When it comes to sandwiches, Italian beef is one of the popular choices.
Food fans like their beef sandwiches served in a variety of ways. They can be slathered with red sauce, stuffed with peppers or onions, drenched in juice or simply served plain letting the seasonings of the beef stand out.
In celebration of May 26 as National Italian Beef Day, we've listed six of the many restaurants in the Region that feature a tasty and substantial Italian beef on the menu. Enjoy!
7201 Calumet Ave., Hammond
While Barton's Pizzeria in Hammond specializes in pizza with three styles of crust, the eatery's beef sandwich is a favorite selection.
Barton's, which is a carry-out business, features a regular Italian Beef sandwich ($5.50) or the Beef Supreme ($7).
We ordered the Beef Supreme, which was packed with thick slices of meat. The Supreme sandwich is a standout experience for the taste buds. In addition to the delicious flavor of the well-seasoned beef, the sandwich's wow factor is made possible with the addition of cheese, red sauce and sweet peppers. Extra juice is served on the side along with yellow peppers. The beef sandwich also is served with French fries.
9318 Indianapolis Blvd., Highland
If you're looking for a sitdown spot that can also provide entertainment or games, Gelsosomo's locations scattered throughout Lake and Porter Counties will do just that.
The Highland establishment has a quaint dining area and a bar ideal for catching sports games. Just a little south in Schererville, the combined duo of Gelsosomo's and Bullpen brings trivia, bingo and karaoke into the activities mix.
The restaurant's 'Chicago style' Italian beef ($9) is a selection fit for local sandwich snobs. They go all-out by smothering the entire item with cheese, throwing on diced onions and scallions and scattering hearty red, green and jalapeno pepper slices.
This selection naturally gets a flavor kick with the pepper arrangement. The meat is wonderfully tender and complimented with gooey cheese. The bread is excellently toasted. The usual side of au jus is a fine addition, but this sandwich is juicy enough on its own.
1151 Joliet St., Dyer
Pop's Beef is a Chicagoland franchise favorite and sports two NWI locations in Dyer and Crown Point.
The Dyer establishment is an easy-going lunch spot with a large dining space and big windows all around. A sheltered patio outside will prove pleasant as long as spring gets its weather act together.
The Italian beef sandwich ($5.99) is on the smaller side of its reviewed counterparts here. In turn, the meat slices are a little easier to bite into or chew rather than slurping up chunky pieces hanging from your mouth. The bread has an average taste and could be toasted better. The overall flavor feels a little bland on its own. Ordering red sauce with it finally gives something more for your taste buds to savor.
555 E 81st Ave., Merrillville
When it comes to reviewing Italian beef, the Portillo's franchise carries an air of royalty among its sandwich comrades. The longtime Chicagoland name is a favorite.
Its Merrillville location is just off I-65, perfect for grabbing something before you make a road trip. The amount of Illinois plates in the parking lot and drive-thru would suggest our friends from the Prairie State trust it enough to spend time and stop by. The restaurant, though modern, is adorned with retro designs and blasts classic pop and rock music from The Coasters to The Ramones.
The sandwich ($5.75) is comparable in size to the selection from Pop's Beef. The beef is excellently cooked, sliced and seasoned, and the bread it's laid upon is soft in texture.
However, the signature style offered by Portillo's is using gravy on the sandwich. A standard selection can come "dry," but other options include having it splashed and, probably the hometown favorite, "dipped." Making the addition is sure to send you to flavor heaven.
2410 Ontario St., Schererville
Sure, there's the giants and the franchises that sport their sandwich offerings, but spots like Pepino's in Schererville hold their own. Spots like these, of which there are numerous around the Region, are cherished among residents for their small business roots, extensive menus that also offer pasta and pizza and that community friendliness that franchises can't beat.
The dining area is pleasant, with big windows and loads of natural light. Cooking odors waft through the establishment. A glass pane allows one to peer inside the kitchen, where heat shimmers up from hot stoves and ovens where juicy meat is sizzling and cheese is bubbling and melting.
Pepino's Italian beef sandwich ($7.55) gives a heaping serving of meat, a dash of red sauce and vegetables and smothers the ensemble with cheese. The chef doesn't skimp out on the ingredients for this one. The taste is splendidly delicious. The cheese wraps around the beef for an explosive flavor, and the bread has a tougher texture to complement it.
1318 E. Columbus Drive, East Chicago
Zel's has been synonymous with delicious roast beef for more than 50 years in the Region. The beef joint has four locations in Northwest Indiana. In addition to East Chicago, Zel's can be found in Crown Point, Hammond and Schererville.
The first Region Zel's debuted in East Chicago as a place for hungry mill workers to get their lunch. We tried the beef sandwich at the East Chicago location.
The Jumbo Roast Beef sandwich ($7.99) was a tasty selection. Zel's beef is USDA Choice Beef and is thinly sliced. Pickles and yellow peppers are the traditional toppings for the sandwich. Cheese can be added for an extra charge. Zel's Jumbo sandwich is six inches while the Junior Beef is 4 inches. French fries are included with all beef sandwiches.
Customers may ask for extra juice for the sandwich. The roast beef also is available by the pound ($14.99 per pound).
The East Chicago location is small and features a counter where customers may eat. Most orders, though, are carry-outs.