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Al’s Beef (River North)

January 24, 2023

  • 548 N. Wells Street
  • Chicago, IL 60654
  • (312) 943-3222
  • Website
  • Menu

Our trip to Green Bay ended late Sunday night…or more accurately, early Monday morning. The company put us up in a hotel Sunday night and gave us Monday as a travel day.

We left our hotel in Appleton around 9:00. I pretty much woke up at 8:45, packed, checked out, and drug myself to the car. I was tired but I wanted to get home.

On our way to Green Bay on Saturday, we stopped at a Kwik Trip in Pleasant Prairie. When we got back on I-94, we saw a billboard for the “World’s Largest Kwik Trip” just a few miles down the road. We didn’t stop, but made plans to stop on the way home to see if it was worth the hype.

We pulled in to that Kwik Trip around 11:00. Before we got out, I asked my co-worker if he wanted to stop back in Chicago for an Italian beef or just grab lunch here. He said beef. I was happy.

We got drinks and a snack to keep us satisfied until we got back in to Chicago. Neither of us had breakfast so a quick breakfast sandwich and a Pepsi did the trick.

We got in to downtown Chicago around 12:30. There was a little bit of traffic on the Kennedy but it wasn’t awful. I thought I was putting in an address for an Al’s Beef right off the highway but I ended up putting in the address for one downtown. It took us a little longer than expected but it was worth the wait once we finally pulled.

The Al’s Beef I accidently chose is the one on the corner of North Wells and West Ohio Street in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago. The restaurant is in a fairly new building with floor to ceiling windows on two sides. We found a parking spot on the Ohio Street side pretty easily then headed in for the beef we had been craving all weekend.

Al’s Beef are all counter service places. I knew exactly what I wanted so I stepped up to put in my order for an Italian beef, dipped, with hot peppers and a large order of fries. I did take a quick glance at the menu board hanging on the wall next to the register to see sizes. I went with the Big Beef because Al’s is my favorite beef and I don’t get it nearly enough.

The cost for my meal was about $16. It doesn’t take long for the kitchen to put the sandwiches together. They dropped the fries as soon as they heard me order so it was less than five minutes before I heard my name called.

I headed to one of the pub style tables in the small dining. The older Al’s locations all have stand up bars but this one didn’t really have that. There are some regular height tables and some taller ones. All have yellow metal chairs that aren’t really all that comfortable. I chose the taller table so I could stand…the preferred way to eat an Al’s Beef.

I actually started with my fries. That’s a strategic move to give the gravy more time to soak in to the bread of the sandwich.

The fries are by far my favorite fries at one of the big Italian beef places. They’re the fresh cut, greasy yet somehow still crispy, golden brown fries that you can only seem to get in Chicago. These fries are the best. They’re a little soggy, a little crunchy, and somehow still insanely delicious. That seems to be an unpopular opinion but it’s a hill I will die on.

It was time to unwrap my beef. I had given in five more minutes to soak in it’s own juices to make sure every inch of the bread was soaked with the delicious beef gravy. The wax paper the sandwich is wrapped in was almost see through by the time I peeled it off the bread.

The thing that makes Al’s so great is the gravy (or au jus for you non-Chicagoans) that the beef is cooked. The tender beef itself has an incredibly beefy, oregano-y flavor but once the sandwich goes for a dip, it intensifies that beefiness and it permeates throughout the entire sandwich. I always go with the hot peppers (hot giardiniera) on my beefs and Al’s giardiniera is one of my favorites. It is a combination of several different pickled veggies. On this sandwich, they put the peppers underneath the beef so they wouldn’t fall of as easily as they do when the peppers are on top of the beef.

This little side trip was so worth the detour. I meant to put the North Western Avenue address in my GPS just because it would be a little bit less driving on surface street but this River North location worked out really well. My co-worker is from the north suburbs of Chicago so he’s a beef guy too. I don’t get to Chicago nearly as much as I used to so I will come up with any excuse to grab a sandwich from my favorite sandwich place

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