Al Ferreri, his sister Frances, and his brother-in-law Chris Pacelli Sr., developed their signature italian-beef sandwich out of necessity in 1938. The economic depression made meat harder to come by, so the trio of sandwich makers made their supplies last by cutting thinner slices of roast beef.
Their business started with them feeding guests at family weddings, delivering meals to local hospitals, and catering the country's first food fight, but they soon founded a more permanent curbside food stand in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Despite their relatively humble beginnings, Al's Beef & Nancy's Pizzeria rapidly expanded and now boasts franchises throughout the Chicago area and across the country. The family business has garnered plentiful acclaim throughout the years, having been named Adam Richman's best sandwich in the Midwest on the Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America in June 2012, appearing on Richman's Man v. Food and earning a place on Esquire's list of The Best Sandwiches in America in 2008.
The cooks begin every morning by roasting cuts of beef for the day, kneading fresh pizza dough, and cutting french fries with an industrial-strength laser pointer. The hearty italian-beef sandwiches can emerge from the kitchen with simple, unadorned meat or with blankets of melted cheese and spicy housemade giardiniera. The pizzas range from crispy thin-crust disks to deep-dish pies with 2.5-inch-thick crusts, supporting any combination of the 24 available toppings, which include oven-roasted garlic, baby spinach, and bacon.
Bergstein's offers up authentic New York–style deli fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, most of which is made fresh in-house. For morning sustenance, toasted challah bread swaddles salami, egg, and Muenster cheese ($5.49), while Keith's lox breakfast platter is piled with cream cheese, tomato, olives, and a choice of bagel ($8.29). Moving on to the mightier meal mountains that punctuate Bergstein's modern, open space, the BNY sandwich smashes hunger with a monster truckload of deli staples (corned beef, pastrami, and brisket) on an onion roll ($11.49). Meanwhile, the lighter, but still stomach-filling big apple salad tosses chicken, dried cherries, blue cheese, and diced apples with balsamic vinaigrette ($7.29). Sweet and sour cabbage and fluffy matzoh ball soup ($4.29 for a bowl) are available every day, and several others get playing time depending on the soup schedule. Smaller bites include the classic black and white cookie ($2.25), sides such as potato pancakes ($1.79) and knishes ($1.79), and the by-the-pound bundles of lox shipped in from Brooklyn ($23.49 per pound).
In a venue first opened in 1925, experienced chefs at Glenwood Oaks Rib & Chop House answer meaty cravings with a menu of hand-cut steaks and hearty American fare. Artichoke-fritter appetizers ($6) sport a layer of rich béarnaise sauce to comfort french-fried artichoke hearts waiting cynically for diners to break them. Baby-back ribs ($18 at lunch; $22.95 at dinner) slowly cook in a customized oven filled with hickory smoke to create slabs Chicago magazine called “juicy, tender, and clinging to the bone.” During dinner, guests can request the roast prime rib of beef in the Chop House’s traditional cut ($31), or "Pecos style" ($25)—sliced and finished on the grill to combine the roast's tenderness with rugged char tattoos normally found on steak.
Live jazz music swirls throughout Flavor Restaurant on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings each week, blending with the sweet and spicy aromas of Southern breakfast and dinner specialties. The restaurant conjures made-from-scratch dishes from family recipes, and specialties include Grandma Haywood's blackened catfish and eggs, pecan-stuffed chicken, and sweet-potato pancakes with mandarin-orange butter. Breakfast triumphs over the sun on select jazz nights, when diners can conclude their evenings with menu items typically reserved for sunrise. The dessert menu punctuates meals with Southern classics including New Orleans bread pudding, and adds Southern kicks such as peach cobbler.