We Eat An Italian Beef from Mr.Beef : Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! For this week's Sandwich Monday, we eat an Italian Beef—a traditional Chicago sandwich— from Mr.Beef.
NPR logo Sandwich Monday: The Chicago Way

Sandwich Monday: The Chicago Way

Chicago, our home city, is known for a particular foodstuff, a gastronomic icon of the city. And no, it is not Deep Dish Pizza, which a) isn't pizza, but instead a "lasagna based bread product," as Ruben Bolling put it, and b) nobody from Chicago ever eats. Ever. (I checked.).

No: what we eat is the Italian Beef sandwich, which isn't Italian, as far as anybody knows, but is beef. And the iconic place to get an Italian Beef is "Mr. Beef" on Orleans St.

Note sign advertising the Elegant Dining Room.

We sampled four different sandwiches, in the Chicago manner: one with sweet peppers, one with hot peppers, one with both, and a "Combo" – beef with Italian sausage – with hot peppers, plus two orders of fries.

Mike: Look at this, it's like a membrane. We have to wait for the sandwich to molt before we eat it. It's like a hermit crab in that way.

Peter: I want to describe the bun, but the only word I've got is "damp." Anything better?

Eva: Soggy.

Robert: It's like it was sprayed on. Like that insulation.

Eva: A spray tan!

Mike: The consistency messes with you. As you're messing with it.

Peter: "As you mess with the bun, the bun messes with you." Neitzche said that, while eating an Italian beef sandwich.

Eva: Where do they get the beef?

Mike: They shave it off Mr. Beef himself.

Eva: That's why it's so fresh.

Cross-section. NPR hide caption

toggle caption



Robert: I'm going to try the combo, with the sausage. Okay, that's much better. You've the bland beef, and then a back-hoe of spicy flavor.

Peter: A back-hoe?

Robert: Whatever.

The elegant dining room. NPR hide caption

toggle caption

The elegant dining room.


Emily: The French fries have a weird aftertaste. They ruin the taste of my drink.

Eva: I've been eating them too quick to experience any aftertaste. I just go right from middletaste to middletaste, avoiding any beforetastes or aftertastes.

[The verdict: A damn fine sandwich, particularly with the pickled hot peppers (known as giardiniera around Chicago). But the fries did indeed have a funny chemical taste. However, if you really want the best Italian beef in Chicago, you should go to Johnnie's Beef in Elmwood Park.]