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Explore the Meaty Scenes From Chicago’s Inaugural Italian Beef Fest

More than 1800 sandwiches and 460 pounds of beef were served

The first-ever Italian Beef Fest took place on Saturday.
Barry Brecheisen

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.

The first-annual Italian Beef fest took place on Saturday at Revolution Brewing’s taproom.
Barry Brecheisen
Revolution suggested beer pairings for each of the three beef vendors at the fest.
Fest-goers where invited to spin this wheel for prizes.
The event was organized by Buona Beef.
The sandwiches were prepped off-premises because it takes a day of work to make Chicago perfection.
Will this sandwich get the extra jus it deserves?
Only real Chicagoans can spell “giardiniera” without looking it up in a dictionary.
A sandwich from Mr. Beef with hot and sweet peppers.
A woman serving an Italian beef sandwich
Al’s Beef has been around for 80 years.
A sandwich from Al’s with hot peppers.
Reps from Al’s Beef, Mr. Beef, and Buona Beef assemble.
Excited fest attendees show their love of beef.
The esteemed panel, including Elliott Bambrough of Chicago’s Best, enjoy some beefs.

Al's Italian Beef

1079 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 226-4017 Visit Website


10633 South Western Avenue, , IL 60643 (773) 941-6980 Visit Website

Mr. Beef

12320 W 143rd St, Homer Glen, IL 60491 (708) 645-0456

Revolution Brewing

3340 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 588-2267 Visit Website