Chicagoans attempted to cool off this Memorial Day weekend at the first-ever Italian Beef Festival as the event brought together the sandwich’s three famed forefathers. The scene was chill on Saturday afternoon inside Revolution Brewing’s Avondale taproom. It was chill as long as attendees stayed away from the hot giardiniera. The essential spicy condiment can make eaters sweat regardless of the weather.
Chicago is a world-class culinary city, but organizers said they felt the Italian beef — the quintessential Windy City sandwich — deserved more attention. The fest featured sandwiches from Buona Beef, the suburban mini chain; Al’s Italian Beef, the 80-year-old chain that began on Taylor Street; and Mr. Beef in suburban Homer Glenn, the River North spot that former Tonight Show host Jay Leno loved. Organizers said they’ll expand the festival next year to include more vendors. One’s Italian beef preference is the stuff of a good internet argument. Chicago’s neighborhoods are littered with beef stands with different takes on the thin-sliced seasoned-beef sandwich. Alton Brown tapped into that passion by conducting his own taste test back in 2016.
More than 1800 Italian beef sandwiches and 460 pounds of beef were served at the inaugural event. One person in each of the two sessions won eating contests and donned WWF-style championship belts. Two people won free beef for the year. And more than $4,000 was raised for the Anthony Rizzo Foundation.
Take a look at the scene below.