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Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage (Chicago)

July 29, 2017

  • 10337 S. Kedzie Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60655
  • (773) 239-1243
  • Website
  • Menu

We were all over the place for this vacation.  Columbus, Ohio back to Kalamazoo, to Silver Beach, to the south suburbs of Chicago, to even further south of Chicago back to the city then back to the suburbs before we finally make it back to Kalamazoo.  It’s a long week with a lot of things to do and people to see, but something we all needed.

We got to J’s parents in the south suburbs on Monday night after a quick sunset swim at Silver Beach in St. Joseph.  We figured we were already almost halfway to Chicago, what was the point of going back to Kalamazoo just to sleep.

We woke up in the suburbs Tuesday morning.  The first meal I have to have when going to Chicago is an Italian beef.  I have to make sure I get one before we do whatever it is we’re going to do the rest of the week.

My favorite Italian beef place near J’s parents went out (for the second time) quite a while ago so I’m moving around a bit trying new places.

There’s one chain in Chicagoland that I keep putting off.  Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage keeps popping up in lists for Chicago’s best Italian beef, but we had one in Kalamazoo for a while and I only went there once.  I wasn’t a huge fan despite it was an authentic Chicago chain.  I loved the beef itself, but the peppers left me a little disappointed.

I finally decided it was time to see if things are done differently in Chicago.  I picked the lone Chicago location on Kedzie Avenue just south of 103rd Street on Chicago’s southside in the Mount Greenwood Neighborhood.  This building looks like it could be the original store in a franchise, but it’s not.  The chain started in Palos Heights and still has a presence there in the same spot.  This one on Kedzie has a much simpler sign and doesn’t have the franchise logo on any exterior sign.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d really think this was an independent beef shop.

The inside of the restaurant is awfully small as any good beef place is.  There is room for an order counter and a stand up lunch counter along the outside wall.  There are some bar stools if you’d prefer to sit at the lunch counter, but standing makes the beef easier to eat.  On nice days, there are some picnic tables out front, but those won’t do much good during winter in Chicago.

The menu at Pop’s is more than Italian beef and sausage.  They have burgers, hot dogs, gyros, corned beef sandwiches, ruebens, pepper sandwiches (another uniquely Chicago thing….literally just roasted green peppers on a bun) and apparently famous fried chicken.

I wanted none of that.  I went to Pop’s for a beef and that is all I even considered.

I put in my order for the large Italian beef and a large order of fries.  The cost was a little over $10 which I paid for with cash but they also take credit cards.  By the time I got done paying, my number was being called.  I was literally getting change back from the cashier and reaching over to grab my bag of food from another of the many workers manning the tight kitchen.

I had to make a Wendy’s stop for J and her mom on the way, so I grabbed my bag and headed to pick up their lunch instead of sitting down next to a couple of Chicago police detectives who stopped in to eat.  As I’ve said many times in the past, you know you’re in a good place when local cops are eating there.

I started with the fries when I got to J’s parents.  A lot of people really love these fries for the same reason I’m not a huge fan.  They’re very similar to McDonalds.  They’re the same skinny, crispy fries that you get from the Golden Arches, but you get a lot of the them and they’re not quite as salty.  They tasted just like McDonalds to me so they were good, but I have a very specific type of fry I like from my favorite Italian beef places.

When I got about halfway through the fries, I started unwrapping the beef.  Taking the sandwich home gives it time to just soak in the juices so every part of the bun is filled up with as much of the beef gravy as it can possibly hold.  The bun was so soft and didn’t stand a chance by the time I got to it.  The tender, flavorful thinly sliced beef was overflowing out of the bun.  I love Italian beef sandwiches that are a total mess and this was definitely a total mess.  Just based on the beef and bun alone, Pop’s is in the competition for best beef….but there’s one more key component and just like my experience in Kalamazoo, the giardiniera is where this one lost me.

I asked for hot peppers, but their hot peppers are actually a mix of sweet and hot.  The mixture is celery, green bell peppers, celery, and red pepper flakes.  It had the heat, but the sweetness killed it for me.  I really have not found an all green giardiniera that I really like.  I prefer a good mixture that includes sport peppers, jalapenos, carrots, and cauliflower.

Two out of three components of this sandwich really strike a chord with me, but that final component is just a big miss for me.  I tried to get rid of the sweet peppers but they really dominated the flavor.

I would eat at Pop’s again, but I would be really specific with my order when it comes to the giardiniera.  I hear they have a mix that is more in line with what I like but you have to ask for it…..not something I knew in advance.   I’d probably also add the Italian sausage just to give it a little more heat.  I know a lot of people that really like Pop’s including some of my friends, but it’s not the kind of beef that I crave when I’m gone.

Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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