CHICAGO - There are countless Italian beef stands in Chicago, but few have taken liberties with the traditional choices of sweet, hot or wet. There's a suburban beef stand that just opened its third location in Lakeview and they've added a few twists to the menu.
What started in tiny St. Charles, has slowly and patiently grown into a third location now in the city, where some purists would scoff, considering they've added cheese as an option to their Italian beef.
Some would say that's a Philly thing, rather than a Chicago thing, but the combination apparently has its fans.
What started off in St. Charles, then migrated to Hoffman Estates, has now landed in Lakeview, in the form of Beef Shack, an Italian beef joint, with a twist or two.
"Not a lot of beef places around, especially in Chicago and this Lakeview area, we got Al's around the corner but we think we do a better job than most beef stands," Spiro Douvris, the owner of beef shack, said.
The beef is made off-site, in their commissary, but they tried upgrading it.
"Normal places they use an outside round so we use an inside; it's a little bit leaner it's a little bit more expensive," he said.
The Giardiniera is standard-issue: carrots, cauliflower, peppers, celery, and their sweet peppers begin with multi-colored bell peppers.
"We cut it up, marinate it with our own spice packs and cook it off in-house and everything like that," Douvris said.
Sausage is also made off-site, but cooked here, and you can certainly get a combo, that's beef and sausage, tucked into the turano loaf with your choice of peppers.
Fries are made in the store, hand-cut and fried twice, but their point of difference is the cheesy beef.
First, the bread is toasted then smeared with a homemade garlic butter inside. Beef is jammed in, then topped with shredded mozzarella, where it gets slowly baked in a conveyor oven for about a minute. You can top it with peppers or extra jus if you like, just don't call it a Philly cheesesteak.
"It's something that makes different and unique we think," he said.
And in this week's Extra Course, Steve Dolinksy talks about an alternative on the menu, for those that don't feel like having a big, juicy, Italian beef: the restaurant's chopped salad.
1056 W Belmont Ave, Chicago
2115 W Main St, St Charles
830 N Roselle Rd, Hoffman Estates