Obsessed with The Bear? Here's Where to Eat Messy, Juicy Italian Beef Sandwiches
If FX’s The Bear doesn’t have you thirsting over lead actor Jeremy Allen White, then you’re bound to be left salivating over the show’s star dish: the Italian beef. If you haven’t watched the show that everyone’s talking and memeing about, though, here’s the synopsis: Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto leaves the fine dining world in New York after his brother’s death to take over the family Italian beef shop, nicknamed The Beef, where a team of cooks serve up old-school, mediocre sandwiches the way they’ve been doing for years. When Carmy arrives, he decides to shake things up, roasting his own vegetables for the beef jus, making that ambrosia-like blend of pickled veggies called giardiniera from scratch, and ensuring the beef is served at optimal juiciness and tenderness.
Though the Italian beef was born and raised in Chicago, you don’t need to book a flight to O’Hare to taste a Windy City-worthy Italian beef. We found five spots in the Portland area serving these juicy, pepper-loaded sandwiches—but will they lean more devil-may-care or devil’s-in-the-details? In our book, the perfect Italian beef offers tender, thin-sliced beef on juice-soaked bread (in Chicago, ask for it “dipped,” though the mess-averse can order it dry, with the sauce on the side, or with just a little juice), with both sweet roasted peppers and hot giardiniera—a fall-apart affair that encourages devouring. You can add on melted cheese or make it a combo by pairing the slow-roasted beef with Italian sausage, we think that’s just gilding the lily. Read on for our findings.
Though Sammich is perhaps best known for its slow-smoked pastrami, the shop deserves equal hype for its Italian beef, a gourmet take on the classic Chicago sandwich. And in this establishment decked out in Cubs memorabilia, you’d best believe owner Melissa McMillan wants to do Chicago proud. “Our beef juice is a cheffy chef chef version of fucking au jus,” McMillan told Portland Monthly in a previous conversation about The Bear. Indeed, it has the complexity you might expect from a deeply reduced French onion soup. The bread is a bit crisper than what I found living in Chicago, but that just means it’s got plenty of structure to soak up more of that painstakingly m ade jus. Expect generous amounts of giardiniera, beautifully blistered sweet peppers, and a strong recommendation to dip your sandwich—plus extra jus on the side for complete saturation. 2137 E Burnside St —KCH
Michael’s Italian Beef & Sausage Co.
This Southeast Sandy spot has a run-down charm—a promising sign when seeking out a storied hoagie. Their mix of Cubs AND White Sox memorabilia, however, threw us for a bit of a loop. In the hyper-specific world of culinary traditions, where topics of “how dirty is your giardiniera,” tear families apart, Michael’s lack of conviction seems to bleed into their sandwiches. A serviceable lunch, no doubt, but we were left with a bit of a dilapidated, The Beef pre-Carmy impression. 1111 SE Sandy Blvd —MT
In Beaverton’s burgeoning food scene, the hunt for the Windy City classic ends at Geraldi’s. The family-owned spot tucked away off SW Canyon Rd, is known to be frequented by Illinois natives—and the Chicago Beef is the main attraction. One bite of the messy, mozzarella-laced handheld (yes, it comes with cheese by default) results in an explosion of au jus and seasoned, tender beef that juxtaposes nicely with the sturdy bread it’s served on. Just don’t make the rookie move of forgetting to ask for giardiniera. —DB
Bridge City Pizza
Though most customers here are picking up paper-wrapped pizzas to go, the no-nonsense stainless steel counter makes for a perfect perch to devour a surprisingly true-to-Chicago Italian beef. The sandwich comes dipped by default to the point where the bread is barely hanging on for dear life—and that’s a good thing. It also comes with extra jus on the side so you can test the limits of this loaf’s saturation. It’s a very good French bread at that—the restaurant uses Amoroso’s from Philadelphia, commonly known as the cheesesteak bread of choice. The sweet peppers and giardiniera are both required, but the giardiniera in particular is special, boasting the usual suspects like carrot, celery, and peppers alongside crunchy cauliflower. 5412 SE Woodstock Blvd —KCH
Taking its name from the Wilco song, Via Chicago's clout runs deep. Only Cubs memorabilia graces the walls and a Jeff Tweedy poster hangs above the case of deep-dish slices. While coming from the right place (literally and figuratively), their beef is served on a hoagie roll that leans a little too small for our liking, and lacks the crusty texture to withstand the ceremonious dip. The beef itself is tender and piled high, punctuated by a spicy crunchy giardiniera that brings the flavors together. For a pizza joint, it’s a solid effort. 2013 NE Alberta St —MT