Daily Archives: December 8, 2014

Where’s the Beef?

I used to have a boss who had moved to the United States from Germany. She was always going on about how things were better in Germany, and after a while it would get on my nerves. “Geez,” I would think uncharitably. “If it was so much better there, why did you ever leave?”

Now that we live in Michigan – and I’m glad we do, with no plans to return to Illinois – I have to admit to doing a little of the same thing, always related to food. I miss the huge, varied deli that was part of our grocery store. I miss being able to find a wide array of inexpensive Italian, Mexican, Asian, Polish and Spanish groceries. I miss deep dish Chicago pizza. But most of all, I miss a good old Italian beef sandwich.

About a month or so after we moved here, I was checking out restaurant reviews on Yelp when I came across reviews for a place that boasted a true Chicago-style hot dog. I eat my hot dogs plain so I don’t really care if they are Chicago-style or not (poppy seed bun, celery salt, sport peppers, no ketchup, etc). What caught my eye was the fact that someone mentioned they also sold Italian beef sandwiches. Even better, it was not far from our house!

We decided to stop there for some sandwiches on our way to the Warren Dunes. We walked in, saw that the place was packed (usually a good sign if the locals like it) and ordered two Italian beef sandwiches with cheese. They came with fries but I was really in the mood for French fries, so I asked for an extra order of fries.

It was really loud in there and Dave and I both had a hard time hearing. I took over the communication aspect of things because I’m a better lip reader. The first sign that things might not be what we’d hoped was when the girl asked what kind of cheese we wanted on our sandwiches. This is not a question you will ever be asked in Illinois. They might ask if you want cheese or peppers (sweet or hot), but never what kind of cheese – if you ask for cheese, it’s always mozzarella, capisce?

So of course, I answered, “Mozzarella.” And she said, “Oh, we don’t have that.”

We should have changed our order right then and there.

But no, instead I asked what kind of cheese they had. I believe she said American and Swiss. I glanced at Dave, who wrinkled his nose in disgust. I turned back to the girl and said, “No cheese, thank you.”

Then she said something I didn’t quite catch, about my French fries. I didn’t figure it out until we got to the car and opened up the bag, but somehow my asking for another order of fries made the girl assume I wanted half the amount of fries with each order. I didn’t really hear what she said so I just said, “Okay.” Instead of two sandwiches with fries, plus an extra order of fries, we got two sandwiches each with half the amount of fries (to equal one full order) and a little of the price knocked off. I was NOT happy but it was my own fault for not pushing harder to understand what she was asking.

So then we waited. And waited. All these hot dog orders were flying out, and our sandwich order seemed to be an anomaly. After about 20 minutes I could see them starting to put our order together, finally.

I watched the guy grab what looked like a slightly larger hot dog bun. Then he slapped in a small amount of what looked like roast beef lunch meat, and a couple of fries.

When we got to the car and saw what we were going to be eating for lunch, I almost cried. It was so far from what a real Italian beef sandwich should be, and it didn’t even come close to filling us up. We had to stop somewhere else for extra food. To add insult to injury, we paid way, WAY more for these sandwiches than we would at Portillo’s, which has some of the best Italian beef around. (Only in Illinois though. Well, they might have one or two locations outside of Illinois but not in Michigan, sadly.)

We’re headed to Illinois this week for one of Dave’s dental appointments. He is almost there, by the way – this is a fitting for the mold for his partial denture. He’s had all his other work done, and once he gets his partial denture he will finally have a full, working set of teeth for the first time since 2005!

While we are in Illinois, we’ll be stopping by my mom’s for a much-anticipated visit. This dental appointment is just a short one, so we’ll have a few hours to sit and gab with her before we have to get back on the road to beat traffic coming home. And guess where we’re having lunch?

Oh yeah, baby.

Portillo's Italian beef sandwich -- the real thing!

Portillo’s Italian beef sandwich — the real thing!

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