Keeping it simple

Italian beef sandwiches are a quintessential part of Chicago’s culinary scene, boasting a rich history and a loyal following of fans. From classic joints to modern eateries, the Windy City offers a plethora of options for indulging in this savory delight. Let’s explore eight of the best Italian beef sandwiches Chicago has to offer.

1. Al’s Beef

Al’s Beef stands as one of the city’s oldest Italian beef restaurants, dating back to 1938. Renowned for its mouthwatering sandwiches, Al’s offers a variety of options, including dry, wet, dipped, and topped with hot giardiniera. What sets Al’s apart is its 85-year-old sandwich recipe and the meticulous 30-hour beef-cooking method, ensuring a flavor that keeps patrons coming back for more.

2. Johnnie’s Beef

Since 1961, Johnnie’s Beef has remained a beloved institution in Chicago’s Italian beef scene. Despite the changes in the city’s landscape, Johnnie’s has maintained its original structure, attracting a steady stream of loyal customers with its no-frills approach and consistently delicious sandwiches.

3. Portillo’s

Portillo’s has experienced remarkable growth since its humble beginnings in the suburbs of Chicago. With 75 locations across 10 states, Portillo’s continues to deliver exceptional taste and quality. What sets Portillo’s apart is its range of topping options, allowing patrons to customize their beef sandwiches with unusual cheeses and flavorful condiments.

4. Buona Beef

Buona Beef has carved a niche for itself in the Chicago dining scene since its inception in 1981. Founded by Joe and Peggy Buonavolanto, the restaurant has expanded to over 25 locations throughout the city and its outskirts. Buona Beef prides itself on its delicious food and high-quality ingredients, offering patrons a taste of authentic Italian flavor.

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5. Odge’s

Despite flying under the radar, Odge’s is a hidden gem cherished by those in the know. Founded in 1972 by Eldwin Steven “Odge” Boksa Sr., this family-owned establishment offers delicious Italian beef sandwiches made with care and attention to detail. While it may only be open for lunch, the anticipation of savoring Odge’s sandwiches makes it well worth the wait.

6. Budacki’s Drive In

Budacki’s Drive In offers a unique twist on Italian beef sandwiches with its casual Korean fried chicken restaurant. Located in Ravenswood, Budacki’s serves up crispy wings and bulgogi from a shoe box stand, attracting patrons with its fusion of flavors and laid-back atmosphere.

7. Kasama

Kasama, a modern Filipino restaurant, has recently garnered attention with its innovative approach to cuisine. Founded by husband-wife duo Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, Kasama blends Filipino and Midwest flavors to create a menu that is both familiar and exciting. While not exclusively focused on Italian beef sandwiches, Kasama’s offerings are a testament to the city’s diverse culinary landscape.


Chicago’s Italian beef sandwich scene is as vibrant and diverse as the city itself, offering a wide array of options for discerning food enthusiasts. Whether you’re craving a classic sandwich from a longstanding institution or eager to explore modern twists on this timeless favorite, the Windy City has something to satisfy every palate.

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