clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
An Italian beef sandwich in a styrofoam box.
Southtown Sub has the meats.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Where to Chomp on Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago

The craveable treat is getting national recognition thanks to that TV show

View as Map
Southtown Sub has the meats.
| Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Italian beef was once Chicago’s little secret, a result of Italian immigrant innovation, this sandwich was enjoyed with pride. It was highly customizable — get sweet peppers or submerge the French roll in jus. Newer variations allow for melted cheese. The Buona chain even recently began selling a meat-free version.

But, of course, The Bear has shined a spotlight on the sandwich, and chefs around the country have started to create their own versions hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Season 2 of the FX show will move away from the sandwich and chocolate cake, but Chicagoans will remain enamored and ready to argue over which beef stand sells the best sandwich. Follow Eater Chicago’s guide to the most craveable beef in the city.

Read More
If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

The Original Nana's Hot Dogs

Copy Link

Visit this hot dog stand in Streamwood for a host of delicious greasy delights. The tender housemade beef arrives thinly sliced and covered in a flavorful gravy that’s full of dried herbs. There’s also a cheesy beef variant and a mini beef for folks who want to pair the sandwich with an excellent Vienna Beef Depression Dog. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers.
The beef and hot dog at Nana’s are worth making a trip to Streamwood.
The Original Nana’s Hot Dogs [Official Photo]

Jay's Beef

Copy Link

What sets Harwood Heights favorite Jay’s apart from the competition is its quality accoutrements. The sweet peppers sing, the hot peppers are a pleasant mix of celery and jalapeños, and cheeseheads can add provolone or American cheese.

Bob-O's Hot Dogs

Copy Link

Though Bob-O’s originally started off as a hot dog stand, Italian beef is now arguably the main attraction. Beef connoisseurs would do well to head to Dunning for a top-notch sandwich featuring meat made in-house. It’s seasoned, sliced, and cooked daily and should be coupled with an order of the impeccable hand-cut fries. Order online here.

Mr. Beef and Pizza

Copy Link

The Mr. Beef name carries a lot of expectations. Fortunately, this Northwest Side eatery, which is unaffiliated with the River North location (that’s the restaurant The Bear takes inspiration from), lives up to that legacy. Cheese isn’t a usual Italian beef topping but diners can get their sandwiches with mozzarella, American, or cheddar here. A nice mix of herbs and spices season the meat while the giardiniera is flecked with red pepper flakes for extra oomph. Order ahead online. A second outpost is located in Forest Park.

All Too Well

Copy Link

A new Lincoln Park deli and market debuted earlier this year, offering prepared foods, grab-and-go items, dips and spreads, and more. Owner Mitchell Abou Jamra, who also runs All Too Well’s neighboring restaurant Evette’s, pays tribute to his family and upbringing through a lineup of delectable sandwiches. The “Sheffield & Westwood” (named after streets Abou Jamra and his grandparents have lived on) is a Lebanese-influenced Italian beef that gets elevated with sumac giardiniera and crumbled pieces of ground beef kafta. It’s dipped in jus to finish. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich topped with kafta and giardiniera.
All Too Well’s Italian beef has Lebanese influences.
All Too Well [Official Photo]

Phodega

Copy Link

The Italian beef meets Southeast Asian flavors at noodle shop and convenience store Phodega. Owners Nathan Hoops and Anthony Ngo have come up with a variety of fun bites, and among them is a Viet dip consisting of shaved rib eye, cilantro, onions, and jalapenos on French bread. It’s also served with a side of pho jus for dipping so beef lovers who like their sandwiches wet need not worry. Online orders can be placed here.

Serrelli's Finer Foods

Copy Link

Located about a mile and a half from beef goliath Johnnie’s, this Italian grocer often gets overlooked in the discussion of best sandwiches. The meat is mildly seasoned, but the extra hot cauliflower-sport pepper giardiniera helps balance the flavors out. For those who’d rather make their sandwiches at home, Serrelli’s sells its beef in large buckets that are packed to the brim.

Johnnie's Beef

Copy Link

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 others strive for — a perfect balance of sweet or hot peppers and well-seasoned beef that soaks up all the jus. The line often snakes out the door and it’s easy to understand why. This is an iconic bite that every Chicagoan and tourist should experience. There’s a second location in Arlington Heights.

From stunning Instagram-friendly pastries to traditional Filipino dishes featuring modern twists, there’s tons to love about Kasamaone of the country’s best new restaurants. Chef-owner Tim Flores even manages to put his own spin on Chicago’s revered Italian beef with a “Kasama Combo” sandwich that layers shaved pork adobo with longganisa sausage and giardiniera. It’s an ingenious riff that’s every bit as good as the original, if not better. Online ordering is available here.

Mr. Beef on Orleans

Copy Link

There are dining options aplenty in River North but few are as satisfying as this old-school spot (yes, the one from The Bear). The nostalgia-laden space — complete with celebrity photos lining the walls — stands in stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood, while the beef sits in a jus bath 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]

The beloved Italian deli and grocer in West Town is renowned for its selection of subs, but don’t miss the Italian beef. The meat is tender, juicy, thick-cut, and served on a roll that stands up to its beefiness. Get it with the extremely hot house giardiniera for a kick that’ll humble even the most seasoned spice fanatics. Place online orders here.

Al's Italian Beef

Copy Link

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 secret spices and dipped in gravy. So stop in, assume the proper upright eating stance, and savor a bit of Chicago history. Online ordering is available here.

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

Freddy's Pizza

Copy Link

Freddy's showcases the power of giardiniera. The mix of carrots, celery, olives, and sport peppers perfectly complements the beef served at this mom-and-pop grocer and deli, which has been operating in Cicero since 1968.

Scatchell's Beef & Pizza

Copy Link

The eye-catching signs and bright lights outside this longstanding shack beckon passersby in for a messy-yet-glorious Italian beef sandwich. It boasts finely-shaved meat, fantastic gravy, and crunchy 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]

The Duck Inn

Copy Link

As its name suggests, duck headlines the menu at this cozy retro-themed gastro-tavern. But chef-owner Kevin Hickey also delivers mouthwatering Midwestern comfort fare, including a “Decent Beef” sandwich. His take on the Chicago classic features thinly sliced prime rib and beefy jus flavored with Calabrian chilies, garlic, oregano, basil, and rosemary. The beef is tucked inside a crusty Italian sub roll and topped with optional accompaniments like giardiniera, sweet peppers, and melted cheese. Diners can also dial up the decadence by adding black truffle shavings. Online ordering is available here.

Novi's Beef

Copy Link

Established in the ‘60s, Novi’s is an institution out in southwest suburban Berwyn. The thick-cut beef marinates in gravy laced with 15 different spices and the hot giardiniera, a reddish blend of celery and chili oil, bursts with heat and is a must for spicy food lovers. The restaurant offers catering packages and ships its sandwiches too. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich next to a bag of fries.
Novi’s giardiniera brings the heat.
Novi’s Beef [Official Photo]

Can't Believe It's Not Meat

Copy Link

With three locations, this mini-chain specializes in taking Chicago classics meat-free. Its Italian beef comes with cheese and uses slices of soy instead of thinly sliced beef. The danger here is the sodium level, but for a meat-free option, this one is good.

Southtown Sub

Copy Link

This family-owned sub shop has been around since 1994 and recently moved from Bronzeville to Park Manor. The secret to their subs, which use Turano French loaves, is the homemade gravy which packs a little bit more zest than the traditional Italian recipe.

Tony's Italian Beef

Copy Link

South Siders swear by Tony’s, where the thick-sliced beef pleases and the unique giardiniera contains garbanzo beans. Traditionalists will be happy with the standard beef sandwich but for an unbeatable combo, order it alongside Italian sausage. The restaurant also sells beef by the pound in party trays.

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

Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage

Copy Link

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

Loading comments...

The Original Nana's Hot Dogs

Visit this hot dog stand in Streamwood for a host of delicious greasy delights. The tender housemade beef arrives thinly sliced and covered in a flavorful gravy that’s full of dried herbs. There’s also a cheesy beef variant and a mini beef for folks who want to pair the sandwich with an excellent Vienna Beef Depression Dog. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers.
The beef and hot dog at Nana’s are worth making a trip to Streamwood.
The Original Nana’s Hot Dogs [Official Photo]

Jay's Beef

What sets Harwood Heights favorite Jay’s apart from the competition is its quality accoutrements. The sweet peppers sing, the hot peppers are a pleasant mix of celery and jalapeños, and cheeseheads can add provolone or American cheese.

Bob-O's Hot Dogs

Though Bob-O’s originally started off as a hot dog stand, Italian beef is now arguably the main attraction. Beef connoisseurs would do well to head to Dunning for a top-notch sandwich featuring meat made in-house. It’s seasoned, sliced, and cooked daily and should be coupled with an order of the impeccable hand-cut fries. Order online here.

Mr. Beef and Pizza

The Mr. Beef name carries a lot of expectations. Fortunately, this Northwest Side eatery, which is unaffiliated with the River North location (that’s the restaurant The Bear takes inspiration from), lives up to that legacy. Cheese isn’t a usual Italian beef topping but diners can get their sandwiches with mozzarella, American, or cheddar here. A nice mix of herbs and spices season the meat while the giardiniera is flecked with red pepper flakes for extra oomph. Order ahead online. A second outpost is located in Forest Park.

All Too Well

A new Lincoln Park deli and market debuted earlier this year, offering prepared foods, grab-and-go items, dips and spreads, and more. Owner Mitchell Abou Jamra, who also runs All Too Well’s neighboring restaurant Evette’s, pays tribute to his family and upbringing through a lineup of delectable sandwiches. The “Sheffield & Westwood” (named after streets Abou Jamra and his grandparents have lived on) is a Lebanese-influenced Italian beef that gets elevated with sumac giardiniera and crumbled pieces of ground beef kafta. It’s dipped in jus to finish. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich topped with kafta and giardiniera.
All Too Well’s Italian beef has Lebanese influences.
All Too Well [Official Photo]

Phodega

The Italian beef meets Southeast Asian flavors at noodle shop and convenience store Phodega. Owners Nathan Hoops and Anthony Ngo have come up with a variety of fun bites, and among them is a Viet dip consisting of shaved rib eye, cilantro, onions, and jalapenos on French bread. It’s also served with a side of pho jus for dipping so beef lovers who like their sandwiches wet need not worry. Online orders can be placed here.

Serrelli's Finer Foods

Located about a mile and a half from beef goliath Johnnie’s, this Italian grocer often gets overlooked in the discussion of best sandwiches. The meat is mildly seasoned, but the extra hot cauliflower-sport pepper giardiniera helps balance the flavors out. For those who’d rather make their sandwiches at home, Serrelli’s sells its beef in large buckets that are packed to the brim.

Johnnie's Beef

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 others strive for — a perfect balance of sweet or hot peppers and well-seasoned beef that soaks up all the jus. The line often snakes out the door and it’s easy to understand why. This is an iconic bite that every Chicagoan and tourist should experience. There’s a second location in Arlington Heights.

Kasama

From stunning Instagram-friendly pastries to traditional Filipino dishes featuring modern twists, there’s tons to love about Kasamaone of the country’s best new restaurants. Chef-owner Tim Flores even manages to put his own spin on Chicago’s revered Italian beef with a “Kasama Combo” sandwich that layers shaved pork adobo with longganisa sausage and giardiniera. It’s an ingenious riff that’s every bit as good as the original, if not better. Online ordering is available here.

Mr. Beef on Orleans

There are dining options aplenty in River North but few are as satisfying as this old-school spot (yes, the one from The Bear). The nostalgia-laden space — complete with celebrity photos lining the walls — stands in stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood, while the beef sits in a jus bath 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]

Bari

The beloved Italian deli and grocer in West Town is renowned for its selection of subs, but don’t miss the Italian beef. The meat is tender, juicy, thick-cut, and served on a roll that stands up to its beefiness. Get it with the extremely hot house giardiniera for a kick that’ll humble even the most seasoned spice fanatics. Place online orders here.

Al's Italian Beef

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 secret spices and dipped in gravy. So stop in, assume the proper upright eating stance, and savor a bit of Chicago history. Online ordering is available here.

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

Freddy's Pizza

Freddy's showcases the power of giardiniera. The mix of carrots, celery, olives, and sport peppers perfectly complements the beef served at this mom-and-pop grocer and deli, which has been operating in Cicero since 1968.

Scatchell's Beef & Pizza

The eye-catching signs and bright lights outside this longstanding shack beckon passersby in for a messy-yet-glorious Italian beef sandwich. It boasts finely-shaved meat, fantastic gravy, and crunchy 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]

The Duck Inn

As its name suggests, duck headlines the menu at this cozy retro-themed gastro-tavern. But chef-owner Kevin Hickey also delivers mouthwatering Midwestern comfort fare, including a “Decent Beef” sandwich. His take on the Chicago classic features thinly sliced prime rib and beefy jus flavored with Calabrian chilies, garlic, oregano, basil, and rosemary. The beef is tucked inside a crusty Italian sub roll and topped with optional accompaniments like giardiniera, sweet peppers, and melted cheese. Diners can also dial up the decadence by adding black truffle shavings. Online ordering is available here.

Related Maps

Novi's Beef

Established in the ‘60s, Novi’s is an institution out in southwest suburban Berwyn. The thick-cut beef marinates in gravy laced with 15 different spices and the hot giardiniera, a reddish blend of celery and chili oil, bursts with heat and is a must for spicy food lovers. The restaurant offers catering packages and ships its sandwiches too. Online ordering is available here.

An Italian beef sandwich next to a bag of fries.
Novi’s giardiniera brings the heat.
Novi’s Beef [Official Photo]

Can't Believe It's Not Meat

With three locations, this mini-chain specializes in taking Chicago classics meat-free. Its Italian beef comes with cheese and uses slices of soy instead of thinly sliced beef. The danger here is the sodium level, but for a meat-free option, this one is good.

Southtown Sub

This family-owned sub shop has been around since 1994 and recently moved from Bronzeville to Park Manor. The secret to their subs, which use Turano French loaves, is the homemade gravy which packs a little bit more zest than the traditional Italian recipe.

Tony's Italian Beef

South Siders swear by Tony’s, where the thick-sliced beef pleases and the unique giardiniera contains garbanzo beans. Traditionalists will be happy with the standard beef sandwich but for an unbeatable combo, order it alongside Italian sausage. The restaurant also sells beef by the pound in party trays.

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

Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage

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

Related Maps