hawk


If you’ve never had an Italian beef sandwich, you’ve clearly never experienced the real Chicago.

Here’s Wikipedia’s thorough yet succinct explanation of what this sandwich is all about:

An Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, which originated in Chicago where its history dates back at least to the 1930s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (called “hot”) or sauteed, green Italian sweet peppers (called “sweet”).

If your mouth is not watering, at this point, I suspect your taste buds may be broken.

You see, the first rule of eating in Chicago is:

Meat is king

And of the many meaty sandwiches you can choose from, the Italian beef is the meatiest of them all.

Now, I must admit that the Italian beef is not exactly a beautiful sight to behold. Not unless you’ve been starved in a desert for a week and a half, and would eat anything remotely resembling food. In fact, the Italian beef truly looks like little more than a pile of meat and peppers dumped unceremoniously onto a bun. And then, depending on whether you want it “wet” or “dry,” dunked straight into a vat of meat juice.

But sometimes deliciousness comes in even the most unexpected (or even downright unattractive) of packages.

Here’s a typical Italian beef sandwich (“dry”), so you can see what I mean:

"an italian beef" image by Flickr user jslander
“an italian beef” image by Flickr user jslander

I mean, even the Philly cheese steak looks more appetizing than this, no? (Not to start a war here…)

So where can one ingest a tasty, meaty, artery-clogging Italian beef? I shall now defer to the experts with the following listicles:

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"I love italian beef" image by Flickr user Cher
“I love italian beef” image by Flickr user Cher

Additional Resources

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Chicago food face-off!

Which would you rather try: an Italian beef or a deep dish pizza?

Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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  • A. Catherine Noon

    Ah, yes. Italian Beef. My first Chicago boyfriend: “Want to go out for dinner?” Me: “Sure. Where?” Him: “How about some Italian beef?” Me: “Italian beef what?” Him: ~stare~ Me: “Dude. What kind of beef? Hamburger? Cheeseburger? Steak? What?” Him: “It’s *Italian Beef.*” Me: ~stare~

    We get there. “I’ll have a beef with sweet, no hot, wet.”


    Is this food, or porn?

    For the record: I like them with no peppers, grilled onions, and wet. ~grin~

    And now, I’m hungry. ~grumble~

    • Laura Roberts

      LoL! Yes, I would definitely have been wondering what kind of beef, if I were you. No peppers, though? I am a pepper fiend, so I like them sweet AND hot, with onions, and any other crazy stuff you might want to throw on there (do they really put celery on some variations?!). I prefer my sandwiches dry, though, with the au jus on the side… I guess I am a bit high maintenance, like Sally from “When Harry Met Sally.” ;D

    • Laura Roberts

      It reminds me of The Simpsons’ episode when they visit NYC, and Homer inquires about a pushcart vendor’s wares. He offers “meat on stick,” which Homer eagerly gobbles up. This is approximately the Chicago equivalent: meat on bun!