The Best Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago

Image Courtesy of Eater Chicago

Chicago is known for its food. And there’s nothing more quintessentially Chicago than a great Italian beef sandwich. Locals crave them and tourists adore them. People will argue about which place has the best Italian Beef sandwiches. It’s almost as much of a pastime here as rooting for the Cubs and hating on the White Sox or vice versa.

If you’re new to the city or just looking for great new options, you want to know the best, most authentic places to get an Italian Beef. Most Chicagoans have their favorites, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try something new. You never know when a restaurant will come along that blows you away with flavor, and we are always looking for that. The restaurants we find best are: 

If you’re in Chicago visiting, or a local looking for a new place to try, check out our list of the best places to get an Italian Beef. Or treat a friend with a virtual GiftYa card that they can use for their next tasty Chicago treat.

What’s in an Italian Beef?

Before we get into the list of the best places to get an Italian Beef, let’s go through a bit about what makes a great Italian Beef. For this list, we chose a little something for everyone. No two are exactly alike. We also included places outside of the city, because there are a ton of amazing beef stands, and this gives you a few options no matter where you are.

People make a lot of fuss over how to order a beef or what’s the real Chicago way to eat a beef. For anyone new to the city trying to sound like a real Chicagoan, we don’t actually care how you say it. There’s nothing wrong with letting us know it’s your first beef. We love nothing better than introducing someone to our favorite dishes.

Beef sandwiches started long ago, using less expensive cuts of meat because, well, we were poor. So the artistry was in how you seasoned and cooked the meat, and that’s still the biggest part of making a great sandwich (though the cuts of beef are a higher quality in a lot of places). It’s a bit like a French Dip, but ours has a lot of flavors and we serve them a few ways.

You can get yours dry, wet, or dipped. Dry just means that they don’t add any extra gravy to your bread. The bread still soaks in some gravy from the beef itself. Wet means that they open the bun and dip it into gravy before putting your beef on top. Dipped is just what it sounds like. They dip the whole thing in the gravy. It’s wet and messy, so grab extra napkins. But definitely worth it.

Most people eat their beef with either sweet pepper or Giardiniera (usually called hot). The sweet peppers are either red or green bell peppers. The Giardiniera is an art form all its own and a lot of people choose their favorite beef stand based on the Giardiniera.

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

This Italian beef restaurant started a delicious trend. 

548 North Wells St | Chicago | alsbeef.com

Al’s #1 Italian beef was founded back in 1938. They opened up the first one in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. It was originally called Al’s Bar B-Q because the Italian beef was cooked outside over flaming charcoal.

The founders started a trend of many more people in the neighborhood opening up these beef sandwich shops. Al’s now has several locations throughout the Chicago area. Al’s has won awards for its beef sandwich and has drawn in visitors from all over the world.

“A must visit when in Chicago. We had the classic sandwich and the bread was so soft and perfect. Perfect pit-stop for a quick bite for lunch.” Yelp Review

Carm’s Beef and Italian Ice

This business has been around for more than 100 years. 

A beef sandwich covered in a green sauce.
This is sure to be an explosion of flavors. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

1057 W Polk St | Chicago | carmslittleitaly.com

‍You can’t have a list of Italian Beef sandwiches and leave out this gem located in Little Italy. Carm’s is approaching 100 years of business and there’s a reason it’s lasted so long. People trek back to this old Italian neighborhood from miles out in the suburbs just to get a taste of their favorite foods.

Carm’s beef is made the old-fashioned way, no muss, no fuss, and lots of garlic. It’s a great sandwich and their Italian Ice makes it doubly worth the visit.

“We recently moved into the neighborhood and were told that we had to go to Carm's... they were right! Absolutely delicious food, friendly staff, so many options, and just a great neighborhood stop. We will definitely be back!”--Yelp Review

The Original Nana’s Hot Dogs

This place isn’t just a hot dog shop. +

1102 E Irving Rd | Streamwood | theoriginalnanashotdogs.com

‍Nana’s has been serving the Chicago suburbs since the 1970s. It was voted the best hot dog in the suburbs by ABC 7. Its name and concept was imitated so much over the years that one day, they added “original” to the name just so people can distinguish them from the other similar restaurants. 

There is a list of 9 different Italian beef sandwiches that their customers can order. There is Philly beef, cheesy beef, and BBQ beef. They even serve desserts and milkshakes!

“Excellent service, they make you feel valued and they always remember a face. Homemade fries are like no other paired with the best Chicago style dogs or maxwell st polish. That's my go to. Today I tried a large pizza slice and muah delicious, maybe the best around! All for a low price. Highly suggested.”--Yelp Review

The Original Chickies

This restaurant has a long history. 

A sandwich on a baguette filled with shredded beef.
This sandwich is simple but flavorful. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

4152 Roosevelt Rd | Hillside | chickiesbeef.com

The original Original Chickies was located on the south side of Chicago. This one is in Hillside, about 20 minutes outside of the city, which makes it a good option for anyone in the near west suburbs.

This restaurant has a long Chicago history, and the beef are some of the city’s favorites. According to their website, they were even voted “Best Beef in Chicago” and if you look up any best-of list of beef stands, you’ll find the name Chickies mentioned. The great thing about the new Chickies is that it’s run by the same family that started the original. They use all the original recipes, and everything is made fresh there. No skipping steps or taking shortcuts and you can taste the difference in the food.

“This is my first time coming to this new location. It's been awhile since I've had their beef so I decided to give it another try. The inside is very spacious, and they also have a large outdoor patio as well. The food comes out very quick and fresh.”--Yelp Review

Freddy’s Pizza

This place is known for selling some of the best food in the city. 

This unassuming place serves great food. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

1600 S 61st Ave | Cicero | freddyspizza.com

Located just to the west of Chicago in Cicero, IL, Freddy’s Pizza has made every best of list for Italian food in the city. They’re not known for their beef specifically, but their Italian Beef sandwiches are phenomenal. The problem with Freddy’s is that they have so many amazing options, you won’t be able to go in for just an Italian Beef.

If you’re stopping through, Freddy’s also makes and jars their own Muffuletta mix and Giardiniera, both world class. And do yourself a major favor and grab a slice of pizza and homemade gelato or Italian Ice. You won’t find a thing on the menu that you don’t love. They started as a little deli with an outside table. Now they have a seating area so you can stay and enjoy your food there. Plan for a crowd, though. This place is packed during all their open hours.

“The REAL, authentic, Italian pizza joint in Chicagoland!!  If you want real Italian food, look no further. It's cheaper than a plane ticket to Italy. Freddy's is also a real Italian deli if you need fresh salami, sopressata or prosciutto (gelato too)!”--Yelp Review

Buona Beef

This chain sells authentic foods. 

This sandwich is piled high with meat and toppings. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

6801 West Roosevelt Rd | Berwyn | buona.com

‍Buona Beef was founded in Berwyn, but it has locations all over the city and suburbs today. Which is great because the beef sandwiches are amazing. If you want authentic Italian Beef no matter where you are, there’s probably a Buona nearby. Buona’s giardiniera is also the original or old-fashioned blend, using the traditional celery, carrots, cauliflower, and peppers combo.

“It was so good I forgot to take a photo!! The beefless Italian beef was better than I expected! I really enjoyed how light it was and the flavor was delicious. The restaurant was nice and clean and the customer service was wonderful.”--Yelp Review

Portillo’s Hot Dogs

This restaurant has a fun and unique theme. 

100 West Ontario | Chicago | portillos.com

‍Portillo’s Hot Dogs is a famous hot dog shop that also sells other items like Italian beef. It has a 30s and 40s gangster theme and sells everything from ribs and beer, to pasta and salads. They even have a party room that people can enjoy with their friends!

Portillo’s serves two types of beef, hot or cold. Some of this beef is covered in delicious gravy. The french bread they make is even sold separately so you can buy it to make your own sandwiches. 

“The Italian beef sandwich and onion rings are also amazing. Perfectly cooked and seasoned. I recommend adding mozzarella cheese to the Italian beef with sweet peppers.”--Yelp Review

Johnnie’s Beef

Johnnie’s draws a long line of customers. 

This beef may make you want to come back for more. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

7500 W North Ave | Elmwood Park

Johnnie’s Beef is one of the best-known beef stands in the area. We can’t fail to mention this one because die-hards will tell you that it’s their favorite and there are a lot of die-hards. The original Johnnie’s is in Elmwood Park, and anyone from the Chicago area knows that there are a lot of Italians in this neighborhood, so the Italian food needs to be on point.

Johnnie’s is always busy, and they give you a solid sampling of what a real Chicago Beef is supposed to be. Grab yours with sweet or hot or both.

“Johnnie's has got to be my favorite Italian beef in all of Chicagoland. Always gotta get it with hot peppers, of course. My mom is a fan of the Combo (Italian beef and homemade Italian sausage) with sweet peppers.”--Yelp Review

Pop’s Italian Beef and Sausage

This restaurant has an array of options to choose from. 

A hefty side of fries is always a delicious choice. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

10337 S Kedzie Ave | Chicago | popsbeef.com

‍You can find plenty of faithful Pop’s fans. There’s one location in the city and several throughout the suburbs. Their beef sandwiches are tender, and the gravy is probably the best part. Perfectly seasoned and mouthwatering. They serve the traditional Giardiniera for the hot fans and you can grab a combo here or stick with the regular beef.

Pop’s has a good array of choices on the menu, but if you’re in the area you need to try the beef sandwich. It’s by far a favorite. They serve it any way you like it, dry, wet, or in between. Try the wet, because you really don’t want to miss out on the flavor of the gravy here.

“Placed a catering order for my husband's 50th.  Everyone said the food was delicious. The process from ordering to picking up was seamless. I will 100% order from them again.”--Yelp Review

Scatchell’s

This place shows you what a true beef sandwich should be like. 

This simple sandwich will take you on a flavor journey. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

4700 W Cermak Rd | Cicero | scatchellsbeefstand.com

Scatchell’s has been serving up Italian Beef sandwiches since the 1950s. To be in business that long, you know they’re doing something right. This is a true representation of what a Chicago Beef is supposed to taste like, even though Scatchell’s is technically outside of the city, in Cicero.

They have a full menu of beef stand items, like hamburgers, traditional Chicago dogs, and sausage sandwiches. It’s what you’d expect from the beef stand experience, uncomfortable seating and down-home dive atmosphere. Decently priced for a good size beef.

“I've been in like 10 years ago and it's still good as I remember. The Italian beef dipped hot peppers (not hot or real giardiniera) and cheese yum.”--Yelp Review

Bari Foods

This shop imports the best quality ingredients. 

This casual spot will satisfy your tastebuds. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

1120 W Grand Ave #1 | Chicago | bariitaliansubs.com

This place is well known by anyone who likes great Italian food. It’s best known for the Italian subs, but their beef sandwiches are a treat. One of the things that Bari is known for is the imported ingredients. This is a traditional Italian deli, so they use the most authentic items in their foods. Their Italian beef is slow roasted with a unique flavor that many people would put at the very top of their list.

“It's like an Italian deli from days gone by. I loved this sandwich. I got Turkey with lettuce, tomato, extra mayo, and mustard. I think (my friend ordered it) provolone cheese on focaccia. Sooo sooo good. It's a big sandwich, we shared it.  They make it fresh for you in the deli.”--Yelp Review

Lavergne’s Tavern

This restaurant serves up delicious fusion cuisine. 

This is a unique way to enjoy Italian beef. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

6546 Windsor Ave | Berwyn | lavergnes.com

‍This is an added bonus item for this list because it’s technically not a beef sandwich. Lavergne’s in the Berwyn Depot District is known for food fusion, a welcoming atmosphere, and a good bar.

What it’s also known for are the Beef Eggrolls. These little treats are all sorts of amazing and you don’t want to miss them. Their beef egg rolls are made with Italian Beef, Giardiniera, and provolone, all wrapped up in a neat little eggroll. They serve them as an appetizer with au jus to dip. It’s a neighborhood favorite that’s worth the trip by itself but a lot of people stop at Lavergne’s for the rest of the menu, too. Great staff and a comfortable environment. They also have an outside patio area to enjoy in the nice weather.

“Good corner spot. We Were in the neighborhood and someone told us we HAD to check this spot out. Grabbed beers and their famous Italian beef egg rolls and cheese curds. Would totally go back for those egg rolls - different and delicious! Staff was friendly and the place was clean and inviting.”--Yelp Review

Frangella Italian Market

This market sells authentic and hard to find ingredients. 

The options behind the glass are abundant. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

11925 S 80th Ave | Palos Park | frangellaitalianmarket.com

‍Frangella Italian Market was founded in 1993 by a couple from Calabria Italy. They sell real Italian food to their neighbors and anyone visiting their Chicago neighborhood. They also listen to their customers and stock the place with what they like. 

You can find plenty of authentic and hard to find products in this market. You can find unique flours, rare cheeses, imported coffee and much more! You can even get soap that is made from olive oil. 

“Best Italian Deli in our neighborhood!!  We have been going there for over 20 years. The staff is always very nice and friendly”--Yelp Review

Luke’s Italian Beef

Luke’s prioritizes its customers in every way. 

This shop has fun with its food and decor. Image Courtesy of Yelp.

215 W Jackson Blvd | Chicago | lukeschicago.com

‍Luke’s Italian Beef has a reputation for providing high quality food and amazing customer service. All their Italian beef is freshly prepared with premium ingredients every day. And it’s always sold at the lowest possible price!

Luke’s has a great appreciation for all of its customers, and promises to always maintain standards for high quality as they continue growing. The extensive menu offers everything from appetizers, to sandwiches, and pizza. They even have a decent selection of desserts. 

“If you're looking for a quick and delicious meal, this is the place to go! The Italian beef sandwich was awesome with both sweet and hot peppers. The beef was soft and juicy. The Chicago dog was also another classic on the menu which was good as well.”--Yelp Review

In Chicago, whether you’re in or outside of the city, there are an abundance of options when you want Italian beef. Trying one of these great restaurants is likely to improve anyone’s day!

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