Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Johnnie’s | Italian Beef Is The Ultimate Chicago Sandwich
Review by: Michael Stern
Why Do Chicagoans Love Italian Beef?
Italian beef is as fundamental a marker of Chicago’s culinary character as deep-dish pizza, shrimp de Jonghe, and red hots dragged through the garden. I think of it as the signature dish that embodies Chicago’s personality better than any other. It is brawny, intense, and symphonic. For all its apparent disarray, it is audaciously composed. As sandwiches go, it is brash and impertinent, but it demands savoir faire in its ordering and eating. There is none better than Johnnie’s Italian Beef in Elmwood Park.
I answer “yes” to the question Roadfood reviewer Phillip Roth asked long ago about Johnnie’s beef: “Is this the ultimate Chicago sandwich?” Indeed, I think of it as not just an essential taste of Chicago, but the Alpha and Omega of American street food. I can say this with certainty: It earns VIP status in any roster of great American roast beef sandwiches. (That would include Buffalo beef on weck, north- of-Boston roast beef, French Dip, and New Orleans debris po boys.)
How to Hear Angels Sing
Johnnie’s beef is soft and fairly softly seasoned. Just enough garlic energizes it and halos its protein magnitude. Add Johnnie’s sparkling giardiniera and you have a taste-buds epiphany. Get the beef in a “combo” (with a length of chewy, char-cooked Italian sausage) and, as Mr. Roth said, “you will hear angels sing.”
Revive the Palate
The power of Johnnie’s Italian beef can knock you into a happy protein stupor. To accompany it, to savor its afterglow, or to give your palate a bitch-slap, Johnnie’s makes Italian ice. It beautifully balances sweet and tart.
Service is eat in the rough, cash only, tote-your-own. While not quite soup-Nazi gruff, the staff does not go out of its way to make customers happy. They don’t need to. The food does that.
Directions & Hours
- Monday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Thursday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Friday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Saturday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Sunday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|