The bars on the windows are to keep the sandwiches IN.
There is actually a law on the books that says I can be punished with jail time for having lived in Chicago for more than a year without trying an Italian Beef. That's like being here and not seeing the Sears Tower, or trying deep-dish pizza, or bribing an alderman! With Mark Garrison, from the obsessive food podcast and blog The Sporkful, and his girlfriend, digital journalist Sarah Muller, I headed to the much-heralded Boston's Italian Beef to rectify the situation.
An Italian Beef is, with some variation, sliced roast beef on a long roll, sometimes dipped in Meat Juice. I ordered the classic, dipped, with hot peppers. Sarah got the same, with sweet peppers. Mark got the combo, which is the same thing, except there's a giant
polish Italian sausage in there too.
Ian: It looks like your sandwich already ate lunch, Mark. It had sausage.
Mark: But the sausage really holds it up. Helps the bread withstand the beef.
Ian: Yup, that's load-bearing sausage. It's an I-beam, of pork.
Note the Meat Juice already soaking through two layers of paper.
Sarah: There's a difference between "dipped" and "dunked." It's been dunked completely in Meat Juice.
Mark: The beef is gonna break through!
Ian: Yeah, this sandwich is a real race against the clock.
Sarah: Gotta eat fast. Can't let the beef win.
Mark holds up his sandwich before it collapses.
Ian: My fingers are really wet and shiny. It's just like the purple paint after you vote in Iraq. Everyone will know I ate an Italian Beef today.
Mark: We've really decimated what was a substantial pack of napkins.
Ian: Yup. Turns out the Italian Beef is not an earth-friendly sandwich.
Don't ask about the Chili Boat if you don't want to end up sailing away in it.
For more information about Italian Beefs, go to italianbeef.com. A food rule: If a sandwich has an informational website, it's probably pretty good. Boston's Italian Beef is among the tastiest meals I've had on a Sandwich Monday, and if you're in Chicago, put on your rubber gloves and get one.
It has me thinking about other options for dipped sandwiches. Grilled cheese is good dipped in tomato soup, roast beef is good in Meat Juice. What's the right dip for a Reuben? A PB&J?