Awakening from a Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage coma, I felt compelled to make the most of my time in Chicago and at least try to get something to eat. I really didn't feel like driving back into downtown Chicago, but what could I get in Arlington Heights? I quickly had an answer. Earlier in the day I drove up Arlington Heights Road past a shop that the same fella who mentioned Peep's told me about. Leaving no room for wiggle, I was simply told that "Johnnie's Beef makes the best Italian Beef, no two ways about it!"
So after a quick shower to rejuvenate myself, I jumped in the rental car, and headed North for a couple of blocks to Johnnie's Beef. Walking through the doors a wonderful beefy smell hit me, and I was ready for action.
The service.... well, more like the procedure here was mercifully fast. You order, and in no time you have your Italian Beef ready to go. And because there is a constant flow of customers.... you really don't want to mess up the rhythm by taking too much time.
The sandwich....I got mine "dipped" with hot peppers, rang in at a shade over four bucks. It's not a super-stuffed sandwich, but well proportioned for my taste.
I've had Italian Beef sandwiches at Mr Beef (On N Harlem) and Portillo's, but nothing has come close to this. The beef wasn't cut too thin, but was very tender, yet not mushy, full of beefy goodness. The sandwich was just soaked enough, the crust retained a nice chew, and the bread was wet, but not over-saturated with juices that had retained a good beef flavor, with a belnd of herbs and spcies that were balanced. In addition to some crunch, the spicy giardiniera had the perfect amount of heat and brine to wake up my still sluggish palate. In fact, I guess you could say that this was strangely invigorating.
Good thing Johnnie's is in Chicago. If it was here in San Diego, I'd be in line a couple times a week.
The next morning while checking out, thinking that perhaps there might be something even better out there, I asked the young man at the front desk for a recommendation for an Italian Beef sandwich. He immediately replied, "Johnnie's Beef." Digging a little deeper, I mentioned that I had Johnnie's the night before, and if he'd have any other recommendations. Suddenly, a loud, disembodied voice boomed out of an open doorway, "if you tell him anything other than Johnnie's you better get your friggin' a$$ outta here cause you're fired!"
Well, I guess that answers my question, huh?