IF I take the train it will stop at the first station in Illinois where we will all disembark and be subject to the same security airline passengers go through. X-rays, pat-downs, the whole schmear. The TSA, Secret Service and FBI will sweep the train across the platform before we transfer to it. Then it will be on our way downtown. All this is due to the fact that my train travels under McCormick Place, where the summit is being held.My other option would be to drive. The expressways are going to be backed up but since I know my way around town a backdoor shortcut should be no problem since I am working in the west loop, west of the river and east of Halsted near Greek Town.
Looking For Mr. Goodbeef
Over the course of decades while working in the city there were many opportunities for me to try various Italian beef sangwiches. So I did. They’re everywhere in Chicago.The Italian beef sangwich is one of those local, provincial ‘Chicago style’ culinary treasures. In other words, it is impossible to find an ‘authentic’ Italian beef outside the city limits, according to the indigenous locals who prefer any and all food with a side of unnecessary smugness.
Four years ago I published a recipe for making perfect Italian beef at home. It’s simple and it’s better than it has to be. Of all the essays I have published at LITGM the one on Italian beef draws comments to this day. All are opinionated, and that’s good.
Last week I spotted an Al’s #1 Italian Beef two doors north of the office I am working at. Al’s #1 Italian Beef is the only nationally famous Chicago Italian beef joint that I never tried.
Al’s has appeared on a few TV travel food programs. On one it pitted Al’s vs. Mr. Beef on Orleans. This is not too different form the media comparisons between Pat’s Steaks and Gino’s Steaks in Philly. If I recall correctly, Mr. Beef won. Man V.Food was there once as well. Richman seemed to like it a lot. I have had Mr. Beef on a few occasions but never Al’s. Thursday I had my very first Al’s. Fuggeddaboudit. Him: Wantcher beef dipped? Sweet pepperss or hot giardiniera? Boat? Provalone? All tree? Me: Al's baby beef and hot G. No dip, just wet. The ‘Baby Al" ($4.95, hot giardiniera+.50) was large enough for me. I asked for it not to be dipped. They dipped it anyway but I was unaware until I got back to my workstation. Not a lot of hot giardiniera, which I crave. So far not good. Then came the real surprise. I was surprised how little flavor this sangwich had. None. The only thing Italian about it was the guy that took my order and my money. Hey, it wasn’t a bad sangwich. But it wasn’t a great one either. In fact, I have had better Italian beef at the small Ma and Pa Vienna Hot Dog joints where Italian beef is a sideline. Give Al’s a try and judge for yourself. For what it’s worth, this review comes from a guy who likes ketchup on his hot dog.
Another spot I tired Friday was something totally new to me. Epic Burger (shouldn’t the overused term ‘Epic’ just go away already?) is another new hamburger joint where all burgers cost $5. or more. I would say they are competing with 5 Guys and Red Robin but for one difference.
Eating an Epic Burger allows one to consume a simple hamburger with a guilt-free conscience. You see, they sell a ‘more mindful burger’ according to their website. WTF is with that? According to their website, here are a few choice words that are intended on making the time-poor guilt-ridden young moderns. This should make them feel better about consuming fried animal flesh (cage free, organic eggs, nitrate free, one year aged cheddar, humanely raised, packaging made from plants, real butter and sea salt.) This phony earth-friendly marketing mumbo must be working on our young college graduates with skulls full of mush. So I stopped in to the location on Canal between Adams and Monroe just to see if I would feel all warm and squishy inside. The place was packed, mostly with the under 30 types. Lots of draw-string cargo shorts and B.F. Goodrich sandals on the guys, young ladies showing off bare waists with navel bling and tramp stamps. Looks as if they hit their target. The room was austere with high ceilings. The very loud din never subsided in this acoustically-challenged ode to earth-worship.
It took about fifteen minutes for my food to arrive. I ordered the small burger with traditional condiments and a bag of fries. The burger had oats on the bun. I scraped them off. It was a tad stale and chewy. The meat was juicy but not a lot of beefy flavor. Thank goodness for onions and ketchup. This burger was…OK…but far from EPIC. The fries looked fabulous. They appeared to be fresh cut and fried with lots of peels stuck to the sticks. They had the right amount of limpness yet still had the necessary crunchy exterior. There was a great mouth-feel. The insides were fluffy but dry. Oh, one last thing. They had no flavor, absolutely NONE! This is probably due to being fried in the most healthy and earth-friendly hot oil on Gaia’s planet. Too bad, these fries showed promise.
I went 0-2 in new food spots downtown. Neither place is worth my time again.