Ray Ray’s Italian Beef & Sausage
- 1715 Miller Road
- Kalamazoo, MI 49001
- (269) 381-6138
- No Known Website
I couldn’t wait. I just couldn’t wait until my next trip home to get an Italian beef. Especially after I heard about a new place in Kalamazoo that specializes in the Chicago specialty.
I was surfing the web the other night and came across a great website that lists some of the best restaurants all over SW Michigan, South Central Michigan, and Northern Indiana by city, cuisine, and specialty. There’s a blog that goes with the website that updates new places. That blog is where I found Ray Ray’s Italian Beef & Sausage.
The very small restaurant is on Miller Road near Fulford Street in the Edison Neighborhood. There are no tables inside the store, but there is something that makes it very Chicago. A counter with stools. That set up is very common at sandwich shops in Chicago. It’s where the “hunch” was made famous. The decor is all Chicago. From a White Sox banner in the window to a huge picture of Michael Jordan to various skyline shots, every piece of art used in the place reminds you where you’re eating.
The menu is all Chicago style food. Chicago dogs (with a big note that there is NO KETCHUP on the dog), Maxwell Street Polish, Italian beef, Italian sausage, BBQ pulled pork, BBQ chicken, Chicago Fire Chili, and burgers made with fresh ground chuck.
There was no doubt about what I wanted. I went with the Plain Italian beef with hot giardinieria, an order of fresh cut fries, and a can of Coke. The owner was working the kitchen and was very chatty. There is an open window between the dining area and the kitchen and even though the order was written down, the cooks were talking to customers to get the orders right. The guy in front of me, who had never had an Italian combo was talked in to eating in because those type of sandwiches are not eat in the car food.
My sandwich started with a flaky hoagie roll that I asked to be dipped in the gravy. It was then filled with sliced beef and a hot giardinieria mix. The sandwich was one big, messy pile of deliciousness. The bun was completely soaked which is how I prefer it. I was sitting at the counter when I started, but pushed the chair aside so I could get into the hunch. Basically, that means stepping about a foot back from the counter and leaning over with your elbows on the counter to eat. The sandwich is so messy and the hunch keeps your shirt from getting dirty from the dripping gravy. The owner was telling us he lived in Chicago for 20 years and owned a restaurant in Cicero. It showed. The Italian beef is incredibly authentic.
The fries were also fantastic. They’re fresh cut and very greasy. A perfect Chicago style fry. J and I both thought they were some of the best we’ve had in Kalamazoo and some of the best anywhere outside of the city. She gave me part of her sandwich because she was getting full and wanted to keep eating the fries.
J ordered the pulled pork sandwich. It comes with the option of mild or hot sauce. J went with the mild. The pulled pork is hand pulled pork shoulder that was grilled over charcoal. The meat wasn’t pulled and sitting in a tray waiting somewhere. The cook actually picked up the pork and pulled it as he needed. The sandwich is served on a grilled hamburger bun which J really liked. It was kind of a knife and fork pulled pork. There was a lot of meat and a lot of sauce. The grilled bun held up well though and you still got the crunch even though it was soaked in a sweet, mild sauce. J really liked the sauce and the bun, but the meat was a little too thick for her. She likes pulled pork more shredded and these were big chunks of meat. She said it was really tasty, just not what she prefers. Like I mentioned though, she loved the fries.
Our bill for these two humongous sandwiches was just a little over twelve bucks. That’s ridciulously cheap. In comparison, we don’t get out of Portillo’s for much less than $25 and my beef was much better than Portillo’s.
Ray Ray’s has only been open a few months, but even at 1:00, they were going through quite a few orders. There was a steady stream of people coming and going as we sat there eating our lunch. As Chicago transplants ourselves, we understand the owners desire to bring real Chicago food to Southwest Michigan. He said the reason he opened the place is because he was tired of making the drive to get a real Italian beef or Chicago-Style dog.
Ray Ray’s is the best place in Kalamazoo you’ve never heard of. If you want to try real Chicago style food, this is the place.