Italian Beef Sandwich at Al's Beef, Courtesy of Paul Howey
Even though the Cubs’ season has not yet officially kicked off, Wrigleyville residents have something big to celebrate: Al’s Beef is slated to open on March 28. While this North Side Al’s Beef outpost will feature a menu that mirrors the original Taylor Street location, what differs is that in between baseball games and overflowing late-night bar crowds, Al’s could be the new refuge for 20- and-30 somethings who won’t mind packing in sardine-can tight, just to sink their teeth into the bread of an Italian beef sandwich soaked in the slow-roasted meat juices, a Chicago-style dog with all the trimmings, or an order of piping hot fries, smothered in cheddar cheese.
This is particularly good news for those who are hungry for a new addition to the limited amount of post-bar food choices that are open past last call, and those who are looking to beef up. Al’s Beef Wrigleyville is initially scheduled to operate between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 a.m. seven days a week. However, weekend hours might be extended to adjust for the summertime rush. Al’s Beef will also offer delivery, beginning the first day it opens. Delivery hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., which could be a hit for those who like to avoid the Clark Street congestion.
Owners and brothers Amjad “AJ” Haj & Ahmad Haj, who currently own and operate two other Al’s Beef stores (169 W. Ontario and 5441 S. Wentworth) decided to open a Wrigleyville location due to the demand. “Speaking to residents and other businesses in the area, we realized that a good beef sandwich and a Chicago-style dog was hard to come by,” says Ahmad Haj. “Also, what better neighborhood to put a Chicago food legend [in] than next to the world’s greatest ballpark filled with the world’s greatest fans?”
Jeremy Lehman, 33, who works in Lakeview, says, “It’s really great that we’re getting an Al’s Beef location on the North Side and I don’t have to go downtown for a really good Italian beef.”
So, just what could makes the no-frills Al’s Beef such a popular place? Never mind that it’s been featured in a documentary on the History Channel, Travel and Leisure’s “America’s Summer of Sandwiches,” Esquire’s “The Best Sandwiches in America,” Travel Channel’s “101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown” and its famed “Food Wars,” part of the answer could be that the beefed-up joint will bring a Chicago delicacy North Siders, so that folks located north of Fullerton no longer have to travel downtown or to the South Side for a good Italian beef or Polish sausage.
Gavin Robinson, 28, says he just noticed the Al’s Beef sign in Wrigleyville, and looks forward to opening day. “I don’t know if there are any other really good beef sandwiches around here [in Wrigleyville/Lakeview],” he says. “This is the only one around here. It’s Al’s Beef, it’s good.”
But, above all, with these hearty sandwiches (and fries!) coming to Wrigleyville, it looks like locals can finally answer Clara Peller’s old question, “Where’s the beef?” The answer is, at least for now, in Wrigleyville.