12 Best Spots For Italian Beef Sandwiches In Chicago

Chicago is for food lovers, and Italian beef sandwiches are essential to the Windy City's diverse food landscape. History tells us that this specialty dates back to the early twentieth century when Italian immigrants slow-roasted not-so-tender cuts of beef in a broth prepared with spices. The broth made the beef tender, perfect for stuffing bread and making sandwiches. By the '30s, many restaurants were serving Italian beef sandwiches. The classic sandwich calls for an Italian roll stuffed with thinly-cut beef with jus, sweet bell peppers, and giardiniera, also known as hot peppers.

Italian beef sandwiches have been a beloved Chicago staple for almost a century, but they are enjoying a renaissance thanks to Hulu's brilliant show "The Bear," in which chef Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) tries to converge his fine-dining background with his family's Italian beef joint, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. So, whether you are a longtime Italian beef eater, a first-timer, or a hard-core "The Bear" fan, these are the 12 top spots in Chicago to treat yourself.

Roma's Italian Beef Sausage & Pizza

Chicago welcomed Roma's Italian Beef Sausage & Pizza in 1968. The family-run spot remains a local favorite. The Cicero Avenue spot's iconic green storefront welcomes hungry patrons who appreciate the friendly service, old-school feel, and fresh ingredients used for every delicious creation.

The star here is, of course, the Roma's Original Italian Beef Sandwich. The bread — soft yet tough enough to survive a dip in the house's hot peppers-and-cheese mix — is stuffed with slow-roasted Italian beef. Mozzarella, cheddar, and American cheese are among the topping options, as are sweet peppers or hot peppers (the house giardiniera).

The menu also features items like green pepper sandwiches, rib eye sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Pizzas, the other house specialty, can be customized and topped with the ingredient of your choice, including Canadian bacon, olives, and ground beef. But, your best bet is the Combo Italian Beef & Sausage Sandwich, which you can top with items like giardiniera, bacon, cheese, and sweet peppers. On a warm day, you can crown it all with the homemade Italian ice, while Anna's s'mores are best on those chilly days when you need an extra hug. Bonus: Roma's also offers delivery and catering services.

Southtown Sub

The story of Southtown Sub begins with Abdul Wajid, whose dream of sharing food as flavorful as that of his native Pakistan inspired him to open this restaurant in 1994. After more than 25 years in Bronzeville, Southtown Sub moved to its current address in Park Manor. The generous, affordable items at Southtown Sub include gyros and gyro burgers; chicken nuggets, wings, and tenders; and sandwiches like Philly cheesesteaks and corned beef on rye. The Jim Shoe Sandwich (prepared with roast beef, corned beef, gyro meat, and Swiss cheese) is perhaps the restaurant's biggest claim to fame. 

But, of course, you're here for one thing: the Italian beef sandwich. At Southtown Sub, the beef is dipped in the house's secret gravy, topped with giardiniera and sweet peppers, then tucked between two slices of Turano French bread. Turano is another Illinois legend, founded by Italian immigrant Mariano Turano, which makes it the perfect vehicle for Southtown Sub's signature Italian beef. You can also choose an Italian sausage version or, even better, the Italian combo with beef and sausage.


A Little Italy staple, Carm's started as a grocery store in 1929. Owners Mary and James Fontano became neighborhood favorites thanks to the excellent Italian ice they served in the hot Chicago summers, so they moved the shop across the street. The original spot became Carm's, focused on Chicago street food and Italian ice. Carm's was named after Carmella, the couple's youngest kid, who ran the business until the seventies. Today, Carmella's nephew is in charge.

The Italian beef sandwich at Carm's resembles a French dip, as the slow-roasted beef is soaked in its own flavorful juices. The sandwich is served on an Italian roll and topped with giardiniera or sweet peppers. If you feel like having a meatier version, go for the Combo with Italian beef and sausage.

The menu at Carm's is quite extensive and truly pays tribute to Chicago's diverse street food scene. You can find burritos, sub sandwiches, tacos, and tortas. The restaurant's beloved meat dishes have earned it a spot in the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame since 2006. Carm's Italian ice, of course, is still a menu highlight, available in blue raspberry, lemon, and strawberry.

The Original Nana's Hot Dogs

Since it opened in 1973, Nana's has honored its namesake by serving delicious hot dogs and French fries in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. In 1999, fast food veteran Michael DiSilvestro purchased the restaurant and has been in charge ever since. DiSilvestro is credited with improving the restaurant's menu yet maintaining its top-notch hot dogs, which helped Nana's earn a spot in the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame in 2007. A year later, the restaurant was officially named The Original Nana's Hot Dogs, ensuring it stood apart from potential fakes.

Nana's cool retro exterior beckons with a sign that promises "pure beef Vienna hot dogs." Yet aside from the restaurant's signature item and its famous pizza, which you can order in a 28-inch version known as the Biggest Pizza in Town, Nana's is beloved for its fantastic homemade Italian beef. The sandwich is served on French bread, stuffed with juicy beef, and topped with sweet peppers and hot giardiniera, one of Nana's most beloved items.

Tony's Italian Beef

When was the last time you had a really great sandwich? If you can't answer that question, a meal at the Southside staple is the perfect solution. Look for a small, old-school brick building and you'll be at the right place.

Founded in 1975, Tony's started with only family members in the employee roster, including Tony himself. It was Tony who developed the recipe for the restaurant's iconic Italian beef, while Grandpa (also named Tony) is credited with the giardiniera. Fresh ingredients are essential to these recipes, as well as to everything prepared in this kitchen.

Tony's doles out Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches served on chewy rolls, as well as a beef-and-sausage combo and a meatball version. You can top them with extra cheese, chili, or hot peppers. The menu also features an assortment of chicken and beef sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and gyros, plus several breakfast items. A few of these dishes, including the beef sandwich, are offered in smaller, Junior versions, equally convenient if you're not super hungry or, better yet, you're really hungry and want to try a couple of different things.

Bari Foods

A culinary heaven of all things Italian, Bari was founded by Joseph and Grace Pedota in 1973. New to Chicago, the immigrants hailed from the town of Bitritto, close to Bari, Italy, and wanted to offer quality Italian food items to the people in the Grand Avenue area. The spot was an immediate success, which continues under the careful watch of their sons, Ralph and Frank. Bari is the place to go for premium meat cuts, cheese, and charcuterie, as well as homemade sauces including pesto and giardiniera.

Now, let's talk about their subs. The Italian beef sandwich is available in a 9-inch or 12-inch format and boasts soft, juicy Choice beef. Among possible toppings, there are roasted red peppers and sweet green peppers, as well as three types of giardiniera: mild, hot, and super hot. This last option might just grant you "the spiciest Italian sub in Chicago," according to YouTuber Sean Ely. And when you're in the mood to try something new, you can choose among other subs such as meatballs, Italian sausage, and prosciutto-mozzarella.

Bob-O's Hot Dogs

Once upon a time, a single hot dog stand opened on Irving Park Road. This is how Bob-O's made its Chicago debut in the '50s. Slowly but surely, the business expanded, with new mobile stands opening all over the city. Phyllis Bartell took over the original location a couple of decades later, and to this day, Bob-O's remains a family operation. Homemade items and warm service have earned Bob-O's a loyal clientele, who come back again and again for its specialty sandwiches.

At Bob-O's, the Italian beef sandwich features French bread and the house's Italian beef recipe. Should you crave mozzarella, red sauce, sweet peppers, or hot peppers, those are all considered extras. The same goes for other sandwiches such as Italian sausage, combo, and BBQ beef. You can also find char-broiled burgers, chicken sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, and even tamales. And of course, the house's iconic hot dogs, ranging from classic to Polish, have earned Bob-O's a spot in the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame.

Buona Beef

The story of Buona takes us back to 1981 when Joe and Peggy Buonavuolanto opened the first location of Buona in Berwyn, Illinois. Since then, Buona focused on Italian beef sandwiches, a tradition that continues today. Looking to develop a business that could support the entire family, the couple brought their five sons on board. Today, Buona is still a family business, now on the third generation, and boasts more than 25 locations in Illinois and Indiana.

The legendary family recipe is the star of the Buona Beef sandwich, featuring slow-roasted Italian beef on Italian bread. Add-ons include mozzarella, hot giardiniera, and sweet peppers, and you can also state your gravy preferences. You can go from dry, which means no gravy, to baptized if you enjoy a full gravy dunk. Charbroiled Italian sausage, meatball marinara, and beef-sausage combo are other excellent sandwich options. The menu also offers hot dogs, fresh pasta, pizza, and even plant-based sandwiches. The Italian beef-less sandwich is made with vegan cheese, sweet peppers, and hot giardiniera, and is served on gluten-free pita bread.


Cicero, Illinois, is home to this iconic food stand, founded in 1953 by Stubby and Eddie Scatchell. Although the place and the menu have expanded over the years, Scatchell's continues to be a gem, both for the neighborhood and the entire Chicagoland area. Frankie Levato and Barry Reggi have been running the show for the past three decades, and the eatery boasts many longtime workers and patrons. This commitment shows in the quality of Scatchell's recipes, including their pizza, hot dogs, and of course, Italian beef and sausages.

Moist and juicy, the Italian beef at Scatchell's is served with the house giardiniera in a Gonella roll, with your choice of cheddar, hot, or sweet peppers. The recipe remains unchanged since Scatchell's first opened its doors, guaranteeing pure flavor and tradition in each bite. The same can be said for the Polish hot dog, another restaurant staple. Sausage pizza, fried shrimp, and homemade Italian ice are other stars on the menu. You can also order beef by the pound — plus bread and peppers — if you want to host a party or pretend you're running your own Italian beef joint.

Mr. Beef

A River North staple, Mr. Beef has been doling out Italian beef sandwiches for decades. The restaurant is the brainchild of brothers Dominic and Joseph Zucchero, who founded it in 1979. In the beginning, they could only afford rougher meat cuts, but they realized that cooking them for longer made them more tender.

Mr. Beef's sandwich boasts French bread stuffed with juicy beef dipped in au jus, giardiniera, and sweet peppers. Add-ons include provolone cheese and cheddar cheese sauce, and you can choose between having the sandwich dry (not dipped), extra wet (double dipped), or with the juice on the side. The Italian sausage sandwich, another crown jewel, is offered with the same options, and the menu also includes burgers, hot dogs, and Italian subs.

Fans of "The Bear" television series might love to learn that the show was inspired by this very spot. Chris Storer, "The Bear" showrunner, is friends with the co-founder's son Chris and grew up hanging out with him in the restaurant. Not only does the fictional The Original Beef of Chicagoland restaurant, where Carmy works, focus on Italian beef sandwiches, but the space's layout actually resembles the real Mr. Beef's. In fact, the pilot was shot in Mr. Beef's dining room. Joseph, who passed away early in 2023, told NPR that "his mouth dropped" when he saw the show's set.

Johnnie's Beef

This tiny Elmwood Park spot was founded in 1961 by Johnnie Aretos and remains one of the most beloved Italian beef stands in Chicagoland. The lovely retro sign still beckons loyal customers who line up outside Johnnie's even before opening time. Some of them are longtime neighborhood fans, while others come to Elmwood just to have a taste of Johnnie's Beef. Today, Johnnie's son-in-law Frank Stompanato owns the joint, continuing the family tradition of consistent food and affordable prices.

The beloved sandwich at Johnny's starts with Italian beef, roasted for more than four hours and flavored with a secret house seasoning. Served on French bread, the sandwich can be presented juicy or completely dipped in gravy and then topped with the house giardiniera and sweet peppers. Hot dogs, Italian sausage sandwiches, and French fries are also part of the menu, as is Johnnie's famous homemade Italian ice, which tastes particularly good while sitting at the outside tables on a hot Chicago afternoon.

Al's #1 Italian Beef

The story of Al's is the story of Italian beef, and it takes us back to the end of World War I when founder Anthony Ferreri drove around Chicago selling homemade sandwiches and bread. According to the restaurant's legend, Anthony attended an Italian-American wedding where the family was serving sandwiches with thickly-sliced beef. Anthony decided to try his own version, using thinner slices of beef, cooking it in its juices, and adding a few spices. That's how the family sandwich business was launched.

Years later, his son Al opened a bookie joint and used Anthony's sandwich business as a front. In 1938, Al, his sister Frances, and her husband Chris opened Al's Bar B-Q in Little Italy, and as the business grew, Al was able to buy it from the bookies and run it as a legit restaurant. As for the name, Al's Bar B-Q became Al's #1 Italian Beef in 1980, when Chicago magazine named their signature item the #1 Italian beef sandwich in Chicago. Today, it has six locations and has appeared on several TV shows and publications.

To enjoy the legendary sandwich at Al's, you can order your beef dry, wet, with gravy on the side or dipped. It's tucked inside a piece of French bread and can be topped with sweet peppers, hot giardiniera, and cheese. A side of fries is the perfect addition to this Chicago classic.