28 E Jackson, 60604
Time: In the door at 12:07, eating in 11 minutes
Meal: Regular (6”) Italian beef, small fries, fountain drink = $11.50
Heading East from Fontano’s, we pass the lamentably closed Fast Foo’s and come to Al’s Beef on the corner of Jackson and Wabash. Al’s is another small local chain (7 locations in the city, 5 in the suburbs, and one each in Arizona and Georgia).
The menu at Al’s is pretty standard Chicago fare: hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian beef. There’s a “tamale boat” that looks interesting, in a gut-buster way, but I decided to get the Italian beef since it’s in the name, and there are posters up proclaiming that they won best Italian beef in NBC Chicago’s Golden Local awards. I don’t actually get an Italian beef all that often, partly because I don’t really like messy foods, but when I do it’s dipped with sweet peppers.
Even arriving right after noon, I still managed to beat the lunch rush—the order line was three times as long while I was waiting for my food. And that makes me wonder how long those people had to wait for their food, since mine took seven or eight minutes to be ready.
The space has an oddly-low ceiling, but there are plenty of places to eat downstairs—all standing at stainless steel counters, perfect for the Chicago Lean. There’s more seating on a second floor that I didn’t visit. The last time I was in the place they were having a problem with their exhaust fans and the whole place was shrouded in greasy smoke. That wasn’t happening this time, but by the end of my lunch, the place was starting to smell pretty meaty just from all the orders being cooked up.
The sandwich was good. The dip was very tasty, with a little bit of a bite. The beef and peppers were so stewed that they just about fell apart, and with the bread mushy from the dip, the whole thing was as messy as I thought it would be. The fries were the kind I like—hand cut style with the skin still on. But they were a little mushy.