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Zel's Roast Beef [NW Indiana]

Zel's Roast Beef [NW Indiana]
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  • Zel's Roast Beef [NW Indiana]

    Post #1 - August 4th, 2006, 2:49 pm
    Post #1 - August 4th, 2006, 2:49 pm Post #1 - August 4th, 2006, 2:49 pm
    While I'm thinking about N. Indiana, snipers and food......anyone tried a place (local chain?) called Zel's Roast Beef....I've seen a couple down that way and was wondering if it might be something interesting (in my lifelong quest to find a Roy Rogers equivalent)...
  • Post #2 - August 4th, 2006, 5:57 pm
    Post #2 - August 4th, 2006, 5:57 pm Post #2 - August 4th, 2006, 5:57 pm
    Hi,

    Speaking of Northwest Indiana ... ReneG and I were at Zel's Roast Beef only last weekend.

    Zel's Roast Beef is a mini-chain founded by the Routman family. You can have your roast beef two ways: Zel's Roast Beef or Bar-B-Que Beef served on Vienna Bread with pickles and peppers including fries for $4.99. Alternatively you can have Chili Cheese Beef with Chili and Cheese covering your roast beef for $5.99. After the roast beef sandwich, the other big seller is the 'Super Zel Burger:' double patty with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, onions, pickles, peppers and fries.

    Zel's was our last stop in a long day of sampling Northwest Indiana cuisine. We ordered the classic Zel's Roast Beef with pickles and peppers. From overhearing another customer, I learned the BBQ Beef can be ordered with sauce on the side. This is not an Italian beef sandwich, though it sure suggests a pedigree there. This is sliced roast beef on a bun with hamburger pickles and pickled pepperoncici peppers, though not the sport pepper kind. It was a bit dry, which could have been remedied with the BBQ sauce on the side. If anything this sandwich was reminiscent of early Arby sandwiches before reconstituted meat was their standard. Fries were included, though not too exciting.

    Zel's also offers corn beef on rye or Vienna bread dressed with mustard, tomato, pickles, peppers and fries that would be my next choice for a future visit. Another menu item worth checking is their Corona beer battered code dinner with cole slaw and fries for $5.99.

    Zel's has six locations, though they are also featured at a number of gas stations. One location on Indianapolis Boulevard near the Skyway is Zel's-interruptus! ReneG had gone in there to obtain a menu and got the deer in the headlights look because Zel's had left several years ago. Yet the sign is maintained and lit at night.

    801 N. Main St.
    Crown Point, IN
    219/226-9850

    6901 -Columbia Ave.
    Hammond, IN
    219/845-0433

    Euclid at Columbus Drive
    Indiana Harbor, IN
    219/397-6167

    1441 E. 82nd Ave
    Merrillville, IN
    219/769-9357

    7889 W. Lincoln Highway
    Schererville, IN
    219/864-1011

    210 US Highway 41
    Schererville, IN
    219/322-9891
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #3 - August 5th, 2006, 12:58 pm
    Post #3 - August 5th, 2006, 12:58 pm Post #3 - August 5th, 2006, 12:58 pm
    They put hamburger pickles on your roast beef? How bizarre! Zel's was MUCH better when it had two locations...in EC and at 169th and Columbia. Since the expansion the quality has dropped and many of the items are no longer homemade.

    It's interesting that this area, despite being closer to downtown Chicago than most other suburbs of Chicago, is very different when it comes to Chicago "institutions" such as pizza, roast beef sandwiches, and hot dogs.

    The classic NWI roast beef sandwich is topped with "red sauce", which is a spicy, slightly sweet tomato-based sauce that is usually homemade. (I suspect the lack of this sauce was why your sandwich was dry.) I've never seen it on a menu but it's available at most places that sell roast beef. It's similar to the sauce used at many pizza places in the area, but is thinner and less sweet.

    Most people who ask for red sauce also ask for "sweet peppers", which are roasted green pepper strips. IMO the best version of this sandwich can be found at Munster Gyros, on Calumet Avenue about a half-mile south of 80/94. You'll need to ask for the peppers and red sauce.

    Mark
  • Post #4 - August 5th, 2006, 11:41 pm
    Post #4 - August 5th, 2006, 11:41 pm Post #4 - August 5th, 2006, 11:41 pm
    HI,

    Thanks for the tips on Munster Gyros, which we saw but didn't stop in, especially on how to order a better beef sandwich.

    I agree with you on the cultural differences just mere miles from downtown Chicago. I saw a lot of perch on the menus there, which you hardly see in Chicago.

    So much to learn about our immediate neighbors.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #5 - August 6th, 2006, 11:12 am
    Post #5 - August 6th, 2006, 11:12 am Post #5 - August 6th, 2006, 11:12 am
    If you return to the area, I suggest that you stop at Three Floyds in Munster if you enjoy quality beer. Compared to other brewpubs in the Chicago area, this place operates on a completely different level...men against boys if you will. :)
  • Post #6 - August 6th, 2006, 7:22 pm
    Post #6 - August 6th, 2006, 7:22 pm Post #6 - August 6th, 2006, 7:22 pm
    In your travels through the region, did you encounter the lunchmeat bolshevik?
  • Post #7 - August 6th, 2006, 7:46 pm
    Post #7 - August 6th, 2006, 7:46 pm Post #7 - August 6th, 2006, 7:46 pm
    annieb wrote:In your travels through the region, did you encounter the lunchmeat bolshevik?


    Sounds like there is a great story behind the comment, so what is it?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #8 - August 7th, 2006, 2:47 pm
    Post #8 - August 7th, 2006, 2:47 pm Post #8 - August 7th, 2006, 2:47 pm
    Yes, pickles and pepperoncini. We asked for it "the usual way" and this is what we got.

    Image

    Next time we’ll try the sauce for sure. I enjoyed Zel's beef sandwich well enough but didn't find it terribly exciting. Just yesterday I heard from a reliable source that the thing to get at Zel's is the chili cheeseburger (thanks, Randy). Zel's strikes me as a well run, considerably above average fast food place. I'd happily pay another visit but probably wouldn't order the plain beef sandwich again.

    It's interesting that this area, despite being closer to downtown Chicago than most other suburbs of Chicago, is very different when it comes to Chicago "institutions" such as pizza, roast beef sandwiches, and hot dogs.

    Some of the differences are striking. It seems as soon as you cross the state line you go from the realm of sport peppers to that of pepperoncini. Also pork tenderloin becomes common, not to mention fried perch.

    If anyone ends up at the Zel's in East Chicago, you might consider going across the street to Oscar's Shrimp House, also recommended by the reliable source. In any case, they have a good sign.

    Image

    Zel's Roast Beef
    4036 Euclid Av
    East Chicago IN
    219-397-6167

    Oscar's Shrimp House
    4102 Euclid Av
    East Chicago IN
    219-397-9118
  • Post #9 - August 7th, 2006, 4:46 pm
    Post #9 - August 7th, 2006, 4:46 pm Post #9 - August 7th, 2006, 4:46 pm
    C2,

    Bolshevik is a lunchmeat. Sort of a meat scrap lunchmeat. Beyond that I know little, just learned that on a miserable SW flight to DC a number of years ago when the large family seated with me in what SW calls the "lounge" in the front of the plane pulled bolshevik sandwiches out of their cooler after about 3 hours on the ground waiting to take off (drunk passenger threatening to punch out someone for reporting his threat to light a cigarette necessitated a trip back to the gate to have him arrested and removed, forcing us to miss the takeoff window before weather set in). They kindly offered me some, but I wasn't hungry and it had a somewhat ripe odor--that doesn't offend me, but not necessarily what I want before a flight.

    I have not been successful in finding information on it online, other than a bizarre blog that lists it as something he discovered the definition of in random internet searching:

    http://www.whackingday.com/whacks29apr04-8jun04.html

    although I did find an interesting link to an article about "The Meaning of Meat in Industrial Social Protest Novels."

    http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/149/kryan3.html

    Any further knowledge out there? Might be worth starting a new thread--maybe it will enjoy renewed popularity:-)
  • Post #10 - August 7th, 2006, 5:02 pm
    Post #10 - August 7th, 2006, 5:02 pm Post #10 - August 7th, 2006, 5:02 pm
    HI,

    Bolshevik sandwich sounds like a mission for the Cooking and Shopping pages! Thanks for a great story and smellovision! Now that I am aware, I will keep my eyes wide open for this.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #11 - August 7th, 2006, 5:28 pm
    Post #11 - August 7th, 2006, 5:28 pm Post #11 - August 7th, 2006, 5:28 pm
    I grew up in NWI and my parents still live there, so I get to the area quite often. From my experience, breaded pork tenderloin is not common until you're east of Chesterton/Valpo or south of US30 -- much like the way it's not common in Illinois until you're south of US30 or west of IL47.

    But perch (fried or broiled) can be found in just about any NWI restaurant with table service. While it used to be locally caught, these days it comes from Lake Superior. Much of it is frozen, but some places still offer fresh perch, such as Teibel's, Phil Smidt's, and many of the Friday fish frys at the local VFW/Elks/KofC...
  • Post #12 - August 7th, 2006, 5:44 pm
    Post #12 - August 7th, 2006, 5:44 pm Post #12 - August 7th, 2006, 5:44 pm
    In all my years of living in and visiting Northwest Indiana I've never seen, nor have I heard anyone talk about, a lunchmeat called "bolshevik"!
  • Post #13 - August 7th, 2006, 5:47 pm
    Post #13 - August 7th, 2006, 5:47 pm Post #13 - August 7th, 2006, 5:47 pm
    HI,

    I have the feeling Teibels and Phil Smidt's are restaurants who are of the old school. What do you order at Teibels? Also, what did you order at the restaurant near Indianapolis and Calumet whose name begins with 'V,' were they a direct competitor to Smidt's?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #14 - August 7th, 2006, 7:06 pm
    Post #14 - August 7th, 2006, 7:06 pm Post #14 - August 7th, 2006, 7:06 pm
    Cathy 2: Are you referring to Vogels on Indiannapolis Blvd? Been closed for years. A menu like Phil's. Some thought of it a a place to go when Phil's was crowded. But, it could hold it's own against Phil's, as it was a good place, with good help. And they had a great bar area too.
  • Post #15 - August 7th, 2006, 7:42 pm
    Post #15 - August 7th, 2006, 7:42 pm Post #15 - August 7th, 2006, 7:42 pm
    Vogels was recently demolished to make room for bus parking for the Horseshoe casino. Another restaurant, Al Knapp's, was demolished many years ago to build the entrance ramp to the casino.

    I never went to Vogels because my parents had some sort of issue with the owners, and it closed before I had the opportunity to get there. I haven't been to either Phil Smidt's or Teibels in many years, but in past visits I ordered frog legs at Phil Smidt's and perch at Teibel's.

    These days I get my perch "fix" at the restaurant in the Lansing Knights of Columbus, called the Columbian Room. It's open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, dinner only. They charge $14 for eight (fresh) perch filets, or $20 for all-you-can-eat, and both include a soup/salad/dessert bar (soup is homemade). Note that like most old-school restaurants in the area, one entree (here, the perch) is spectacular but every other entree is forgettable at best and inedible at worst...another pecularity of the greater Calumet Region, which includes Northwest Indiana and several south suburbs in Illinois.
  • Post #16 - August 7th, 2006, 9:40 pm
    Post #16 - August 7th, 2006, 9:40 pm Post #16 - August 7th, 2006, 9:40 pm
    ,

    Well, the family surrounding me on this flight not only was eating sandwiches of it, but were carrying several pounds in a cooler to relatives that lived in DC because it's not available there.
  • Post #17 - August 7th, 2006, 10:12 pm
    Post #17 - August 7th, 2006, 10:12 pm Post #17 - August 7th, 2006, 10:12 pm
    It's my guess that these people were either not from Northwest Indiana, or they got the "bolshevik" from some other part of the Chicago area...

    On the other hand, the stuff you described sounds like head cheese, which IS available pretty much everywhere in the Chicago area. Maybe "bolshevik" is the name they have for head cheese...

    Mark
  • Post #18 - August 8th, 2006, 10:12 am
    Post #18 - August 8th, 2006, 10:12 am Post #18 - August 8th, 2006, 10:12 am
    Cathy2...we just ate at Tiebels for the first time 2 weeks ago (as a result of some sumptous perch photos on the Roadfood site)...and I must say, the food was absolutely, positively fabulous.....

    Perch was just succulent...lightly battered and, yes, they give you drawn butter to dip them in....oh my...what a treat (albeit a saturated fat nightmare)...not only that, they serve what may be the very best fried chicken I've ever eaten (I got the combo)..it's supposedly a recipe handed down through the generations (the family is from Austria I believe)..kind of a reddish type coating...very, very flavorful....plus plump and juicy.....wow!

    Now, I'd suggest eating in the bar area as the main restaurant is...how do I say this.....pretty "nursing homey".......but the ladies tending bar are just beyond sweet and eager to serve...

    All in all..can't wait to go back...just will need to diet for several days beforehand in order to justify it...
  • Post #19 - August 8th, 2006, 11:19 am
    Post #19 - August 8th, 2006, 11:19 am Post #19 - August 8th, 2006, 11:19 am
    ,

    They very much were from NW Indiana. We were stuck on the plane together for 7 hours, we chatted about bolshevik at some length. It was not in a clear gelatin base like headcheese.

    Edited: I have located information about bolshevik, the lunchmeat. See post on Cooking and Shopping for more info.
  • Post #20 - August 9th, 2006, 10:02 pm
    Post #20 - August 9th, 2006, 10:02 pm Post #20 - August 9th, 2006, 10:02 pm
    I also grew up in the area and
    most of my family still lives there.

    My yardstick for a quality beef
    sandwich of this style was always
    the "Beef Boat" from Muffaletto's Bakery
    (New Chicago/Lake Station).

    Much like a 2-foot-long "dipped" Italian
    Beef, but with that great sauce, some
    sauteed onions, and just the right
    amount of quality mozzarella
    holding it all together.

    Since the original location closed,
    I've been trying to track them down,
    to see if they just relocated, but
    have found virtually no reference
    to their existence. Any leads on
    where Muffaletto's may be now,
    or where to find this Beef Boat
    of my fond memories?
  • Post #21 - January 9th, 2011, 1:59 pm
    Post #21 - January 9th, 2011, 1:59 pm Post #21 - January 9th, 2011, 1:59 pm
    A small chain native to northwest Indiana which excels in producing a great roast beef sandwich. I have enjoyed many roast beef dishes in The Chicagoland area, often at simple Greek diners, where the beef is roasted in-house and sliced fresh for preparations from a cold sandwich to open faced with gravy.

    ImageImage

    Zel's Roast Beef
    6909 Columbia Ave, Hammond, IN
    (219) 845-0433

    ImageImage
    Roast Beef Sandwich with everything (pickles and pepperoncini)

    Fork tender with a good solid beef flavor and a good strength to the au jus. The bun was nice and fresh. The fries were fine. The beef is not anything like the Italian Beef available in Chicago with a different spicing profile.

    ImageImage

    The menu was simple with some nice offerings. As I was grabbing some exterior shots there was a gent that mentioned that the burgers were well worth trying.

    I also had the Chili-Cheese fries which were also very good! The chili had a touch of sweetness and was without beans. I think they are trying for a coney style sauce and the staff also mentioned that the regular chili is a different animal (perhaps with beans and not as sweet?) and is also very good. I'd be willing to bet the chili dog would be very good here.

    Eager to also try the Chili-Cheese Beef as recommended up thread but since this was my first visit I stuck with the basics.

    Everything was so good I would recommend it as a target destination for anyone passing through the area. I have not visited the other 5 locations in the area but I can imagine they would also be good.
    "Make Lunch, Not War" ~ Anon
  • Post #22 - January 9th, 2011, 6:54 pm
    Post #22 - January 9th, 2011, 6:54 pm Post #22 - January 9th, 2011, 6:54 pm
    The Corned Beef used to be great as well. Probably still is. There was a little card in window saying how much went into corned beef. While not Kosher, I believe original owners were Jewish people.
    My wife LOVES corned beef. When she was carrying our son I used to bring her corned beef sandwiches when doing business at Inland Steel.
  • Post #23 - January 9th, 2011, 7:11 pm
    Post #23 - January 9th, 2011, 7:11 pm Post #23 - January 9th, 2011, 7:11 pm
    dramisino wrote:The Corned Beef used to be great as well. Probably still is. There was a little card in window saying how much went into corned beef. While not Kosher, I believe original owners were Jewish people.
    My wife LOVES corned beef. When she was carrying our son I used to bring her corned beef sandwiches when doing business at Inland Steel.

    Looking at the picture of the menu board above it does state Kosher corned beef. I do enjoy a good corned beef from time to time and it is good to know that this will be a go-to place to get it.
    "Make Lunch, Not War" ~ Anon
  • Post #24 - January 9th, 2011, 9:31 pm
    Post #24 - January 9th, 2011, 9:31 pm Post #24 - January 9th, 2011, 9:31 pm
    I'm no expert. Can the CB be Kosher if there's cheese in the kitchen?
    There really used to be a card explaining that the CB was prepared to high standards. Pretty damned good. I may have to make a trek to East Chicago the next few days now.
  • Post #25 - January 9th, 2011, 10:17 pm
    Post #25 - January 9th, 2011, 10:17 pm Post #25 - January 9th, 2011, 10:17 pm
    Hi,

    I was at Zel's once a few years ago. I wasn't very taken by their beef sandwich. I believe Rene G learned from a colleague the sandwich is improved when it has their tomato-based sauce on it.

    Until just recently there was a gas station at the border on the Indiana side with a big Zel's sign. Oddly Zel's had left the premises several years before, though the sign lit brightly. There is a new fastfood tenant which seemed to finally prompt the removal of this sign.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #26 - January 10th, 2011, 12:34 am
    Post #26 - January 10th, 2011, 12:34 am Post #26 - January 10th, 2011, 12:34 am
    The chili is out of a big food service can and the corned beef is in an individual plastic bag which is microwaved to order.
  • Post #27 - January 10th, 2011, 12:44 am
    Post #27 - January 10th, 2011, 12:44 am Post #27 - January 10th, 2011, 12:44 am
    Mikey wrote:The chili is out of a big food service can and the corned beef is in an individual plastic bag which is microwaved to order.

    Interesting! Do you know the story behind the roast beef?

    Thanks!
    "Make Lunch, Not War" ~ Anon
  • Post #28 - January 10th, 2011, 1:07 am
    Post #28 - January 10th, 2011, 1:07 am Post #28 - January 10th, 2011, 1:07 am
    Panther in the Den wrote:
    Mikey wrote:The chili is out of a big food service can and the corned beef is in an individual plastic bag which is microwaved to order.

    Interesting! Do you know the story behind the roast beef?

    Thanks!


    They used to be better...
  • Post #29 - January 10th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    Post #29 - January 10th, 2011, 12:56 pm Post #29 - January 10th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    I've got it on good authority (err... Llama told me, that is) that the only Zel's worth going to is the original one in Hammond. It's the only one we've bothered going to, and, incidentally, is how I knew for sure I was off the west coast: chili cheese roast beef?! Once I wrapped my head around that I gave it a whirl, and it was delicious.
  • Post #30 - January 10th, 2011, 1:01 pm
    Post #30 - January 10th, 2011, 1:01 pm Post #30 - January 10th, 2011, 1:01 pm
    Is this the correct address?

    Zels Roast Beef
    (219) 845-0433
    6909 Columbia Ave, Hammond, IN 46324
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast

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