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August 05, 2006

The Beef-Off - Chapter VI - Bostons

Dominic Armato
It's a beefy week here at Skillet Doux... had some catching up to do!

The sixth entry in the Beef-Off wasn't even on my radar until a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for an additional entry to round out the beefy dozen when I happened to get a note from a pal who recommended I check out Bostons. Bostons Italian Beef another pleasantly decrepit joint that's been around for about 50 years (is there such a thing as a new beef stand in this town?), and it occupies an acutely angular little brick building on the corner of Chicago and Grand. Inside are hardwood floors, a kitchen that's a pretty good size for a beef stand, and a small, dimly-lit dining room with five tables. The menu is fairly typical, though it includes a BBQ beef sandwich that looks like it might be worth a try. But I was on a mission, so that would have to wait for another time. I ordered the Beef-Off standard, a beef sandwich... sweet, hot and dipped... with fries and a soda. I was handed a package wrapped in a large sheet of yellow paper and sat down with a coworker to dig in.

Dominic Armato

The less said about the fries, the better. Similar to Mr. Beef, Bostons serves more of the mass-produced precut and frozen fare that's competent but completely uninteresting. The beef, however, is entirely worthy. Right off the bat, I appreciate the fact that at Bostons, dipped means dipped. Some beef stands seem to think that dipped means "pour a bunch of juice over the top", but Bostons is fully saturated. The peppers, both hot and sweet, are largely unremarkable. The giardiniera is a typical chunky pickled pepper and celery concoction that provides a nice zip, but doesn't have much character. The sweet peppers are chopped into little inch long strips, cooked quite soft with a bit of oil and garlic, I believe, but they're almost devoid of flavor. The beef, on the other hand, is quite tasty. It's appropriately beefy, quite tender and moist, and has just a hint of a rare beef flavor, quite unusual for an Italian beef sandwich. The juice causes me some consternation. It's pretty potent, which I appreciate, but it's dominated by a nearly overpowering dried oregano flavor. It also has a funky little tail that some have identified as powdered garlic, and I think they're correct. The juice has character, to be sure, but I think the balance could really use some adjustment.

Despite my juice misgivings, however, I think this is an entirely worthy beef. In fact, it's one of the better ones I've had so far. For me, it doesn't come close to the brilliance of Chickie's, but since Chickie's turned my beefy world upside-down, I'm actually going to nestle Bostons behind Mr. Beef in the standings. Though it isn't the technically proficient beef that's served by Portillo's, it's much longer on character. In fact, if Bostons' character wasn't so dominated by the oregano, I might have to consider it more carefully against Mr. Beef. In fact, I think Bostons might even make a more flavorful sandwich than Mr. Beef, but the flavors don't come together quite as well. This is mostly a matter of personal preference... and if you're all about the oregano, Bostons is going to do a lot more for you than it does for me... but I think it falls short of excellence. As such, the updated standings:

Bostons Italian Beef
2932 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
1) Chickie's
2) Mr. Beef
3) Bostons
4) Portillo's
5) Roma's
6) Al's

Addendum: The final Beef-Off results and wrapup can be found in The Year In Beef.


It can't be at Chicago and Grand...those streets are parallel. [/pedantic]

Hey, Brenda!

East of Western, you'd be absolutely correct :-)

At Western, Grand takes a dogleg right and continues north on an angle. Eventually, it almost reaches Belmont.

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