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An Italian beef with peppers.
Al’s Beef is a quintessential Chicago experience.
Official Photo

Chicago's 20 Essential Italian Beef Sandwiches

The very best in beef

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Al’s Beef is a quintessential Chicago experience.
| Official Photo

When it comes to Chicago’s signature foods, Italian beef is undoubtedly one of the city’s most cherished. It's a sandwich that's wholly unique to this great city and sparks fierce debate over who does it the best. Because there's a plethora of delicious options all over town, it's impossible to choose just one. Instead, here are 20 messy favorites that are worth the indulgence. New additions to the list for 2020 include suburban market Frangella, South Side stalwart Carm’s, and Time Out Market vendor Decent Beef.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Roma's Italian Beef & Sausage

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4237 N Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 725-5715
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Northwest Side residents have favored this Portage Park stand for all of their Italian beef needs since the ‘70s. The meat is nicely seasoned and carries a bit of spice in each bite. It can be paired with a Hot Doug’s atomic sausage, but be sure to get there early as the popular combo tends to sell out.

2. Bob-O's Hot Dogs

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8258 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60634
(773) 625-9840
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Though Bob-O’s originally got its start as a hot dog stand, Italian beef is now arguably the main attraction. Beef connoisseurs would do well to head to the Northwest Side spot for a top-notch sandwich featuring housemade meat. It’s seasoned, sliced, and cooked daily and should be coupled with an order of the impeccable hand-cut fries.

3. Mr. Beef and Pizza

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3917 N Harlem Ave
Chicago, IL 60634
(773) 283-7444

The Mr. Beef name carries a lot of expectations. Fortunately, this Dunning eatery, which is unaffiliated with the ones in River North and Homer Glen, lives up to that legacy. Cheese isn’t a usual Italian beef condiment but diners can get their sandwiches topped with mozzarella here. A nice balance of herbs and spices permeate the meat while the giardiniera is flecked with red pepper flakes for extra oomph.

4. Jay's Beef

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2255 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 772-2333
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This suburban-based beef chain’s sandwich accoutrements helps set it apart from the competition. The sweet peppers sing, hot peppers are a pleasant mix of celery and jalapeños, and cheeseheads can add provolone or liquid cheddar on top. The original location is in Harwood Heights and there’s another outpost in Schiller Park too.

5. Johnnie's Beef

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7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park
IL, 60707
(708) 452-6000

There will never be an agreement on the best Italian beef in Chicago but Johnnie’s is the closest to a consensus. Its sandwich is considered by many to be the shining standard that others strive to achieve — a perfect balance of sweet or hot peppers and well-seasoned beef to soak up all the jus. The line often snakes out the door and it’s easy to understand why; this is one greasy delight that every Chicagoan should experience. There’s also a location in Arlington Heights.

6. Mr. Beef on Orleans

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666 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 337-8500
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There are dining options aplenty in River North but few are as satisfying as this old-school spot. The nostalgic space — complete with celebrity photos lining the walls — is a stark contrast to the neighborhood, while the beef sits in a jus bath each day to enhance the flavor before being loaded onto a crusty roll that’s able to hold up to the juices.

An Italian beef sandwich with hot and sweet peppers.
Mr. Beef on Orleans has its share of celebrity fans, including Jay Leno.
Mr. Beef on Orleans [Official Photo]

7. Portillo's

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100 W Ontario St, Chicago
IL, 60654
(312) 587-8910
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It’s true: Chicago’s beloved fast food chain makes a mean sandwich that manages to hold its own against the city’s dedicated Italian beef purveyors. The menu also offers a non-traditional choice, the “Beef-N-Cheddar Croissant”, as well as a “Big Beef” for the biggest appetites. And thanks to several dozen locations across Chicagoland, a quality Italian beef is never too far away.

8. Bari

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1120 W Grand Ave, Chicago
IL, 60642
(312) 666-0730
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This Italian deli and grocer in West Town is renowned for its selection of subs, but don’t overlook the Italian beef. The meat is tender, juicy, and thick-cut, and served on a roll that stands up to its beefiness. Get it with super-hot housemade giardiniera for a spicy kick.

9. Decent Beef (Time Out Market)

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916 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 637-3888
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Chef Kevin Hickey’s acclaimed Bridgeport restaurant the Duck Inn delivers retro-inspired Midwestern comfort fare. But at his new Time Out Market stall, he narrows the focus even further to Italian beef. The excellent sandwich features shaved prime rib, beef jus, and giardiniera and sweet peppers in a crusty roll. Vegans aren’t left in the dark either, as there’s a “Beet Street” variation that substitutes meat for roasted shaved beets and umami jus.

An Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers.
A prime rib sandwich from Decent Beef is among the options at Time Out Market.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

10. Luke's Italian Beef

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215 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago
IL, 60606
(312) 939-4204
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Hungry workers in the Loop know Luke’s reigns supreme when it comes to Italian beef. It’s a value too, as $4.65 buys a sizeable sandwich that provides enough sustenance to last a while. Tourists also frequent the restaurant due to its central location, but they’re worth enduring for the food.

11. Carm's Beef and Italian Ice

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1057 W Polk St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 738-1046
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Established in 1929, Carm’s is one of Little Italy’s standbys for Italian beef and ices. Tender and well-seasoned meat arrives in garlicky jus alongside jalapeno-and-celery-based peppers that add an extra layer of depth to the sandwich. Like many of Chicago’s other beef experts, this no-frills joint has earned a devoted following for its first-rate version.

12. Al's Italian Beef

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1079 W Taylor St, Chicago
IL, 60607
(312) 226-4017
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The purported origins of the Italian beef sandwich can be traced back to this Taylor Street stand in Little Italy. That’s where Al Ferrari and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli Sr., set up shop in 1938 and started popularizing what would become one of the city's iconic foods. Today, the original location is still in business and the beef remains unchanged — marinated in a secret spice blend and dipped in gravy. So stop in, assume the proper upright eating stance, and savor a bit of Chicago history.

An Italian beef with peppers.
Al’s was one of the earliest Italian beef makers.
Al’s Beef [Official Photo]

13. The Original Chickies

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4152 Roosevelt Rd
Hillside, IL 60162
(708) 449-1000
Visit Website

This beef specialist was first opened in 1962 on the city’s Southwest Side but found new life several years ago out in Hillside. Run by the grandchildren of original owner Bob Bailey, Chickie’s continues to impress using the same family recipe – tender, thinly-sliced beef dipped in peppery gravy and topped with housemade giardiniera.

An Italian beef with peppers.
The Original Chickies is a suburban favorite for beef sandwiches.
The Original Chickies [Official Photo]

14. Freddy's Pizza

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1600 S 61st Ave
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 863-9289
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Freddy's is a reminder of the power of giardiniera. Its mix of carrots, celery, olives, and sport peppers perfectly complements the beef served at this mom-and-pop grocer and deli that’s been operating in Cicero since 1968.

15. Scatchell's Beef & Pizza

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4700 W Cermak Rd
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 656-0911
Visit Website

The eye-catching signs and bright lights of this longstanding shack beckon passersby in for a messy-yet-glorious Italian beef sandwich boasting finely-shaved meat, fantastic gravy, and crunchy housemade giardiniera that’s made with celery and red pepper flakes.

An Italian beef with giardiniera.
It’s hard to miss Scatchell’s while driving down Cermak Road.
Scatchell’s [Official Photo]

16. Tony's Italian Beef

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7007 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago
IL, 60629
(773) 284-6787
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South Siders swear by Tony’s, where the thickly-sliced beef pleases and the unique giardiniera contains garbanzo beans. Traditionalists will be happy with the standard beef sandwich but for something a little different, try the “Corleone.” It’s packed with grilled beef, grilled onions, mozzarella, and giardiniera on toasted Italian bread.

An Italian beef with fries.
Tony’s has been serving the South Side since 1975.
Tony’s [Official Photo]

17. Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage

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10337 S Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60655
(773) 239-1243
Visit Website

The jus is the star of the show at Pop’s, the suburban chain. The meat isn’t “melt-in-your-mouth” tender, but provides a pleasurable jaw workout.

18. Buona

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10633 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 941-6980
Visit Website

A restaurant whose name translates to “good beef” better be able to back up that claim. Like its local counterparts Portillo’s and Al’s, Buona might surprise some who have low expectations for a chain. Consistency can be an issue but at the end of the day, diners know what they’re getting — a hearty beefy sandwich.

An Italian beef with giardiniera.
Buona has multiple locations across the city and suburbs.
Buona [Official Photo]

19. Frangella Italian Market

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11925 S 80th Ave
Palos Park, IL 60464
(708) 448-2598
Visit Website

Over in suburban Palos Park, this Italian market sells more than just groceries. The deli churns out an exceptional sandwich; instead of soaking in juices, the roasted beef is sliced to order and takes a quick dip in gravy before meeting the bread. It’s taken to greater heights with the addition of zippy giardiniera and sweet green peppers.

20. The Original Mr. Beef

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

It’s a bit outside Chicago city limits but Homer Glen is home to arguably the finest Italian beef sandwich. This suburban dining destination, which is unrelated to the other two Mr. Beef businesses, uses a secret recipe that dates back to the ‘60s. Current owner Carl Bonavolanto III continues the family tradition of serving luscious thin slices of beef with garlicky jus and superb hot giardiniera that doesn’t overwhelm the palate.

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1. Roma's Italian Beef & Sausage

4237 N Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL 60641

Northwest Side residents have favored this Portage Park stand for all of their Italian beef needs since the ‘70s. The meat is nicely seasoned and carries a bit of spice in each bite. It can be paired with a Hot Doug’s atomic sausage, but be sure to get there early as the popular combo tends to sell out.

4237 N Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60641

2. Bob-O's Hot Dogs

8258 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60634

Though Bob-O’s originally got its start as a hot dog stand, Italian beef is now arguably the main attraction. Beef connoisseurs would do well to head to the Northwest Side spot for a top-notch sandwich featuring housemade meat. It’s seasoned, sliced, and cooked daily and should be coupled with an order of the impeccable hand-cut fries.

8258 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60634

3. Mr. Beef and Pizza

3917 N Harlem Ave, Chicago, IL 60634

The Mr. Beef name carries a lot of expectations. Fortunately, this Dunning eatery, which is unaffiliated with the ones in River North and Homer Glen, lives up to that legacy. Cheese isn’t a usual Italian beef condiment but diners can get their sandwiches topped with mozzarella here. A nice balance of herbs and spices permeate the meat while the giardiniera is flecked with red pepper flakes for extra oomph.

3917 N Harlem Ave
Chicago, IL 60634

4. Jay's Beef

2255 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

This suburban-based beef chain’s sandwich accoutrements helps set it apart from the competition. The sweet peppers sing, hot peppers are a pleasant mix of celery and jalapeños, and cheeseheads can add provolone or liquid cheddar on top. The original location is in Harwood Heights and there’s another outpost in Schiller Park too.

2255 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

5. Johnnie's Beef

7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park, IL, 60707

There will never be an agreement on the best Italian beef in Chicago but Johnnie’s is the closest to a consensus. Its sandwich is considered by many to be the shining standard that others strive to achieve — a perfect balance of sweet or hot peppers and well-seasoned beef to soak up all the jus. The line often snakes out the door and it’s easy to understand why; this is one greasy delight that every Chicagoan should experience. There’s also a location in Arlington Heights.

7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park
IL, 60707

6. Mr. Beef on Orleans

666 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654
An Italian beef sandwich with hot and sweet peppers.
Mr. Beef on Orleans has its share of celebrity fans, including Jay Leno.
Mr. Beef on Orleans [Official Photo]

There are dining options aplenty in River North but few are as satisfying as this old-school spot. The nostalgic space — complete with celebrity photos lining the walls — is a stark contrast to the neighborhood, while the beef sits in a jus bath each day to enhance the flavor before being loaded onto a crusty roll that’s able to hold up to the juices.

666 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60654

7. Portillo's

100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL, 60654

It’s true: Chicago’s beloved fast food chain makes a mean sandwich that manages to hold its own against the city’s dedicated Italian beef purveyors. The menu also offers a non-traditional choice, the “Beef-N-Cheddar Croissant”, as well as a “Big Beef” for the biggest appetites. And thanks to several dozen locations across Chicagoland, a quality Italian beef is never too far away.

100 W Ontario St, Chicago
IL, 60654

8. Bari

1120 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL, 60642

This Italian deli and grocer in West Town is renowned for its selection of subs, but don’t overlook the Italian beef. The meat is tender, juicy, and thick-cut, and served on a roll that stands up to its beefiness. Get it with super-hot housemade giardiniera for a spicy kick.

1120 W Grand Ave, Chicago
IL, 60642

9. Decent Beef (Time Out Market)

916 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
An Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers.
A prime rib sandwich from Decent Beef is among the options at Time Out Market.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chef Kevin Hickey’s acclaimed Bridgeport restaurant the Duck Inn delivers retro-inspired Midwestern comfort fare. But at his new Time Out Market stall, he narrows the focus even further to Italian beef. The excellent sandwich features shaved prime rib, beef jus, and giardiniera and sweet peppers in a crusty roll. Vegans aren’t left in the dark either, as there’s a “Beet Street” variation that substitutes meat for roasted shaved beets and umami jus.

916 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

10. Luke's Italian Beef

215 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL, 60606

Hungry workers in the Loop know Luke’s reigns supreme when it comes to Italian beef. It’s a value too, as $4.65 buys a sizeable sandwich that provides enough sustenance to last a while. Tourists also frequent the restaurant due to its central location, but they’re worth enduring for the food.

215 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago
IL, 60606

11. Carm's Beef and Italian Ice

1057 W Polk St, Chicago, IL 60607

Established in 1929, Carm’s is one of Little Italy’s standbys for Italian beef and ices. Tender and well-seasoned meat arrives in garlicky jus alongside jalapeno-and-celery-based peppers that add an extra layer of depth to the sandwich. Like many of Chicago’s other beef experts, this no-frills joint has earned a devoted following for its first-rate version.

1057 W Polk St
Chicago, IL 60607

12. Al's Italian Beef

1079 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL, 60607
An Italian beef with peppers.
Al’s was one of the earliest Italian beef makers.
Al’s Beef [Official Photo]

The purported origins of the Italian beef sandwich can be traced back to this Taylor Street stand in Little Italy. That’s where Al Ferrari and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli Sr., set up shop in 1938 and started popularizing what would become one of the city's iconic foods. Today, the original location is still in business and the beef remains unchanged — marinated in a secret spice blend and dipped in gravy. So stop in, assume the proper upright eating stance, and savor a bit of Chicago history.

1079 W Taylor St, Chicago
IL, 60607

13. The Original Chickies

4152 Roosevelt Rd, Hillside, IL 60162
An Italian beef with peppers.
The Original Chickies is a suburban favorite for beef sandwiches.
The Original Chickies [Official Photo]

This beef specialist was first opened in 1962 on the city’s Southwest Side but found new life several years ago out in Hillside. Run by the grandchildren of original owner Bob Bailey, Chickie’s continues to impress using the same family recipe – tender, thinly-sliced beef dipped in peppery gravy and topped with housemade giardiniera.

4152 Roosevelt Rd
Hillside, IL 60162

14. Freddy's Pizza

1600 S 61st Ave, Cicero, IL 60804

Freddy's is a reminder of the power of giardiniera. Its mix of carrots, celery, olives, and sport peppers perfectly complements the beef served at this mom-and-pop grocer and deli that’s been operating in Cicero since 1968.

1600 S 61st Ave
Cicero, IL 60804

15. Scatchell's Beef & Pizza

4700 W Cermak Rd, Cicero, IL 60804
An Italian beef with giardiniera.
It’s hard to miss Scatchell’s while driving down Cermak Road.
Scatchell’s [Official Photo]

The eye-catching signs and bright lights of this longstanding shack beckon passersby in for a messy-yet-glorious Italian beef sandwich boasting finely-shaved meat, fantastic gravy, and crunchy housemade giardiniera that’s made with celery and red pepper flakes.

4700 W Cermak Rd
Cicero, IL 60804

Related Maps

16. Tony's Italian Beef

7007 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL, 60629
An Italian beef with fries.
Tony’s has been serving the South Side since 1975.
Tony’s [Official Photo]

South Siders swear by Tony’s, where the thickly-sliced beef pleases and the unique giardiniera contains garbanzo beans. Traditionalists will be happy with the standard beef sandwich but for something a little different, try the “Corleone.” It’s packed with grilled beef, grilled onions, mozzarella, and giardiniera on toasted Italian bread.

7007 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago
IL, 60629

17. Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage

10337 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60655

The jus is the star of the show at Pop’s, the suburban chain. The meat isn’t “melt-in-your-mouth” tender, but provides a pleasurable jaw workout.

10337 S Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60655

18. Buona

10633 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60643
An Italian beef with giardiniera.
Buona has multiple locations across the city and suburbs.
Buona [Official Photo]

A restaurant whose name translates to “good beef” better be able to back up that claim. Like its local counterparts Portillo’s and Al’s, Buona might surprise some who have low expectations for a chain. Consistency can be an issue but at the end of the day, diners know what they’re getting — a hearty beefy sandwich.

10633 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60643

19. Frangella Italian Market

11925 S 80th Ave, Palos Park, IL 60464

Over in suburban Palos Park, this Italian market sells more than just groceries. The deli churns out an exceptional sandwich; instead of soaking in juices, the roasted beef is sliced to order and takes a quick dip in gravy before meeting the bread. It’s taken to greater heights with the addition of zippy giardiniera and sweet green peppers.

11925 S 80th Ave
Palos Park, IL 60464

20. The Original Mr. Beef

12320 W 143rd St, Homer Glen, IL, 60491

It’s a bit outside Chicago city limits but Homer Glen is home to arguably the finest Italian beef sandwich. This suburban dining destination, which is unrelated to the other two Mr. Beef businesses, uses a secret recipe that dates back to the ‘60s. Current owner Carl Bonavolanto III continues the family tradition of serving luscious thin slices of beef with garlicky jus and superb hot giardiniera that doesn’t overwhelm the palate.

12320 W 143rd St, Homer Glen
IL, 60491

Related Maps