I know there’s some kind of Italian beef war going on, but I say “What’s the big beef?” I’m riding a meat wave to love. I’ve always been a Mr. Beef kinda guy, but Al’s Beef is all over Chicago, so they must be doing something right.
I had amazingly never hit up Al’s Beef for an Italian beef, and the one in River North was, as they say, at hand. I noticed they sell a lot of stuff besides Italian beefs at Al’s beef, which begs the question: “Why?” Also, the River North spot has table seating, so you aren’t expected to do “the stance” over a ledge.
I had mine dipped, which is plenty juicy for me (there are other options, like “juicy” and “soaked,” which sound like real commitments), and hot, with the giardiniera.
If we’re comparing to Mr. Beef, Al’s Beef is pretty similar, but I think the meat is slightly more tender at Al’s Beef. The only complaint I have is that I think the meat is soaked in spices for either too long or with too many spices (all-spice, specifically). I prefer a more vanilla approach to the meat (it’s meat, it’s good, no need to spice it, I have giardiniera, thanks). But Al’s Beef is a fantastic sandwich and I’d eat one right now and all day until I got sick and then I’d probably have one more.
I prefer the fries at Mr. Beef, they being more shoestring in nature and with less skin, but Al’s Beef gets the fries good and crispy and they came out good and hot.
Logistics: even with just a dipped sandwich, it’s a mess. There’s no restroom at this location, and it would be nice just to have a bird bath somewhere to rinse. Otherwise, it’s a great crest of a meat wave.