Who has the best Italian Beef Sandwich and why?

So I decided to start a discussion on LinkedIn Chicago Group about “who has the best Italian Beef Sandwich and why?” just to see what kind of response I would get and man has it been overwhelming. I had recently asked a question to the group LinkedIN Chicago about who had the best Italian beef and why? Here are the some of the responses we received:

Why People Choose Portillo’s

    1. Portillo’s. The bread is soft, easy to chew and the flavor is AWESOME!! Even my children who are picky eaters love the Italian beef sandwiches, YUMM!!!!! I am glad there is not one close by, or I would eat one all of the time, UGH!! Now I want a Portillo’s sandwich. The craving has begun. – Phaedra Weiler


    1. 1st place now is Portillo’s with Hot peppers and cheddar cheese. But there used to be a place in Schaumburg called Zippy’s they used to be the best! – Julie Kosanovich


      1. PORTILLO’S. Consistently good, devoid of those chewy veins & grizzle 99% of the time. Spiced right, have it your way – wet, dry,etc. and those sweet peppers. I’m going there now…….. – Stephen D. Guardi

Being an ex-Chicagoan in the UK with a wife who loves Italian Beef Sandwiches since I introduced them to her, I’ve had to rely on using our slow cooker for Italian Beef, not the same but it is getting better as I make it more and more. The best ones we’ve had when visiting the area are certainly Portillos and Beef Villa

Ian Gehm

    1. Portillo’s. I have never had a bad Italian Beef there, regardless of the location. – Grant Epstein


    1. Portillo’s…without a doubt! Beef dipped with hot giardiniera – THE BEST!!! – Steve Baumann


    1. Portillos – with mozzarella, hot peppers and double dip it!! – Tracy Barnhart


    1. Portillo’s is always good, and the wetter the better, along with the hot peppers. I also like their Chicago hot dogs. – Mark Engelen


    1. Portillos! Dipped with peppers! Absolutely perfect! – Sherri Jones


    1. I’m a Chicago refugee in Atlanta and all I can say is thank goodness Portillo’s ships here.Good to know no matter where you go…the beef can go with you. – Terry YormarkThere is still a Zippy’s (“home of the cheesy beef”) at 830 N. Roselle Rd. in Hoffman Estates. Good….but I gotta go with the Portillo’s crowd. – Jeff Hitz Julie


    1. Most definitely it’s Portillo’s and my favorite sandwich is a combo, dipped, with giardiniera and 2 pieces of yellow American cheese melted on it. Serious flavor and goodness. – John Mc Hugh


  1. I love the green peppers on Portillo’s Italian Beef; I’ve been told previously that Carm’s is the best and I hope to find out soon since they now opened a location in Tinley Park, but the best that I’ve had to date was from a little tavern in the Pullman neighborhood by the name of Lucky Lady. Wet, with giardiniera(sp?). They’ve been closed for a couple of years now but I still find myself wishing for just one more99. – Brian K. Leonard

Why People Choose Johnnie’s

    1. The best is Johnnie’s for sure. Second place…Tore & Luke’s in Arlinton Hts. – Nina Madoni


    1. Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park dipped with sweet! – John Cecala


    1. Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park, Illinois. We are creatures of habit, but it’s still a great place for those who grew up in the area. – Michael Lassin


    1. I Love Johnnie’s in Elmwood Park – Beef wet with hot peppers! – Andrea Christ


    1. Johnnie’s dipped with hot peppers – Jeff Evenson


    1. Johnnies Beef is first; Al’s is 2nd, followed by Buona. Hot & sweet – dipped. Too bad Carm’s is closed. – Paul Prybylo


    1. I’m going to have to go: 1) Johnnie’s 2) Al’s Beef (Little Italy) 3) Portillo’s (any location). – Brian Starewicz


    1. A juicy beef from Johnnie’s in Elmwood Park – Maria Pinto


    1. Johnnies, in Elmwood Park, IL. Good wet or dry, has just the right amount of black pepper. Sauteed sweet peppers, giardiniera available. They have an indoor charcoal grill, so if you’d like a combo – this is the place to go. – Lou Dasaro


    1. Johnny’s in EP rocks. The Italian Ice is great too. I may be a bit prejudiced as I grew up there – Joanne Garcia


  1. Johnny’s and then Max’s on western who has a contest going for eating their huge sandwich, if you lose you PAY $35.00!!! – Howard Mock

Johnnie’s has another location in Arlington Heights (to my husband’s delight). We once drove from Palatine to Elmwood Park for beef sandwiches and had our two little ones sitting in the back of our minivan with their lemon ices. The Arlington Heights locations have seating areas! Wet for me, combo for hubby.

Kathryn Graszer

  1. Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park hands down. Order it dipped, with sweet and hot! Then get an Italian ice for dessert!
John Gaimari

    1. CPA Many amazing beef spots in Chicago… Johnny’s in Elmwood park is my favorite (and most on here will probably agree), but you also have the Al’s franchises, Carm’s in Westchester/Hillside area, and then, of course, places such as Portillo’s and Buona that have consistently great beef sandwiches! – Mike Novack


  1. Fortunate to be an NW-Sider we have quite a selection…..fave’s are Johnnie’s Beef in EP or Arlington Hts (don’t 4get the Italian ice)……. Mr. Beef on Harlem, Jays Beef & Lukes on Harlem. – John Scarsella


  1. The perpetual line outside of Johnnie’s Beef says it all. I am a huge fan of bread … this bread (I’m pretty sure it’s Gonnella) can withstand the dip. Now if only my stomach can withstand the hot! Thankfully they have homemade Italian Ice to help soothe the burn! Bring cash and take a lot of napkins! – Lauren McLean


  1. No doubt about it; it was Carms Beef in Hillside, but they are closed. There is one in Chicago, but after that, I would say Flips in Glen Ellyn, Johnnies Beef in Elmwood park. Of course, my wife is Italian so the best beef comes from my home in Wheaton. You definitely want it hot and wet not dry, with Italian peppers and maybe Giardiniera. – Jeff Wombold David


  1. As an expert Italian Beefeater…Johnny’s #1….For a catering function with beef and sausage, nobody beats Cuomo’s Catering, Northlake, IL. 708-344-766031. K N Al’s32. Peter Bria Portillo’s for sure. – Neal Katz

Why People Choose Al’s

Al’s on Taylor street hands down! The seasoning makes it the best – you can get it dry or juicy. Afterwards, you can top it off with an Italian ice from Mario’s across the street. ? Nothing makes a better summer night!

Lisa McAlpin

  1. There are plenty of places to get a good beef in Chicago, but, Al’s on Taylor is the best. I have and will continue to argue this point until everyone agrees. – Quin McCarthy


  1. Al’s in Ontario. Just the right balance of tender beef, juice and peppers. – Rebecca Bloomfield


  1. Al’s Beef on Taylor St. puts Portillo’s to shame, although I do agree with Mark that Carm’s has a nice bite as well, but I prefer Al’s au jus.Cheddar cheese on a beef sandwich? Seriously Julie? Are you a ketchup on hot dogs gal as well? – Brian Mauer


  1. Living in Las Vegas now I’ve lost touch with Chicago’s Beef Stands, but as a kid there used to be a place called Carm’s on Cicero off the Eisenhower, or off of Harlem. Does it still exist? Every time I go back “home” to Chicago I now go to Big Al’s on Taylor Street across from Mario’s Italian Lemonade Stand. Great Beef and Combos. Wet of course – Marc Pacino


  1. Chicago native — years of research — my favorite is Al’s on Taylor . Out in the west burbs, Augustino’s (Carol Stream) & Flips (Glen Ellyn). Portillo’s is good, but feels more ‘fast food’. Never been to Johnny’s — sounds like I’ve gotta have one. 🙂 – Sandy Nielsen


  1. Crazy as it may sound, the suburban Al’s franchises are the best Al’s Beef around (including the one in Chicago at 55th St. and the Ryan Expressway). – Norm Levin


  1. The original Al’s Beef on Taylor Street. Great flavor, with a hint of cumin. Don’t forget the giardiniera! – Kevin Trabaris


  1. Al’s on Taylor St. the combo is the way to go with their homemade giardiniera, not too wet! – Gregory Gaymont

Why People Choose Mr. Beef

  1. Mr. Beef on Orleans, with Portillo’s a close 2nd. Why? The taste! Wet or dry, not dipped. Have been disappointed with Johnny’s in Elmwood Park. – John McCormack


  1. Mr. Beef on Orleans is always great. Beef Dipped with Hot Peppers enjoyed in the elegant dining room. Roma’s on the north side at North Cicero Avenue / West Hutchinson Street. Pop’s in NW Indiana is great. The Hot peppers have a great mix of celery to jalapenos ratio. Grab napkins. – Tom Hemingway


  1. Mr. Beef hands down. Just try their BBQ beef sandwich and you’ll see what I mean. Portillo’s a close second. – John Manfredy


  1. Mr. Beef on Orleans! All the stars go there! Outstanding beef dipped or dry. – Phil Burnstine

Why People Choose Buona Beef

I know its “anti-Chicago” but I prefer Buono Beef to Portillos. Their meat is leaner and spicier…now I guess I know where I’m headed for lunch…

Debbie Nelson

  1. Buona Beef in Berwyn…good stuff!! (other Buona locations as well) – Rosario Signorile


  1. Lived in Forest Park for 15 years, still prefer Buena Beef on Oak Park and Roosevelt and Gina’s Italian Ice next door was always great on a hot summer day. Just thought Johnnies in EP was over priced but still flavorful.

The Hidden Gems

  1. Grew up in the city…best I ever had was Roma’s over at Berteau and Cicero on the NW side. – Michael Chagdes
  2. Colette Halpin: Pop’s Beef – locations in Chicago and the south suburbs….. wet with sweet & hot peppers.
  3. Paradise Pup on River road in Des Plaines. Wet with lots of Marconi’s Giardiniera! They have great hot dogs too! – Lee Misiak
  4. Paul’s in Westchester. Huge sandwich with very tender and tasty beef. I love my very wet with mozzarella cheese. – Mark Holan
  1. Without a doubt it’s Carms Beef. A little stand in Hillside at 1801 S. Wolf. Incredible beef, bread, juice, and Giardiniera. mmm, mmm great! – Mark Kischner
  2. Jay’s beef is great. Local folks that own several locations including Schiller Park, Harwood Hts, and a few other locations. Never heard a complaint about them.They can also cater or put together bulk sales. – Ed Riordan
  3. MBA John’s in the south suburbs 147th & Kedzie has the best beef!! Hearty Italian bread, red sauce, and peppers… simply delicious!! – Diane Korbakis

Duke’s Drive-In. Bridgeview (81st & Harlem). W/ hot giarde7niera, mozzarella, & red sauce.

Clarence Carr

Hard to beat an Italian Beef from Taylor St… too many places serve a plain roast beef sandwich and call it Italian Beef.

Patrick Sharpe

  1. 31) Jack Hynes: Tony’s Beef on 70th and Pulaski on the southwest side of Chicago.
  2. 32) Patrick Sharpe: Parky’s on Harlem & Madison…”dipped or no-dip”…wit da fries…
  3. 36) Patrick Sharpe Hard to beat an Italian Beef from Taylor St… too many places serve a plain roast beef sandwich and call it Italian Beef.
  1. 54) Lou Vivona: I’m a big fan of Johnny’s Beef however, they just opened a Pop’s Beef near my house and I gotta say its one of the best tasting and largest beefs I’ve ever had.
  2. 55) Peter A Russell: There are several great places for beefs in the metro area, my favorite is Jays on Narragansett and Montrose, followed by Mr. Beef on Harlem just south of Irving Park. Carm’s had a good beef, as well as Michael’s on Oak Park & North. Best fast food steak sandwich is Ricobenies, they also have a great beef. I like them dry, au juis on the side, sweet peppers and hot giardiniera

  • 60. Joe Biniewicz Vince’s Pizza in the Clearing neighborhood by Midway Airport on 63rd St.Beef dry on garlic bread with mozzeralla and (homemade) giradinera & sweet pepper, red sauce on the side.This is a meal cause it is huge!If you go there to try one tell Mick or Johnny (owners) that Joe from Vegas told you about it. Tell them I said Hi. Everytime I am come to Chicago it is a must stop.
  • 61. Joe Biniewicz In Vegas Rosati’s does a good job, problem is service sucks (how can you get a carry out wrong). Windy City Beef n Dogs (summerlinn) A for effort: B- for flavor profile and apperance (need gonella bread) owner is agood chicago guy. great dogs too.
  • 67. Terry Shinnick Doc’s Grill on Pershing Road, loaded with beef mixed peppers and dipped. Take plenty of napkins.
  • 68. Peter A Russell Mr Boston’s on Ogden has a good beef as well.
  • 69. Todd Gray, MBA Mr. A’s in Crystal Lake puts Portillo’s to shame. Everything about their beef is the best. Been voted best in McHenry County several times.
  • 70. Mike Graziani Portillo’s? really?Jays is the best, the one at Montrose/Narragansett.
  • 74. Erin Strickland Pop’s Italian Beef…I prefer the original store on 127th & Harlem in Palos Heights…ok I’m a little biased I worked there all the way through HS. My favorite is a Beef with sweet peppers wet with mozzarella cheese. Their bread is amazing its delivered daily. They make the Giardiniera in house if I liked hot stuff I’d add that too.
  • 75. Steven Esko Portillo’s is tops!
  • 77. Cara Dusek Jay’s Beef in Wicker Park….Best Ever
  • 78. Terry Yormark I’m a Chicago refugee in Atlanta and all I can say is thank goodness Portillo’s ships here.Good to know no matter where you go…the beef can go with you.
  • 83. Ralston Simmons, CISM Al’s beef, LuLu’s on Ogden by UIC, Portillos, in that order. Wet, mozzarella, giardinera.
  • 88. Craig Workman Portillo’s and Johnny’s are good – but not nearly as good as Little Joe’s in Countryside (LaGrange Rd. & Plainfield Rd.). I’ve been going there since the mid 70’s and still haven’t found a better beef.
  • 89. Cheryl Ward, CIR The Works in Glenview!
  • 90. Tim Duffy Many votes for Johnny’s and Johnny’s is excellent. However, the best Italian Beef in Chicago is served at Munchies in Elk Grove Village. Family run for 30 years and you can taste the care in preparation in the Italian Beef.
  • 91. Frank Lucchese Long time Italian Beef guy – All these places are every good – Wet with sweet pepper s for me.
  • 93. Stephen Kovats (1) Novi’s Beef in Berwyn (SE corner of Ogden & Oak Park Ave.). Their giardianaire is the hottest and best I’ve ever had.Honorable Mention:(2) Mr. Beef on Harlem – Chicago(3) Pete’s Red Hots – Oak Park
  • 94. Mike O’Connor Frannie’s on River Road in Schiller Park, with homemade hot peppers, red gravy not dipped…..
  • 99. Daniel Kay Back in the day, Boston’s, Margie’s, Peppe’s, Man-Jo-Vin’s and of course, Johnny’s when Frankie No-Neck was around. Portillo’s is consistent, Buona is Boney. Jay’s was disappointing the last time too. Mr Beef on Orleans still makes a good one, Al’s on Taylor too.
  • 100. Heather Clark I know this is an odd throw out, and it definitely isn’t the best, but the hot dog stand at the Home Depot at Addison and Kimball has a pretty decent Italian Beef. If you’re craving one while shopping for home improvement supplies!
  • 101. Maureen M. Scott Tom & Jerry’s in Sycamore, IL
  • 102. Ryan Boardman I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Max’s on Western, just south of Peterson. Every morsel of the beef is explodes with flavor. I don’t know what’s in the marinade but it puts Portillo’s, Buona, and Al’s beef to shame. Get it wet and…WOW.
  • 104. Daniel Kay I totally forgot to mention Gina’s in Bensenvilleand, god forbid, Serelli’s ships everywhere along with the genuine Gonella bread. Those who like it soaked, put it on day-old so it stays together.

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