Mr. Beef Chicago: A Portrait Of The City

In the beating heart of Chicago, where the Windy City’s captivating charisma intertwines with its culinary legacy, one finds Mr. Beef, an homage to the city’s vibrant past and diverse palate. Our journey this week, as part of the ongoing BYOB series by LUSH Wine and Spirits, unfolds at this iconic locale where tradition seamlessly embraces a contemporary twist. But before we immerse ourselves in the epicurean escapade, let’s take a moment to appreciate the vibrant tapestry that welcomed me upon crossing the threshold.

The minute I stepped inside, a lively panorama materialized—an assembly of patrons, from inquisitive tourists exploring the famed realm of Mr. Beef to industrious construction crews on a lunch hiatus. Chicago’s kaleidoscopic charm and diversity unfolded before me, setting the stage for an authentic Windy City sojourn.

Within the confines, a sense of familiarity enveloped me—the vintage arcade consoles embellishing the walls, a cash-only directive on the ATM, and the amiable staff proudly sporting hats bearing the insignias of local culinary luminaries like Twisted Spoke, Kimski and Lao Peng You. It was palpable that every individual at Mr. Beef harbored a genuine ardor for their craft and a dedication to reveling in the artistry of delectable cuisine.

As I ventured deeper into the restaurant, a discreet door on the side ushered me into a communal space adorned with picnic tables—a BYOB sanctuary where patrons congregated to savor their meals. Amidst the laughter and the clinking of bottles, a spirit of camaraderie flourished. Whether you’re a regular, a neophyte absorbing the energy from Mr. Beef or someone simply seeking to bask in a slice of Chicago history with the famed Italian beef sandwich, Mr. Beef extends its arms to all.

Now, onto the pièce de résistance—the cuisine. This week, our suggested elixir to elevate your dining affair is the Danilo Thomain’s Enfer d’Avier. The Thomain family works one hectare of vineyards in the shadow of Mont Blanc, in North Western Italy. A traditional wine made from the Petit Rouge grape it has a compelling rusticity with a wild berry impression and a lively freshness on the palate. Paired with Mr. Beef’s iconic Italian beef sandwich—slow-cooked, thinly sliced beef oozing with flavor, accompanied by Chicago’s beloved Sicilian-inspired spicy pepper condiment, giardiniera, on a roll—it’s a match destined for epicurean harmony.

An Italian beef sandwich at Mr. Beef on Orleans, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Chicago. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

As you relish each bite of the Italian beef, immersed in the interplay of flavors, the robust notes of the wine complement the dish, heightening the overall gastronomic experience. The acidity gracefully cuts through the richness of the beef, while the earthy undertones dance in harmony with the spices, orchestrating a symphony of tastes on your palate.

Now, let’s address the elephant—or should I say, the bear—in the room. Mr. Beef gained notoriety as the muse behind “The Bear”, a breakout television sensation of 2022. The show’s mastermind, Christopher Storer, a longtime confidant of Mr. Beef’s proprietor, Christopher Zucchero, ingeniously woven the restaurant into the narrative fabric of the series. Quite frankly, not much has changed since I first walked into Mr. Beef sometime in 1984 when the studio, I was working for moved around the corner and I could walk there every day, sometimes twice a day, it is a damn fine sandwich.

Despite the acclaim and scrutiny, Mr. Beef remains steadfast in its commitment to affordability, echoing Zucchero’s ethos: “I am not a greedy person. I would never be like, ‘Oh, we’re on The Bear, now the beef sandwich is $13.'” This unwavering dedication to tradition and reasonable prices is a testament to the authentic passion for their craft that defines Mr. Beef.

In a culinary realm often dominated by haute cuisine, Mr. Beef proudly stands as a punk rock ensemble disrupting the industry, akin to how Fugazi revolutionized the music scene. The Zucchero family’s devotion to their craft, deeply rooted in the annals of Chicago’s beef stands, permeates every morsel of their iconic Italian beef.

As you revel in the distinctive tapestry that Mr. Beef weaves—a seamless blend of history, camaraderie, and unparalleled flavors—raise a glass of Enfer d’Avier and salute to the timeless tradition that is Mr. Beef. It’s not merely a restaurant; it’s a jubilation of Chicago’s culinary heritage that continues to enchant both locals and visitors. So, whether you’re drawn by the buzz, the history, or simply the promise of a superb meal, Mr. Beef transcends its status as a mere eatery—it stands as a venerable institution in the heart of Chicago.


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