Chicagoans have long argued about who serves the best Italian beef in the city, a debate which usually mentions name like Al, Max, Johnnie and some guy called Mr. Beef. The working class sandwich's origins can be traced back to the Great Depression, when a cut of beef could be stretched by slicing it thinly and stewing it in some grease. It's a dish that hasn't gone out of style, as evidenced by Italian beef's continued prominence in Chicago and beyond.
Now Food Network personality Alton Brown has weighed in on the Great Beef Debate, recording a blind taste test of two Italian beef sandwiches after the Chicago stop of his Eat Your Science tour. Based on a social media poll, Brown decided to pit local chain Al's Beef against famed Elmwood Park stand, Johnnie's Beef.
While Brown enjoyed the balanced heat and superior meat of Al's Beef, he was turned off by the sandwich's improperly cooked peppers. The Good Eats host preferred the more prominent spice and heartier roll provided by Johnnie's Beef, leading him to crown it as his favorite of the two.
This development certainly won't put a stop to Chicago's Italian beef rivalries, but Johnnie's Beef devotees suddenly have a very prominent supporter on their side.