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Beefathon II report

Beefathon II report
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  • Beefathon II report

    Post #1 - June 27th, 2004, 2:40 pm
    Post #1 - June 27th, 2004, 2:40 pm Post #1 - June 27th, 2004, 2:40 pm
    Results of Beefathon II will be posted by D Dickson when he has completed tabulating results. At this point, I'll stick to general comments. To see the discussions leading up to Beefathon II, go to the events calendar and click on "Italian beef tasting - june 26."

    Attending "Beefathon II - the Western Suburbs" were VI (the Mayor-in-exile), David Hammond, Flip, Steve Z, DDickson and George R. It began at Carm's in Hillside with a moving ceremony.

    Steve Z had, like many before him, taken one for the team by eliminating the egregious Beefee's from consideration for the Beefathon. In honor of his sacrifice he was presented with a MAJOR AWARD (if you've seen the move "Christmas Story" you'll know what I'm talking about).

    Image
    The Mayor reads a proclamation to Steve Z

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    The Mayor congratulates Steve Z as Hammond looks on, while Dickson and Flip (background) think of Beef

    For his contribution, Steve Z was awarded "A Purple Heart (and any other edible organ meats) with Grape Leaf clusters."

    We then proceeded to the important stuff

    Image
    Carm's staff was warm and friendly, especially after I told them how much I liked the original Carm's on south Cicero Avenue back in the 50's. The consensus was that Carm's was a worthy addition to the Pantheon of Chicago Beef places. I also bought a couple of beef sandwiches for my son who had to work that day.

    A leisurely drive took us to Italian Beef icon Johnnie's in Elmwood Park where we were joined by Seth Z.

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    Flip, Seth Z (almost hidden), VI, Hammond, Steve Z, Dickson

    Image
    Notice eager hands waiting to grab once the photographer has done his business

    All agreed Johnnie's continues to produce a fine beef sandwich. As a bouche amusee (or should it be a gut amusee?), Seth Z also bought one of Johnnie's fine sausage sandwiches which was shared by all. The only downside was when we (as usual) asked for peppers and extra juice on the side. The juice Nazi at the counter said "no juice" in tones meaning "don't bother me any more."

    Before we left, I again picked up a beef sandwich for my son.

    Next stop was Buona's, only a half mile east in Oak Park.

    Image
    Buona's has a respectable product, especially for a chain.

    Then we headed north to Frannie's in Schiller Park where we snagged an outdoor table.

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    Al Fresco dining at Frannie's

    Frannie's was noteworthy for it's outstanding atmosphere and skin-on fries.

    Image
    Hammond can't wait to get at the food

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    Here's the stuff

    Final stop was Jay's, just a mile west on Irving Park Road

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    The beef here was a disappointment, so there were a few remnants left.

    Image
    After the beef
    Last edited by George R on June 29th, 2004, 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - June 27th, 2004, 3:40 pm
    Post #2 - June 27th, 2004, 3:40 pm Post #2 - June 27th, 2004, 3:40 pm
    Great pics. I wish I could have made it.

    One note, while you are correct that Frannies has skin on fries, believe it or not, they are frozen. But they are great the oft times they cook them enough.
  • Post #3 - June 27th, 2004, 4:40 pm
    Post #3 - June 27th, 2004, 4:40 pm Post #3 - June 27th, 2004, 4:40 pm
    Frozen or not, what Frannie's does with fries makes it work.
  • Post #4 - June 27th, 2004, 4:49 pm
    Post #4 - June 27th, 2004, 4:49 pm Post #4 - June 27th, 2004, 4:49 pm
    I agree. It appears they actually let them defrost before they cook them. I kid you not, I've probably been in there 200 times and I only saw the bag one time. I was stuneed because I never would have guessed.
  • Post #5 - June 27th, 2004, 6:09 pm
    Post #5 - June 27th, 2004, 6:09 pm Post #5 - June 27th, 2004, 6:09 pm
    Some random thoughts on the Italian Beef tasting.

    What struck me on this particular outing was the overwhelming superiority of Johnnie's. The chocolaty-brown meat (tender and full of flavor), the sauce (good notes of garlic and oregano, and not too 'greasy'), the crisp and hot giardiniera - the only complaint was that the sandwiches were too small.

    Jay's was an abomination. Before I took a slice of sandwich, I grabbed a piece of meat about the size of a dollar bill folded twice. After ten seconds or so, I was still chewing, so I glanced at a clock with a sweep second hand; 35 seconds later, I had finally masticated the meat sufficiently to enable me to swallow it. It was remarkably tough stuff. Flavorless. The embodiment of all that is bad about bad Italian beef.

    Like Jay's, Buona had a miserable atmosphere (slick, corporate, soulless - though Jay's was more like stark, sad, and empty). The Buona sandwich turned out to be pretty good.

    Frannie's advertised 'virgin beef,' which we discovered simply meant beef that was exceptionally well trimmed, so that you don't get a lot of fat or gristle in a bite. The sandwich itself was not very good, so apparently this particular type of virginity is over-rated. It wasn't exceptionally good, but the ices got some raves - I tried a spoon of Flip's and it was very good.

    David
  • Post #6 - June 27th, 2004, 6:20 pm
    Post #6 - June 27th, 2004, 6:20 pm Post #6 - June 27th, 2004, 6:20 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Some random thoughts on the Italian Beef tasting.

    What struck me on this particular outing was the overwhelming superiority of Johnnie's. The chocolaty-brown meat (tender and full of flavor), the sauce (good notes of garlic and oregano, and not too 'greasy'), the crisp and hot giardiniera - the only complaint was that the sandwiches were too small.

    Jay's was an abomination. Before I took a slice of sandwich, I grabbed a piece of meat about the size of a dollar bill folded twice. After ten seconds or so, I was still chewing, so I glanced at a clock with a sweep second hand; 35 seconds later, I had finally masticated the meat sufficiently to enable me to swallow it. It was remarkably tough stuff. Flavorless. The embodiment of all that is bad about bad Italian beef.

    Like Jay's, Buona had a miserable atmosphere (slick, corporate, soulless - though Jay's was more like stark, sad, and empty). The Buona sandwich turned out to be pretty good.

    Frannie's advertised 'virgin beef,' which we discovered simply meant beef that was exceptionally well trimmed, so that you don't get a lot of fat or gristle in a bite. The sandwich itself was not very good, so apparently this particular type of virginity is over-rated. It wasn't exceptionally good, but the ices got some raves - I tried a spoon of Flip's and it was very good.

    David

    I agree with you completely. I was particularly dissapointed in Jay's since I have such fond memories of it from 15 years worth of eating there at least once a week when my office was in Schiller Park. I'm not sure I would go along with "abomination", but I'll agree it was a shadow of its former self. In terms of Frannie's, I think that if the beef was a little less "virgin" and had a little more fat content for some flavor I would have enjoyed the sandwich more.

    As far as my synopsis of the Beefathon... there was Johnnies and then all the rest were shades of nearly the same. None of the others caught my enthusiam. Each of them had one or two things that they did well, but none of them had the whole package.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - June 27th, 2004, 7:29 pm
    Post #7 - June 27th, 2004, 7:29 pm Post #7 - June 27th, 2004, 7:29 pm
    Frannie's is strange. Until about a year or so ago it was always very good. Then it got inconsistent. I wouldn't classify it as flavorless, instead I'd say that sometimes it just tastes OFF. I don't know what's changed because the owners are the same as they've always been. Years ago I'd travel half way across the city to go there, now I'll still go because it's in my neighborhood. But I seldom order the beef anymore. There was a time when the lines at lunch were almost as long as Johnnie's. Now it's like a ghost town.

    As far as Jays, their sausage is good, the beef is bland and too thick. The Narragansett place used to be packed at lunch time. The owner was a crazy old man, always yelling at the help and very rude to the customers. But the beef was good. Since he's died it's like they're just going through the motions.

    Buona, well I've only gone there once. I don't remember anything about it, it was rather non-descript. Johnnie's is just so much better that I'd rather stand in line than settle for 2nd best.
  • Post #8 - June 27th, 2004, 7:47 pm
    Post #8 - June 27th, 2004, 7:47 pm Post #8 - June 27th, 2004, 7:47 pm
    Buona isn't bad for things besides beef. I'm not a beef fan so I can't really judge that, but like Portillo's, when your options are between Quizno's, Bennigan's, Panda and Buona Beef in some mall somewhere (or on the Mag Mile with little time or money), it's closer to real food and a little less corporate/soulless than many of your choices.
  • Post #9 - June 27th, 2004, 7:55 pm
    Post #9 - June 27th, 2004, 7:55 pm Post #9 - June 27th, 2004, 7:55 pm
    Hey Mike,

    I assume by "things besides beef" you mean like salads and stuff, which seemed like they could be a good option in the barren landscape you describe. Buona has a fairly large menu -- probably the widest range of items compared to the other places we stopped at, though Carm's menu was fairly large, too (and they had some pizzas that looked decent), and Frannie's had many sandwiches and fried options (onion rings, poppers, etc.).

    Years ago, maybe 12 or so, I made the mistake of ordering one of Buona's "special deals" -- something like a couple pounds of beef, bread, and a few of sides. One of the sides was memorable for its horribleness: macaroni in a creamy sauce with cubes of what I believe was American-type cheese. It was absolutely inedible. That was a long time ago, though, and Buona has definitely tightened up their show in the past decade.

    David
  • Post #10 - June 27th, 2004, 9:56 pm
    Post #10 - June 27th, 2004, 9:56 pm Post #10 - June 27th, 2004, 9:56 pm
    Salads, actually they make a perfectly decent char-grilled burger, some okay sandwiches with chicken pesto and tomato that take them into Corner Bakery territory-- again, I don't want to make big claims for the place but when you're stuck somewhere with bad choices, they're a pretty good one and one that allows everybody to have something they won't hate.

    They apparently do a huge catering business, I can't imagine any place I've ever worked at bringing in Italian beef sandwiches for a meeting for everybody, but maybe it'd make a nice change for the guys on the line at the Vienna Beef plant...

    I seem to be on a post recycling kick today, so I'll take this opportunity to quote myself on Buona Beef from April 2003, and also another place out in the western burbs that's somewhat similar:

    Buona Beef-- This chain seems to be following the Portillo's model of existing in one or two locations in the burbs for 30 years, then suddenly expanding all over the burbs and even coming downtown so that, apparently, people from Downers Grove visiting the Mag Mile need not eat at a restaurant that they haven't been eating at for 20 years already. Also like Portillo's, they get points for being less plastic than a lot of the things there are to eat in the immediate vicinity-- I would choose Buona Beef or Portillo's over many of the choices either on North Michigan Ave. or on the stretch of Golf east of Woodfield. (Or in and around Woodfield, for that matter.) I actually can't speak to the Italian beef, that's not my thing, but a charbroiled hamburger was quite decent (although the list of toppings, which includes mayo and doesn't include mustard, is all wrong), and considering that they're basically in the spot on Superior where Gino's used to be, the deep dish pizza at that address may actually have slightly improved. And both locations are shockingly posh for fast food joints. You look at a place like the Golf Rd. one, with its fireplace, or the maitre d' station and upstairs seating on Superior, and no wonder McDonald's is on the skids.

    Kosta's-- a gyros place on Dundee road somewhere way beyond Woodfield, found it while driving around killing time and gas after one kid fell asleep on the way to Woodfield. From the posher-than-average exterior looks I thought this might be another Buona Beef, or at least another Dengeo's, the superior Greek fast food joint up on the bike paths in Skokie. But rotisserie chicken was just okay, wouldn't pass muster for Athenian chicken in the city, and service was downright rude, not to mention I was rather put off by people standing at the counter as their orders came together plucking fries and fried shrimp from their soon-to-be trays and munching it in the pickup line. (I understood why a little better when I realized all our fries were cold, but still, an unsightly habit.)
  • Post #11 - June 28th, 2004, 10:17 am
    Post #11 - June 28th, 2004, 10:17 am Post #11 - June 28th, 2004, 10:17 am
    Hello all,

    First, many thanks to George and Dickson for organizing such a fantastic journey through the world of Italian beef.

    My impressions of this standard Chicago fare are forever changed. Starting at Carm's I fell in love with both of the giardinieras. Avery nice mix of peppers and other assorted veggies.

    After I lead everyone on a "wild beef chase" we arrived at what I now believe is my vision of Italian beef nirvana. Even with the "gravy nazi" it is my opinion that Johnnie's serves the best IB that I have ever devoured. Crisp, but well moistened roll filled with tender beef. The sweet peppers and giardiniera were also memorable. The atmoshpere reminded me of my childhood standing outside a small ice cream shack in Elmhurst (Sam's?). Truly a memorable experience.

    Bouna was what Bouna is. Need I say more? :)

    Frannie's was memorable for me for everything, but the beef. The canteloupe ice I enjoyed was like biting into a fresh ripe slice of melon while sitting amongst friends at a weekend BBQ. The fries at Frannie's were definitely tops for the day. I remember the virgin beef, but it was not something I would go home with. :wink:

    I'll reserve my comments on the beef at Ray's, but will say that the heated discussion was much more memorable. :roll:

    A very food coma inducing way to spend my Saturday. Thanks to all and I look forward to Beefathon III.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #12 - June 29th, 2004, 9:26 pm
    Post #12 - June 29th, 2004, 9:26 pm Post #12 - June 29th, 2004, 9:26 pm
    The "Beef-O-Tron 2000" must have broken down because we have not seen the final tabulation yet. What's up D Dickson?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #13 - June 30th, 2004, 1:22 pm
    Post #13 - June 30th, 2004, 1:22 pm Post #13 - June 30th, 2004, 1:22 pm
    An enjoyable and useful report. Just a minor technicality: Buona Beef is located on the south side of Roosevelt Road, which makes it Berwyn and not Oak Park.

    I hope you can swing a little further south for Beefathon III and check out a few other places like Novi's on Ogden and Oak Park, Mr. Beef on Ogden just west of Oak Park (Berwyn's "other" notable beef places). While you're in Berwyn, you can stop at the Tastee Freeze on 26th Street just west of East Avenue for another authentic, neighborhood kind of place for an ice cream fix. A little further south in Garfield Ridge are 2 popular places, Nicky's on Archer and Austin (known first and foremost for their Big Baby double burger but also for their beef, gyros and dogs) and Parisi's on West 63rd Street between Austin and Narragansett for the beef or sausage (make sure you get the red sauce). It's your no-frills, family-run kind of place, with lots of old b/w photos on the wall of family and the beef stand dating back to the 50's. Part of the experience.
  • Post #14 - June 30th, 2004, 1:47 pm
    Post #14 - June 30th, 2004, 1:47 pm Post #14 - June 30th, 2004, 1:47 pm
    alisonmackenzie wrote:An enjoyable and useful report. Just a minor technicality: Buona Beef is located on the south side of Roosevelt Road, which makes it Berwyn and not Oak Park.

    .


    Actually, the one we checked out was in Oak Park on North Avenue. There are probably at least 20 Buena Beef's, though.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #15 - June 30th, 2004, 2:34 pm
    Post #15 - June 30th, 2004, 2:34 pm Post #15 - June 30th, 2004, 2:34 pm
    the one in berwyn, though, is the original. the catering operation is across the street (and also across the street from giovanni's, the half-decent pizzeria at grove and roosevelt). it's amazing to peek into the catering part of the business when they've got the massive doors open for an outgoing shipment.

    it's seriously impressive. i know buona beef is very popular for catering oak park/river forest high school graduation parties, and i'd bet they do a fairly decent business at similar events year round.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #16 - June 30th, 2004, 3:50 pm
    Post #16 - June 30th, 2004, 3:50 pm Post #16 - June 30th, 2004, 3:50 pm
    Alison makes some interesting suggestions. I've noticed that nearly all the recommendations we've had for beef places have either been west or north, and was wondering if our fellow chowists had suggestions for south and southwest. Thanks to Alison, we're now filling in the gap.

    I had suggested that Beefathon III be the north side, but there's nothing wrong with doing south or southwest first.

    Let me add some more names to the mix. Yesterday I received an email from an Italian beef fan who lives in L.A. Her favorite beef place when she can get to Chicago is: Uncle Johnny's, 500 W. 32nd Street (32nd & Normal). (312) 225-6111

    Another place I recall being suggested long ago is Ricobene's, 252 W. 26th Street. 312-225-5555. I understand there are other locations, including one on East Lake Street, but 26th Street is the original (I remember the pizzas from my days as an IIT student, but have no recollections of the Beef.)

    Comments would be appreciated.

    Looks as if it may be time to open a new thread under Events for Beefathon III.
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #17 - July 1st, 2004, 7:21 am
    Post #17 - July 1st, 2004, 7:21 am Post #17 - July 1st, 2004, 7:21 am
    So convenient that you all have done the posting for me! :D

    I will work on tabulation over the holiday weekend, but I would not expect the results to differ from what has been posted so far. Generally, the quality was pretty high, but Johnnies is head and shoulders above the rest. I am not disposed to compare these places directly against those previously rated (too much time, different raters, etc.), but perhaps once we complete this survey phase, we can move into a finalist test, where we hit 4 or 5 places at most that are the best (Johnnies, Als, and then it becomes a challenge - Patio, Carm's, Chickies, someone will say Mr Beef, though I have no idea why???).

    Johnnies is a great sandwich, and was particularly good at 1130 that Saturday in the sunshine with my fellow chowists. Frannies has wonderful fries, great fruit ice, and a perfect atmosphere. Nothing else stood out for me.

    Numbers this weekend.

    Many thanks to George R who was the true organizer of this event.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #18 - July 1st, 2004, 8:26 am
    Post #18 - July 1st, 2004, 8:26 am Post #18 - July 1st, 2004, 8:26 am
    Geez, I was waiting for the official tab before pipping in... :?

    I do want to offer, well not exactly a strong counter-opinion, but at least a strong vote for Carm's in Hillside. To say it was not Johnnies is really to marvel at how delicious Johnnies is. To come to Johnnies after the garlic ridden, expertly cooked beef at Carms and find Johnnies actually better, just shows that Johnnies has some kind of black magic in their small stand that produces beef with everything just right. Still, Carm's was pretty darn right too, and if it was not Johnnies, it is not really its fault. Voodo is.

    Other than that, I agree, with the notion as expressed by all, that Jay's was bad. The first outright bad beef on these trips.

    I look very much forward to future ventures in beef. Parsi's on 63rd, kinda LA loooking in its modern way, has always caught my eye. I disagree with sentiments expressed by Steve Z in the run-up, that we are aiming to find the "best" beef. For one thing, it is hard to surely quantify the best as the two top contenders, Johnnies and Al's make a nearly different product. For another, the gradiations, even up to Johnnies are often slight. To me, it is more of a chance to visit various beef stands, see their take--virgin beef anyone--than just find the best.

    Perhaps because others have done the heavy lifting, the food so yummy and the people encountered so interesting, the beefathons have been some of my favorite chowathons.

    Rob
  • Post #19 - July 1st, 2004, 9:28 am
    Post #19 - July 1st, 2004, 9:28 am Post #19 - July 1st, 2004, 9:28 am
    Vital Information wrote:Geez, I was waiting for the official tab before pipping in... :?

    I do want to offer, well not exactly a strong counter-opinion, but at least a strong vote for Carm's in Hillside. To say it was not Johnnies is really to marvel at how delicious Johnnies is. To come to Johnnies after the garlic ridden, expertly cooked beef at Carms and find Johnnies actually better, just shows that Johnnies has some kind of black magic in their small stand that produces beef with everything just right. Still, Carm's was pretty darn right too, and if it was not Johnnies, it is not really its fault. Voodo is.



    I guess I'm in the minority, since I found Carm's to be my least favorite of all the beef's tasted, closly followed by Jay's. The only saving grace for me at Carm's were the extra hot peppers, which weren't served with the beef we ordered, but offered as we were finishing.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #20 - July 1st, 2004, 1:42 pm
    Post #20 - July 1st, 2004, 1:42 pm Post #20 - July 1st, 2004, 1:42 pm
    Hello Everyone,

    I have to admit I have been watching this thread with great interest (and also great jealousy for not being able to attend either of the first 2 Beefathons). I do agree with the point Alison made regarding trying some of the other areas in Chicagoland.

    As a SW suburbanite, I would love to know how places like Michael A's (Ridgeland and SW Highway) and Pop's (a few locations) stack up against Johnnie's and Carm's.

    I would also like to do a Ribathon out SW also, as I think some of the places down this way would really do well.

    Glenn
  • Post #21 - July 1st, 2004, 1:49 pm
    Post #21 - July 1st, 2004, 1:49 pm Post #21 - July 1st, 2004, 1:49 pm
    I am reposting my Beefee's report here because the original post might get deleted when the Beef-athon II files get eresed from the Events schedule.

    As promised, tonight I took one for the team in the name of Chow Science. I stopped by Beefee's to check out the guaranteed best beef in the world. I don't know what world Mr. Beefee lives in, but in this world, his beef doesn't even make the short list.

    Image

    First of all, Beefee's has the ambience of a Southside Rib joint complete with absolutely no seating area or even a stand-up counter. I took my Beefee beef outside and ate it in my car.

    Image

    The namesake beef, which costs $3.99 and includes fries and a no-name drink in a can (no RC available despite the prominant signage), comes wrapped in tin foil which insures a steamed, soggy roll. As you can see from this picture:
    Image
    the beef has a strange grayish color to it. After taking my first bite, I discovered that it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the taste of the roll and the taste of the Beefee beef. If Arby's served an Italian Beef sandwich, this would be it. I didn't go back inside to find out what the guarantee was. I just left a 3/4 eaten sandwich in a dumpster conveniently located across from the Beefee front door and cruised for a Sally's western burger instead.

    Edited to fix links to pictures.
    Last edited by stevez on August 28th, 2007, 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #22 - July 1st, 2004, 3:33 pm
    Post #22 - July 1st, 2004, 3:33 pm Post #22 - July 1st, 2004, 3:33 pm
    Nicky's is one of my all time favorites even though I have lived in the area for years and never tried it until a couple years ago. It's your typical Greek owned hotdog, hamburger etc place but very good food. the hot dogs are very good since they are not the "mandatory" Vienna Beef dog. And the "Big Baby" double burger with or without cheese is to die for. Just thinking of one with those awesome grilled onions make me salivate.

    As for Parisi's this place is another gem. been there for years, family owned. HUGE beef sandwiches. Also have the usual burgers, hot dogs etc.
  • Post #23 - July 1st, 2004, 3:43 pm
    Post #23 - July 1st, 2004, 3:43 pm Post #23 - July 1st, 2004, 3:43 pm
    Michael A's and Pop's are OK and I do stress OK. Nothing fantastic. Typical Scala's/Fontani product. I only wish Bouna would open up a store out south. I spoke with a Bouna rep. a few years ago and told her that there are plenty of BAD beef places out here and I'm sure they would be quite successful. Her response was basically "we don't do South suburbs" Oh well.... it's only a 30-45 minute drive to Bouna in Berwyn
  • Post #24 - July 1st, 2004, 4:47 pm
    Post #24 - July 1st, 2004, 4:47 pm Post #24 - July 1st, 2004, 4:47 pm
    As a SW suburbanite, I would love to know how places like Michael A's (Ridgeland and SW Highway) and Pop's (a few locations) stack up against Johnnie's and Carm's.

    I would also like to do a Ribathon out SW also, as I think some of the places down this way would really do well.


    Glenn & Alison,

    All it takes is for you to suggest a date on the events board enough into the future, then welcome people to submit locations to be tested. Just read all the back-and-forth on the events board this beef-athon took to gel. And the same applies to ribs.

    Just because you post does not mean you take responsibility for the whole event. Enthusiasts will join you as the process unfolds.

    Sometimes you just have to say, "What the heck!" and do it!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #25 - July 2nd, 2004, 8:32 am
    Post #25 - July 2nd, 2004, 8:32 am Post #25 - July 2nd, 2004, 8:32 am
    Cathy said:

    All it takes is for you to suggest a date on the events board enough into the future, then welcome people to submit locations to be tested


    Amen to that. In this instance, as the organizer, I chose a date that worked for two others because they pushed me to do it. As the date approached, George R weighed in (the date was not chosen with him, but next time it should be!) suggested an itinerary, discussed it with others, verified the opening times of the places and made it happen. All I did was say yes, and show up with score sheets (not enough as it turned out).

    To be honest, I did almost everything for the first beefathon, so it was nice someone else took a turn.

    My guess is that George already has added these south/southwest places to a secret list somewhere. Let's pick a date so we get another summer tasting!

    VI - it is fun to argue about who has the best, even though it is sorta meaningless. And I would like to do a best of the best tasting. I would be very curious to compare Johnnies, Als and Chickies in a single day. Maybe Patio and Carm's, too?

    Rankings to follow, really. Meanwhile, this links back the the first tastings rankings are under the events board, in this topic: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=19
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #26 - July 2nd, 2004, 1:35 pm
    Post #26 - July 2nd, 2004, 1:35 pm Post #26 - July 2nd, 2004, 1:35 pm
    Thanks, George for remembering that there are so many little gems on the South and Southwest sides. On the near south side are two great spots for lunch: Ken-Tone's on Canalport and Canal and Ricobene's on 32nd near Loomis. Ken-Tone's built a bigger, more customer friendly spot a few years back and has expanded the menu, but luckily the quality has remained high, and the staff is very friendly. Ricobene's has been a favorite for many years; family-owned and operated with a real Italian mom and pop and son working the register and making the sandwiches. (Unfortunately, mama appeared ill on my last visit - I hope she is better). While the breaded steak s their signature sandwich, the Italian beef is very good, too. However, I think the real find is the pizza ($10 tax included for a 16-inch sausage!) but that's for another post.
  • Post #27 - July 2nd, 2004, 5:56 pm
    Post #27 - July 2nd, 2004, 5:56 pm Post #27 - July 2nd, 2004, 5:56 pm
    Thanks Alison, but I really didn't remember the places on the south and SW sides, as I've never been to them (except for Ricobene's eons ago). Being geographically oriented, I felt there must be places S & SW that we were overlooking because there had been no mention of them on the board. Thanks to you and others living south or southwest, we now have a number of candidates.

    Dickson's right that these surveys are working toward an ultimate beef tasting. I can see two or three more regionals (north side, south/SW) which will lead us to the ultimate Beefathon.

    I can visualize a final Beefathon among the champions from each of the prelims + several places of special merit.
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #28 - July 2nd, 2004, 7:01 pm
    Post #28 - July 2nd, 2004, 7:01 pm Post #28 - July 2nd, 2004, 7:01 pm
    alisonmackenzie wrote:Thanks, George for remembering that there are so many little gems on the South and Southwest sides. On the near south side are two great spots for lunch: Ken-Tone's on Canalport and Canal and Ricobene's on 32nd near Loomis. Ken-Tone's built a bigger, more customer friendly spot a few years back and has expanded the menu, but luckily the quality has remained high, and the staff is very friendly. Ricobene's has been a favorite for many years; family-owned and operated with a real Italian mom and pop and son working the register and making the sandwiches. (Unfortunately, mama appeared ill on my last visit - I hope she is better). While the breaded steak s their signature sandwich, the Italian beef is very good, too. However, I think the real find is the pizza ($10 tax included for a 16-inch sausage!) but that's for another post.


    I drive by Ken-Tones often... usually when leaving Chinatown and have wondered about this place for a while. I guess I'll have to check it out soon. Most of the time when I go the Ricobene's, it's for the breaded steak, but the couple of times I had the beef, it didn't strike me as anything memorable, although they get high marks for atmosphere.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #29 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:29 am
    Post #29 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:29 am Post #29 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:29 am
    Results, we got results. Here are the Beef scores.

    Condiments and sides:

    What a difference a tasting makes! Is it just me, or were the sweet peppers much better at these places? Johnnies had the best, but not by much, and Jay's, Buona and Carm's were all close behind. All were fresh and pretty tasty. Johnnies are cut smaller than the others, which seemed to work better. Carm's were big, fat chunks and enjoyable on their own, but not so good on a sandwich.

    Giardinera: Again Johnnies comes in first (get used to it), with Carm's (be sure to get extra hot!) and Buona a bit behind.

    Fries: Just say Frannies. The group gave these a 9.5 out of ten, and the only argument was about why some did not give them a 10. Very good. And much, much better than any of the others, with the next highest score a 5.8, just mediocre.

    The parts of a sandwich:

    Gravy: Nothing exciting or different. Johnnies would not serve gravy separately for us (part of their "Give the customer what they want policy", not), but still got scores from many of us and won this category. Go figure.

    Bread: Carm's uses a different bread, that apparently is the same as Portillo's. From Ariana, I think. Better crust and crispier than most. Johnnies seemed better to me than last time, and I think they switched from Turano to Gonnella which I prefer (better crust). VI thinks we were just wrong about Turano the first time. Who knows? If you like bread go to Johnnies or Carm's. Buona is not bad. Jay's and Frannies were not good.

    Beef: There is something magical about Johnnies, darker and rich. Another very high score - 9.1 out of ten. All of these were thin-sliced. Steve Z provided a brief workshop on beef, gravy and how they go together. Ideally you cook and then cut the beef. It then meets up with the gravy for a brief period before getting to your sandwich. Too much time in the gravy makes it overcooked, tough, stringy. Too little time, and you do not get enough flavor in your beef. Ideally the beef is dipped for a few minutes and then onto your sandwich. If the place is not busy, and the beef is floating in the gravy, just go home. Carm's had good flavor, but was a bit overcooked. Some found this very objectionable, while most enjoyed it. Buona was bland, with nuggets of garlic that one would hit from time to time.

    The atmosphere:

    Hey, we like our food. To my mind the food heavily influenced the perception of the atmosphere - which makes sense. For atmosphere, try Johnnies, Carm's (slickly suburban for some) or Frannies, which is the perfect beef stand, IMO, though it came in third. The Oak Park Buonas is just unpleasant.

    The sandwich and the winner:

    I am dropping the dry sandwich. The consensus is that you should never have a dry sandwich, so why are we rating it? You always have some gravy on your sandwich, even if it is not dipped and dripping. Go with it.

    No surprise. Johnnies won by a mile, with a score of 9.1, roughly the same as last time. Nothing else came close, with Carm's in second (7., Buona (6. and Frannies at a surprisingly high, to me anyway, 6.4. Not bad. Combining the first two tastings, we now would have the following rating of sandwiches:

    Johnnies
    Chickies
    Then a bit of a gap to
    Mr Beef
    Patio
    Carm's (Hillside)
    Boston BBQ
    Buona
    Al's

    Nothing else worth mentioning, other than the standard Al's disclaimer. You will love or hate their sandwich, as it is unique, so you should check it out. Well, one other thing - my memory is not so good. I like Chickies, but forgot how highly it was rated. And I do not much like Mr Beef, and also forgot how highly it was rated.

    Overall, for the whole experience, Johnnies still won easily, with a slightly higher overall score of 8.2 compared to 7.9 in November. Then a big drop off to Carms at 6.5, Frannies at 6.2, and Buona at 6.0 Don't go to Jay's. Brief note on Frannie's - go, enjoy the signs and counter ("Virgin Beef"), buy some fries and a cantaloupe ice, sit on the deck and enjoy. The beef is only okay.

    Combining both sets of ratings, for the overall experience you have, if you are interested in more than just a sammy:

    Johnnies
    Chickies
    Freddy's
    Patio
    Al's
    Mr Beef (some really disliked the atmosphere and lousy service - but if you are a Jay Leno groupie, I guess it is totally cool)
    Carm's
    Frannies
    Buona (other locations would rate higher for atmosphere, since this place was downright grim, but that would only get it ahead of Frannies)

    Clearly, for the final round so far it is Johnnies and Chickies, (which will be the reference point for the south/southwest jaunt, I suggest). After that, one can make an argument for inclusion of Al's, Patio and Mr Beef, I think, though I would, and do, only argue for Al's. I also find the comparison between Al's and Patio interesting because of the very different styles and close proximity.

    I look forward to others' opinions.

    North or south come next.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #30 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:47 am
    Post #30 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:47 am Post #30 - July 3rd, 2004, 12:47 am
    dicksond wrote:Fries - Just say Frannies. The group gave these a 9.5 out of ten, and the only argument was about why some did not give them a 10. Very good. And much, much better than any of the others, with the next highest score a 5.8, just mediocre.

    d,

    About the fries, as you mention, the vast majority were frozen and mediocre.

    Frannie's fries had the distinct advantage of having some skin on, and they were definitely the best of the day, but they were not really...crisp. Granted, they had vastly more texture and interest value than the other pedestrian fries we sampled that day, and I would have ranked them a 10, but for the lack of overall crunchy brownness.

    Thanks for the compilation. It's great fun to do the reviews, and then read them later.

    Hammond

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