I decided to go to P.J. OKeefes Ale House because their menu intrigued me. They have a sandwich whose description matches that of an Italian beef. They call it a Chicago Style Beef. It reads, Slow roasted beef, topped with mozzarella cheese, grilled onions, and peppers, and served with our house recipe au jus (with juice). Served on a hoagie. Yes, I added the with juice commentary because it annoys me when it is used improperly. Regardless, the description sounded like an Italian beef, so I had to go explore.
I went shortly after 7PM on a Saturday night. Restaurants are usually packed about this time, so it was odd that they were not. Visually speaking, the place is very open. It has a lot of indirect light which gives it a nice intimate feel. There are a lot of televisions around the room. I have it on good authority my friend Nate installed them. Regardless, I have no specific idea why the room was empty, but I have a few ideas. My waitress (Cecilia?) was quick to get me a beer but didn’t return. After waiting 15 minutes, I hunted down a different member of the wait staff to order. The meal came out in under 10 minutes.
At first glance, you could see ample amounts of cheese. The beef was hidden underneath. I had to add the broth, which lacked flavor. I picked out some of the beef and sampled. It was extremely tender and had good flavor. Sadly, when I took the first bite, none of the beef could be tasted, only the mozzarella. You don’t get a choice of giardiniera. It’s either sweet or nothing. The hoagie bun would not have stood up to any sort of dunking. It barely stood up to the small amount of broth in the cup.
I did ask the waitress a couple of questions when she finally re-emerged. It seems they’ve been there for 6 years or so. At least that’s what she thinks. The owner (Derrick Hollingsworth?) isn’t from Chicago, again, according to my waitress. She wasn’t sure why he put the beef on the menu. I got the impression that the wait staff wasn’t very knowledgeable about anything.
The sandwich rates 1.5 stars out of 5. The only good part was the beef, but it was overpowered by the cheese. I consider it more of a Philly than a Chicago Style beef. Just eliminating the cheese would improve it immensely. Of course, I revert to the question, Is this an Italian beef? They certainly don’t list it as one, but it is close to being one. What do you think? Have you even seen a Chicago Style beef like this in Chicago?
~Anthony Macabre Lilli