Esquire Magazine wrote about this popular 70-year-old chain: "You could buy the ingredients and study the method, but it ain't gonna taste like Al's." Coming from the magazine that all but unveiled "new journalism" in the 1960s, who could argue?
It's almost a sure bet that famed Chicago writers Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel ate beef sandwiches at the original Taylor St. location at one time or another — the place has been here forever, and they nearly were too.
Al's Beef now boasts 19 locations in Illinois (including one in Indiana and one in Arizona, for Chicagoans on their annual Cubs spring training pilgrimage). The newest franchise is on Adams Street near Union Station. On a recent visit, I was unclear what to make of the sacks of Idaho potatoes piled in the corner and the display case of donuts in the ordering line, but it's clear from the menu that I was destined to order the sandwich filled with Italian beef and green peppers ($4-$7, depending on whether you're a "Little Al" or a "Big Al").
Who’s Al, you ask? Just look at the photos on the walls with celebrities and the who's-who of Chicago. Al's in every single one. And it's clear from the span of his belly this guy knows his beef.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jacob Wheeler