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  #1  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:18 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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Your favorite Italian Beef in Chicago near UIC?

I considered putting this in the Chicago forum, but I wanted to give non-Chicagoans the opportunity to weigh in.

What's your favorite source for Italian beef near the UIC campus? I will be there in February with a work colleague for a conference, and we're interested in having Italian beef for lunch - possibly every day.

UIC is here, in case that helps.

I will undoubtedly have more food & drink recommendation requests soon.
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  #2  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:43 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is online now
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Well, if you add the words "italian beef" to your google map info, you'll certainly locate a LOT of places to try out.

Sadly, I've not been in that area for decades, so don't have anything else to contribute.

I do have fond memories of Al's Beef from the 1970's, however. I don't think you can go far wrong if you visit one of their locations.

Last edited by Qadgop the Mercotan; 12-05-2012 at 01:45 PM..
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:45 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Well, if you add the words "italian beef" to your link, you'll certainly locate a LOT of places to try out.

Sadly, I've not been in that area for decades, so don't have anything else to contribute.

I do have fond memories of Al's Beef from the 1970's, however. I don't think you can go far wrong if you visit one of their locations.
If it comes to that, we'll just methodically try each one, but I'm hoping for a TNT starting point. Looks like Al's might be a good candidate, thanks!
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  #4  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:46 PM
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Al's is good, and although it's not Italian Beef, the hole-in-the-wall Thai place on the same block, The Thai Bowl, has great cheap food.
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  #5  
Old 12-05-2012, 01:59 PM
enipla enipla is offline
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Anyone remember 'Boobies'? I think it was near Park Ridge or Niles. (afraid to Google for it as I am at work).
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  #6  
Old 12-05-2012, 02:07 PM
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It's still there on Milwaukee Avenue. Nowhere close to UIC.
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2012, 03:00 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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Just got a recc for Al's from a work colleague who used to live in Chicago. We're off to a good start!
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2012, 03:10 PM
MikeG MikeG is offline
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As much as people love Al's, I am a die hard Johnnies fan. I personally would drive past UIC all the way to Forest Park to get a Johnnies.

As long as you are by UIC, check out Jims Original for a polish or pork chop sandwich, Pleasant House Bakery down on 35th for wonderful English meat pies, and Lao Sze Chuan in the Chinatown mall for spicy authentic Chinese. Fish filet in spicy szechwan sauce and Tony's 3-Chilli Chicken are favorites.
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2012, 03:32 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Al's all the way! I drive all the way to Taylor Street to get an authentic Al's from their original location, and you'll have it in your back yard. Lucky girl! If you were going to be there in the summer, I'd recommend you go across the street for a Mario's Italian Ice for dessert, but alas they close for the winter.

If you want something a little classier (like a sit-down Italian dinner), you might try Rosebud or Tuscany, also both on Taylor Street.
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  #10  
Old 12-05-2012, 03:49 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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I prefer Francesca's over Rosebud. Better food by far, IMO. Stopped going to Rosebud when they served up a caprese salad with tomatoes that had the flavor and texture resembling styrofoam.
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  #11  
Old 12-05-2012, 04:44 PM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
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Moving this to the eatie Cafe Society, from IMHO.
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  #12  
Old 12-05-2012, 08:35 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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OMG! Is this the first thread I've had moved? This is very exciting!
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  #13  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:28 PM
Nonsuch Nonsuch is offline
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Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
I prefer Francesca's over Rosebud. Better food by far, IMO. Stopped going to Rosebud when they served up a caprese salad with tomatoes that had the flavor and texture resembling styrofoam.
I think RoSal's is better than both. A real 'neighborhood' kinda place.

Another vote for Al's for beef.
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  #14  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:35 PM
Spud Spud is offline
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The regional food thread had me searching for a recipe, and I found this which I plan to try this weekend. As a bonus there are reviews of several local places.

http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/b...lian_beef.html
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  #15  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:40 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
As much as people love Al's, I am a die hard Johnnies fan. I personally would drive past UIC all the way to Forest Park to get a Johnnies.

As long as you are by UIC, check out Jims Original for a polish or pork chop sandwich, Pleasant House Bakery down on 35th for wonderful English meat pies, and Lao Sze Chuan in the Chinatown mall for spicy authentic Chinese. Fish filet in spicy szechwan sauce and Tony's 3-Chilli Chicken are favorites.
Me, too. I prefer Johnnie's to Al's, but if you go to Al's it must be the Taylor Street location. The franchise locations really are not the same. Al's is good in the summer for an Italian beef and then across the street for an Italian lemonade at Mario's--that's a slice of Chicago for me. There is also The Patio on Taylor Street, that I prefer to Al's.

So, for the purposes of the OP, Al's and The Patio are good suggestions for your location. If I had to pick just one, I'd begrudgingly recommend Al's, even though I personally prefer The Patio. If you have time for two, try both.

As for Polishes, I actually prefer the Polish at Maxwell's to Jim's (they're next door to each other), but it would be fun to do a side-by-side taste test. (which is how I came to my preference.) Jim's is kind of the hometown favorite, but I find Maxwell's tastier, although their fries suck. (Jim's fries aren't spectacular, but much better than Maxwell's.) But you can't really go wrong with either.
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  #16  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:49 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Spud View Post
The regional food thread had me searching for a recipe, and I found this which I plan to try this weekend. As a bonus there are reviews of several local places.

http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/b...lian_beef.html
Much to my surprise, that actually is a bang-on Italian beef recipe. A lot of home recipes have you use a braising cut like chuck and simmer it for hours until it breaks apart. That yields a delicious sandwich, but not quite a Chicago Italian beef, which is typically made from top sirloin, top round, or bottom round. (ETA: I see that website covers that. Nice.) It really, really helps if you have a decent meat slicer. I have a serious Globe deli slicer here at home, and I can get nice, thin strips of roast beef cut across the grain, which is pretty crucial to get the right texture. If you have good knife skills, you can probably do it by hand, but I've never been able to get it thin enough by hand. This picture shows how thin it is. There is some variation, as some places do it slightly thicker, but it's usually at least deli meat thin.

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-05-2012 at 10:50 PM..
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  #17  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:16 PM
Spud Spud is offline
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I have a meat slicer... not great, but not made of plastic either. I understand the key is to get the meat chilled but not frozen. I found some good looking Gardiniera but my challenge may be to find the right bread (high gluten I think). We're only 3 hours from Chicago so hopefully I can find something reasonable.
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  #18  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:21 PM
Kolak of Twilo Kolak of Twilo is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
...if you go to Al's it must be the Taylor Street location.
Seconded. On Taylor there really is not other option for Italian beef.

Rosal's is a fine choice if you are looking for old school meatballs/lasagna Italian-American cooking. And it really is a serious long time neighborhood joint.

The Francesca's location there is also a great spot for Italian. But my favorite choice right now is just across the street - Davanti Enoteca. Same owner as Francesca's but more authentic/rustic Italian with a contemporary vibe.
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  #19  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:30 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Spud View Post
I have a meat slicer... not great, but not made of plastic either. I understand the key is to get the meat chilled but not frozen. I found some good looking Gardiniera but my challenge may be to find the right bread (high gluten I think). We're only 3 hours from Chicago so hopefully I can find something reasonable.
Yeah, you want something with enough structure to withstand being dipped in the juice. Gonnella is the brand used around here, generally (although it's not absolutely universal. Turano is another brand sometimes used.) It's soft, but chewy and somewhat dense. Not crispy on the outside.

That said, when I do Italian beef myself, I actually go for smaller, lighter, and crustier rolls. It's not a to-spec Italian beef, but I like it just as much, if not more. I've never been the biggest fan of Gonnella rolls.
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  #20  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:32 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
Seconded. On Taylor there really is not other option for Italian beef.
*cough* The Patio. They do a slightly thicker style of Italian beef, but quite good. Like I said, I prefer it to Al's. It's also priced far more favorably than Al's. But, like I said, if you're only going to have one beef, do Al's.

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-05-2012 at 11:35 PM..
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  #21  
Old 12-06-2012, 01:30 AM
Kolak of Twilo Kolak of Twilo is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
*cough* The Patio. They do a slightly thicker style of Italian beef, but quite good. Like I said, I prefer it to Al's. It's also priced far more favorably than Al's. But, like I said, if you're only going to have one beef, do Al's.
I apologize for not reading your entire post. Frankly, I had forgotten about The Patio but I have to admit I've had my fair share of Italian beef there as well and I will admit it is an excellent choice. Maybe it isn't as flashy or well known as Al's but my memory agrees with what you said about it.
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  #22  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:44 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
I apologize for not reading your entire post. Frankly, I had forgotten about The Patio but I have to admit I've had my fair share of Italian beef there as well and I will admit it is an excellent choice. Maybe it isn't as flashy or well known as Al's but my memory agrees with what you said about it.
What Al's has going for it (other than they do put out a really good beef) is their gravy is unique. It's a lot more nutmeg-y or clove-y or something in that ballpark of fragrant spices. There's definitely more going on there than your usual Italian seasoning blend. For me, it's a little too aggressive, but I can see how if you love it, no other place will do. My main beef *cough* with Al's is their pricing. I mean, bless them for being able to charge as much as they do. I would, too, but for a beef, it's pricey for the size. Their "big beef" is what I would consider a standard size sandwich, and is $7.25. Same size sandwich at Patio is something like $4.50.
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  #23  
Old 12-06-2012, 10:47 AM
Dorjän Dorjän is offline
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This probably doesn't count as close to UIC, but what the hey. My absolute favourite Italian Beef joint in Chi (and I patronized many back in my IIT days) was Ferro's on W. 31st & S. Wentworth. They also had the best Italian Ice ever!
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  #24  
Old 12-06-2012, 11:27 AM
zoid zoid is offline
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If you're by UIC you have to stop in to Tufano's. The people are super friendly and the food is great.

If you're looking for a drink Little Joe's is a great neighborhood joint and it's literally a block from Al's.

For a different experience stop into Fontano's, also in the neighborhood for a really good sub and pick up some great giardinera from the deli to bring home.

Just so you know you're a short walk to Greek town. I think Chicagoans tend to take it for granted until they go out of town and realize there are actually places in the US that don't have fantastic Greek food at dirt cheap prices.

If your willing to go just a bit further north you'll hit the hot Fulton Street Market district, home to places like The Girl And The Goat, Haymarket Brewery, and The Publican.
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  #25  
Old 12-07-2012, 06:55 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Originally Posted by Dorjän View Post
This probably doesn't count as close to UIC, but what the hey. My absolute favourite Italian Beef joint in Chi (and I patronized many back in my IIT days) was Ferro's on W. 31st & S. Wentworth. They also had the best Italian Ice ever!
I work at IIT, and have eaten at Ferro's, but had never tried their Italian Beef. On the strength of your post, I checked it out for lunch today. Not bad, very tender and thinly sliced beef, and perfect bread, but the flavoring is just a bit too bland for my taste. I'll stick with Al's as my vote for The Best.
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  #26  
Old 12-08-2012, 08:37 PM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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I once went on a beef crawl and sampled six of Chicago's finest beefs in a day. This was the playoff championship final of four or five beefathons and so the list was pretty carefully put together. For me, Johnnies was the best but I can't really steer anyone away from Al's ON TAYLOR, either. Yes, it has some kind of weird pumpkin pie spice going on but it's unique and not at all overwhelming. Of course, Al's is much easier to get to from UIC, too.

Johnnies 7500 W North, Elmwood Park
Chickies 2839 S Pulaski (Now closed)
Pop's 10337 S Kedzie
Uncle Johnny's 500 W 32nd
Al's 1079 W Taylor
Patio 1503 W Taylor
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  #27  
Old 12-08-2012, 09:27 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Chickie's is (or maybe was, see below) my favorite, along with Johnnie's.

Chickies on 2839 S. Pulaski is not closed. They reopened under new owners in April or May of this year. Their beef is decent, but it's not quite the Chickie's of old.

However, the original Chickie's owners opened up a Chickie's in Hillside. I have not yet been there to compare, but it's supposed to be the same recipe. It's at 1801 S. Wolf Road.
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  #28  
Old 12-08-2012, 09:44 PM
Dorjän Dorjän is offline
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Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
I work at IIT, and have eaten at Ferro's, but had never tried their Italian Beef. On the strength of your post, I checked it out for lunch today. Not bad, very tender and thinly sliced beef, and perfect bread, but the flavoring is just a bit too bland for my taste. I'll stick with Al's as my vote for The Best.
It's been at least ten years since I've lived in Chicago, sounds like they may have slacked off on the flavor!
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  #29  
Old 12-08-2012, 09:47 PM
zoid zoid is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Chickie's is (or maybe was, see below) my favorite, along with Johnnie's.

Chickies on 2839 S. Pulaski is not closed. They reopened under new owners in April or May of this year. Their beef is decent, but it's not quite the Chickie's of old.

However, the original Chickie's owners opened up a Chickie's in Hillside. I have not yet been there to compare, but it's supposed to be the same recipe. It's at 1801 S. Wolf Road.
I was there last week - a very strong contender for the area! No Johnnie's but VERY good and the fries were decent. They also happen to be open till 10:30 during the week in an area that pretty much shut's down at 9:00, and open till 12:00 on the weekend. Prices are fair as well.
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  #30  
Old 12-09-2012, 07:57 AM
ptr2void ptr2void is offline
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This thread has given me some new places to try on my next work trip to the Loop! Thanks all!
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  #31  
Old 12-09-2012, 10:07 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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I was there last week - a very strong contender for the area! No Johnnie's but VERY good and the fries were decent. They also happen to be open till 10:30 during the week in an area that pretty much shut's down at 9:00, and open till 12:00 on the weekend. Prices are fair as well.
The original Chickie's had my favorite fries and one of the few natural casing hot dogs in the area. Even though it was my preferred beef in the city, I would just as likely order the hot dogs & fries, because they were so damned good. The new Chickies orders at the Pulaski location changed their hot dogs to skinless. I asked why, and the new owner said he didn't like the snap of natural casings. Oh well. To me, a Vienna dog is not worth having unless it's the natural casing version.

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-09-2012 at 10:09 AM..
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  #32  
Old 12-09-2012, 10:32 AM
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Looks like the OP has been pretty much answered so I don't feel too bad about this hijack.

Up in post 14 I linked to a site that had a recipe. I tried it this weekend and it was great. The only part I messed up is that I couldn't find a top sirloin roast, but found two nice top sirloin steaks that added up to almost 4 pounds. Unfortunately I somehow forgot to adjust the time... well, I did but a little later than I should have, so my meat was medium well rather than medium rare.

The juice was great, and I did find some buns that worked well.

One thing I was confused about originally in the link is when it mentions pouring juice on the bun is says "don't burn your hand" and I thought how would you do that... I'll be using a ladle. So, there I am holding my nicely cut bun in one hand and a ladle of hot juice in the other hand... pour it on the bun... it quickly soaks through the thin "hinge" and guess what... very hot hand... D'oh.
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  #33  
Old 12-09-2012, 10:47 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Awesome. Now this thread's got me in the mood for some homemade Italian beef. I think I saw the local grocery having a sale on top round, so I'll have to go out and make me some.
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  #34  
Old 12-09-2012, 08:43 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
What Al's has going for it (other than they do put out a really good beef) is their gravy is unique. It's a lot more nutmeg-y or clove-y or something in that ballpark of fragrant spices.
Hijack: I was at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs today for their "Whole Hog" class, and heard their chef de cuisine ripping on another of the chefs for putting too much clove in their previous attempt at Italian beef. Had to chuckle as I thought of this thread.
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  #35  
Old 12-10-2012, 04:59 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
Hijack: I was at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs today for their "Whole Hog" class, and heard their chef de cuisine ripping on another of the chefs for putting too much clove in their previous attempt at Italian beef. Had to chuckle as I thought of this thread.
Ha. Clove is one of those spices you really need to be careful with. A little goes a long way. That said, I do love the taste of clove, especially with pork.

Speaking of, Spud, you might also want to try the Italian beef recipe with pork shoulder or sirloin roast instead of beef. I do that variation sometimes and I might even like it better than Italian beef. I kind of go the Philly roast pork route with it, and top it with fried broccoli rabe/rapini and aged provolone. Delicious!
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  #36  
Old 12-10-2012, 06:41 PM
Spud Spud is offline
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Do you still make the juice with beef bouillon? We can get really good pork here so I think this would be fun to try. I often use pork loin for sandwiches... I can see spicing it similarly and having a good broth could make a good variation on this.
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  #37  
Old 12-10-2012, 07:03 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Do you still make the juice with beef bouillon? We can get really good pork here so I think this would be fun to try. I often use pork loin for sandwiches... I can see spicing it similarly and having a good broth could make a good variation on this.
What I do is cook the shoulder to about 140-145 or so, let it rest overnight in the fridge, slice, and then for the jus, I tend to use chicken broth instead of beef (and whatever drippings I have left from the pork), but it really doesn't matter that much.

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-10-2012 at 07:05 PM..
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  #38  
Old 12-10-2012, 08:01 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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OK, here's our plan:
- Definitely, without a doubt, go to Al's.
- We will make an effort to go to any others mentioned here as we are able to do so.
- I will be trying to make some of this glorious stuff at home!
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  #39  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:17 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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OK, here's our plan:
- Definitely, without a doubt, go to Al's.
- We will make an effort to go to any others mentioned here as we are able to do so.
- I will be trying to make some of this glorious stuff at home!
That sounds like a more-than-reasonable plan.
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  #40  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:43 PM
Kolak of Twilo Kolak of Twilo is offline
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- I will be trying to make some of this glorious stuff at home!
Just let us know your address and when it will be ready!!!

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 12-10-2012 at 09:44 PM..
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  #41  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:52 PM
Motorgirl Motorgirl is online now
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Just let us know your address and when it will be ready!!!
Only if it turns out good.

What's the best cut of beef for this? I have a top round roast in the freezer.
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  #42  
Old 12-10-2012, 10:10 PM
zoid zoid is offline
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Top round will work nicely.
ETA - you'll want either a meat slicer or a very sharp knife to slice it as thinly as possible after roasting.

Last edited by zoid; 12-10-2012 at 10:11 PM..
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  #43  
Old 12-10-2012, 10:52 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Top round will work nicely.
ETA - you'll want either a meat slicer or a very sharp knife to slice it as thinly as possible after roasting.
+1. I've only done it with top round myself. Thin slicing against the grain is the key. I can't slice it thin enough with a knife. Gotta use the slicer. (That's my lack of knife skills.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-10-2012 at 10:54 PM..
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  #44  
Old 12-10-2012, 11:43 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
+1. I've only done it with top round myself. Thin slicing against the grain is the key. I can't slice it thin enough with a knife. Gotta use the slicer. (That's my lack of knife skills.)
Hey, even the chefs at Vie said to get a slicer for that job, and that was during a class on how to break down a pig for various cuts of meat.
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