8 Best Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago

Al's Beef, one of the city's oldest Italian beef restaurants, debuted in 1938. This establishment serves almost any sandwich: dry, dry with gravy, wet, dipped and topped with hot giardiniera, etc. Al's 85-year-old sandwich recipe and roughly 30-hour beef-cooking method set it unique.

Al's Beef

Since 1953, this suburban restaurant has had a similar menu. Barry Reggi, who bought the company in 1985 with Frank Levato, is proud of that. Reggi says customers return because he has used the same powdered beef spice blend of oregano, salt, black pepper, and garlic since the 1950s.


Since 1961, Johnnie's Beef has kept its original structure while many Italian beef stands have remodeled and expanded to match their demand. A little one-story building houses the kitchen and a long queue of loyal clients.

Johnnie's Beef

Portillo's has grown from one small stand in Chicago's suburbs to 75 sites in 10 states for a reason. Taste is always delivered at the restaurant. You can top your beef with a lot of unusual mozzarella or cheddar cheese at Portillo's. I remember my mom's dry order with sweet peppers and mild giardiniera.


In 1981, Joe and Peggy Buonavolanto launched their first restaurant in Berwyn, a suburb near Route 66. More than 25 Buona Beef restaurants opened throughout the city and outskirts after its success.

Buona Beef

Despite its delicious food and high-quality ingredients, Odge's is often overlooked. It's likely only open for lunch, but that's part of the appeal—you have to plan ahead or lose out. Eldwin Steven "Odge" Boksa Sr. started the shop in 1972, and his son Eddie runs it.


Crisp, a casual Korean fried chicken restaurant in Chicago, often has a line. Crisp offers no wait. Budacki's, the sibling restaurant, serves bulgogi and crispy wings from a shoe box stand five miles away in Ravenswood.

Budacki’s Drive In

A recent James Beard Award will likely boost the appeal of Kasama, a modern Filipino restaurant with a long wait. The restaurant draws customers because it blends Filipino and Midwest cuisine into a mix of dishes unique to husband-wife founders Tim Flores and Genie Kwon.