A typical weekday lunch at Boeufhaus is pretty busy, with people sitting at tables and at the bar, all diving into sandwiches. This French-German brasserie, hidden in plain sight along a busy stretch of Western Avenue in Ukrainian Village, emphasizes their beef program, cooking steaks at night, and selling steaks all day. But at lunch, the focus is on sandwiches - and we're not talking Chicago Italian beefs, either.
EXTRA COURSE: Chocolate decadence dessert at Boeufhaus
"Not here. We have pastrami we make here. Corned beef we make here as well for our Rueben sandwich. We have a beef on weck, which is from Western New York where I'm from originally. A cheesesteak and we also have a pork sandwich to sort of balance out the menu," said chef and co-owner Brian Ahern.
Their cheesesteak is incredible, beginning with great bread.
"They call it the 'extra soft special roll' when we order it from D'Amato's over down on Grand Street," he explained.
It's buttered then heated on the griddle. Thinly-sliced sirloin is seasoned, then cooked aggressively with chopped white onions on the flat top, mixed, cut up and heated through. Unlike Philly, there is only one option for cheese here - white American - which is layered on top of the cooked beef and onions, and then gets smothered by the bread, in order to steam the loaves a bit. The beefy-cheesy blend is scooped up and into the loaves, which are sliced in half then served with chips or fries and a tart pickle.
Coriander, black pepper and garlic - plus a hint of molasses - are the featured seasonings on the house-smoked pastrami served on griddled rye bread. But the real darkhorse is the beef on weck.
"The 'weck' comes from the name Kimmelweck bun. So it's sort of a Kaiser-style roll, and then it's topped with Maldon salt and caraway," Ahern said.
Brushed with an egg wash, then topped with caraway seeds and a course French sea salt, the sandwich features a different cut of beef.
"We use inside round; we cut 'em down to manageable sizes and then we marinate them heavily in a garlic-thyme paste almost," Ahern said.
Cooked outside, but with a medium rare center, they're cooled for a few hours, then sliced thin on a machine, in order to get the proper thickness. Some of that cooking liquid gets made into an awesome jus, which will come in handy later for dipping. The bread is brushed with some butter and heated on the griddle; a ladleful of jus is added to the cooked beef, but it's only on the flat top for a minute or so, before it's piled onto the roll, along with a healthy drizzle of horseradish sauce. Definitely a rare breed among sandwiches in Chicago.
"It's a nice alternative, and this is a wonderful place to come for lunch," Ahern said. "Get your sandwich on."
So in a city known for its Italian beef, don't overlook these three other great beef options; all unique, and all delicious in their own way.
1012 N. Western Ave