The strangest thing about Al’s #1 Italian Beef at the corner of Wells and Ontario is that there is table seating. The original Al’s out on Taylor Street has high counters on which to lean one’s elbows while ingesting a sandwich, thus preventing drippage on shirt and lap. Here, you sit on a chair and eat off the table; and no matter how many napkins you take and no matter how far forward you lean, it is inevitable that shreds of beef and spills of giardiniera will fall onto your clothing.
Al’s beef is sliced so thin and is so tender that it verges on being hash. Piled into a length of bread and even momentarily “dipped” (immersed in natural gravy), it becomes an unbelievably juicy dish, so moist that bun disintegration begins even as the sandwich gets wrapped in butcher paper. When you unwrap it at the table (or, heaven forbid, on the front seat of your car), out drips that gravy; and if you have ordered it with lip-tingling-hot giardiniera, that spills out, too. What a delicious combination!
Al’s French fries are some of the best in this city with the very highest French-fry standards. Each serving is a wildly diverse cornucopia of crunchy potato twigs and cream-centered spud logs, some encrusted with skin, all fairly bursting with flavor and vibrantly pre-salted.