The Origins of the Italian Beef Sandwich

Italian beef sandwich

The Italian beef sandwich is one of the top foods Chicago is known for and is beloved throughout the city and surrounding suburbs alike. The origins of the Italian beef sandwich date back to early 1900s Chicago and its legendary combination of roast beef and spices have been tempting palates ever since. Read on to find the best Italian beef sandwich in Chicago! 


The History of Italian Beef Sandwich

While the exact origins of the Italian beef sandwich are unknown, it made its first appearance during the early 1900s in Chicago. Italian immigrants slow-roasted tough cuts of meat in a spicy broth until it was tender, piling thin slices onto Italian bread. The tasty sandwich became popular for weddings and big family gatherings, as the thinly sliced meat meant there was more to go around for everyone to enjoy. 

The Italian beef sandwich started showing up on restaurant menus during the 1930s, and while many shops claim to be the original, most agree that that Al’s #1 Italian Beef on Taylor St. officially wears that crown. 


How to Make Italian Beef Sandwiches 

To make one of Chicago’s most famous foods at home, you will need: 

  • Meat: boneless beef roast
  • Rub: ground black pepper, garlic power, onion powder, dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper 
  • Juice: water and beef bouillon cubes 
  • Bread: Italian roll loaves 
  • Garnish: green bell peppers, hot giardiniera

After rubbing the meat, roast in the oven with water and bouillon cubes until medium rare. Then, slice the meat as thinly as possible, piling onto the bread. 

One of the most important steps in how to make Italian beef sandwiches is whether you prefer your sandwich “wet” or “dry”. Many Chicagoans order their Italian beef “dipped”, meaning the entire sandwich, bread and all, is dunked in the juice. You can also finish your sandwich by making it “sweet” (topped with sweet peppers), “hot” (topped with giardiniera), or a “combo” (paired with an Italian sausage). 

If you’re wondering what to serve with Italian beef sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with french fries, onion rings, potato chips, or any kind of salad. 


The Best Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago 

As you’re planning your visit to the Windy City, be sure to check out these spots for some of the best Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago: 


Visit Skydeck After You Enjoy an Italian Beef Sandwich

Trying a classic Italian beef sandwich is a must-do experience when you visit Chicago, along with stepping out on the Ledge at Skydeck! We give you a view of the city unlike any other, so get tickets for your next visit today!

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