Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Review by: Michael Stern

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.

What To Eat

Italian Beef


French Fries


Al’s #1 Italian Beef Recipes


What do you think of Al’s #1 Italian Beef?

2 Responses to “Al’s #1 Italian Beef”

Rich Malitz

November 8th, 2013

Al’s is like no other Italian Beef. It has it’s own exotic spices, it’s own bread, it’s own hot peppers, and the meat is so tender it’s literally shredded. Some don’t care for the unique, pungent flavor profile. But I love it. It’s very unique. It’s on the expensive side too. But it’s one of the very best in Chicago.

A big warning – Al’s has franchises now and they are not as good as the original on Taylor St. In fact, some are downright awful. Some are pretty good. So my review is for the Taylor St location. Also, there are no seats. You stand and eat and get out! No relaxing visit here after you drive all this way.

I also think they have some of the tastiest fries anywhere, and I am a french fry junkie. Get them.


Kevin Brown

April 17th, 2007

First visited June 1983 and at least once a year ever since!

Al’s Italian Beef is the one you want. They have the location on Ontario in the downtown area (the one listed on I prefer their original location on Taylor Street just west of Hausted Street (near University of Illinois Circle Campus); better atmosphere . Either one will give you the best Italian beef sandwich of your life.

The way to order it is dipped in the juice, and with peppers (hot or sweet). Yes it’s a mess, but oh… so good! Good homemade fries come with it. They have other offerings (the Italian sausage is excellent, too), but I always have to get the beef.

If you opt for the Taylor Street location, make sure to stop at Mario’s Italian Lemonade stand across the street during summer months.


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