Why is it so hard to find a good Italian Beef sandwich around here?
The first person I asked where I could get one thought I was looking for an Arby’s. Talk about a bad omen! Three years later I’m no closer to finding anyone in the Peoria area who knows how to make a proper Italian beef sandwich.
Since the last time I blogged about this problem, Gracie’s closed up shop and became a sports bar, ditching the Vienna hot dogs for some off-brand sticks of balogna. I never did get a proper beef sandwich and their prices went up, so we stopped ordering from them.
I started asking life-long Peorians where I could get Italian beef, and they typically just shrug their shoulders. Most of them seem to think it’s just a crockpot recipe, not the food of the gods it really is.
Then last week we walked into The Spotted Cow Cafe & Creamery for ice cream. Their ice cream was very good, but their menu boasting Italian beef, Italian sausage, and Red Hot Chicago hot dogs caught my eye. I spent all last week thinking about my return.
We went back today. They didn’t offer an Italian combo (gah!), but they did offer the Italian beef with mozzarella cheese and peppers, so that’s what I ordered. A few minutes later, they brought out the plate in the picture above.
I don’t know why they cut it in half, but that wasn’t the end of the world, especially as packed as the sandwich was. Nor was the fact they use shredded beef instead of sliced, or pepperoncini instead of the hot peppers you’d get in a Chicago restaurant. I feared the sandwich was dry at first, but the bottom proved nice and juicy. The mozz was also down on the bottom, but rather sparse.
I took a hopeful bite.
What a letdown. Despite the juicy composition, the sandwich was bland. Sure, it tasted like beef, but it didn’t have that seasoned quality that makes it an Italian beef sandwich. We’ll be back for the ice cream and the rest of their food (the Wife really enjoyed the pork tenderloin sandwich she ordered, and they cut potatoes on site to make fries), but the quest for a good Italian beef sandwich will continue.
It’s been suggested I check out a place called Vertucci’s in East Peoria, which boasts Chicago-style eats. I tried corroborating the story, but other people I’ve asked haven’t even heard of the place. Their menu boasts Italian beef, sausage, and combos, so I have cautious hope (Gracie’s claimed to be Chicago-style, too).
Maybe I’ll even try them tomorrow, because this is just getting depressing. We’ve solved our pizza problem through Leonardo’s — even though they’re 20 miles away and believe God proclaimed there shall be no pizza on the Sabbath — and we’ve got a reliable lead on good gyros, but it amazes me how elusive Italian beef is.
I’m not quite ready to give up, though. Stay tuned.