Tales From North of 635 – Al’s #1 Italian Beef in Addison

One of my favorite meals is a French Dip sandwich. I’ve been eating the shaved roast beef sandwich with gooey cheese and rich au jus since at least High School. My friends and I would head to our local Bennigan’s (RIP) and devour a French Dip with a bowl of potato soup. You can imagine how excited I was to hear of a new fast casual restaurant in Addison devoted solely to shaved beef sandwiches – Al’s Italian Beef. You may have heard that after their opening, there was such a demand, they were forced to close because they ran our of beef! Luckily, they were back in stock in time for my visit.

Al’s famous Italian beef sandwich comes in different sizes with the option to add extra beef, hot giardiniera, sweet peppers, or cheese.  It also comes with different levels of…wetness…you can choose from. You can have your sandwich dry (boring), wet, dipped, and regular. They dip the sandwich is what they consider “gravy”, but is actually beef juices (au jus). Get it the Chicago way dipped with hot and sweet peppers…It’s how Da Coach eats his. Al’s Italian Beef enlisted Mike Ditka, retired Hall of Fame NFL football player, former NFL coach and TV commentator, as their official spokesperson, advisor, and “taster” who is working with the company to scout new franchise locations across the country in NFL cities.

The history of Al’s #1 Italian Beef Restaurants dates back to 1938 when Al Ferrari and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr., developed the original idea and recipe for the original Italian beef sandwich. The great Chicago sandwich was actually formed out of necessity during the Great Depression when meat was scarce. In order to make the most of what they had, Chris and Al would slice the meat very thin and place it on thick loaves of fresh made Italian bread. The original recipe, which is still used in all Al’s Beef locations today, was developed in Al’s home kitchen. The family sold the delicious sandwiches at a neighborhood food stand and delivered them to local businesses until they opened their current location on West Taylor Street in Chicago.  It was at this storefront where they added other items to the menu, including Italian sausage, Chicago hot dogs, homemade hand-cut French fries and Polish sausages, to name a few.  Taylor Street remains today as one of Chicago’s truly iconic food destinations.

I should also note they have other menu items…but, let’s be real, I was only concerned about their namesake. Also, get ready to get messy – you don’t want to take a first date to Al’s. The sandwich is beyond wet – they weren’t lying.

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