For 18 years I’ve had what musicians call a “residency” gig, a weekly show that happens at the same place and builds up a loyal following over time. Mine is every Monday night from 9 to 1 at the old Yamaha grand piano at a place called Donn’s Depot in Austin, Texas. It’s built out of a real depot and a handful of railroad cars, including a red caboose that serves as the coolest ladies room on the planet with it’s shag carpeting and private stalls.
The Monday bartender is our great friend Michelle, who has childhood ties to Chicago, and a great affinity for the food that comes from there. She knows her deep dish pizza and her Italian Beef sandwiches. Being the generous soul that she is, for my birthday she had a full Italian Beef sandwich kit sent from Portillo’s in Chicago via a website called “Tastes of Chicago” that was created by our favorite pizza place, Lou Malnati’s.
A big box arrived on the front porch…I’m glad I noticed it as I was pulling out of the driveway. It said on the side “Somebody must really like you!” and “Refrigerate as soon as possible”. Wow. Inside the box I found 2 pounds of thinly sliced beef, 8 bake at home rolls, 2 quarts of gravy, a bag of sweet roasted peppers and a jar of spicy Hot Giardiniera, the pickly peppers and carrots that “tie the room together”.
Of course we had to invite Michelle and her family (new baby Revé and our grandson Brody had a fine time on their first meeting) over to share the Chicago bounty. We baked the rolls, heated the gravy, soaked the beef in the gravy and built our incredible sandwiches with the beef, a strip of sweet pepper and a pile of spicy Giardiniera. Michelle’s generosity had turned into one of the finest lunches we’ve ever had at the MoonHouse. She’s figured out a way to replicate these using local items, but we all agreed that the kit from Portillo’s was the real deal.
Oddly enough, I had a Jerry Jeff concert scheduled in St. Paul the next weekend, and ended up flying through Chicago’s Midway Airport and discovered the Gold Coast Hot Dog and Italian Beef Stand down the hall from our gate. I sampled the Italian Beef, loved it, but preferred the ones we made at home. More soul, I think.
Ciao for now. Check out Tastes of Chicago! CG
- Better with Giardiniera: 9 Great Sandwiches Featuring with Chicago’s Favorite Condiment (chicago.seriouseats.com)
- Recipe: Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches (mmurphy65.wordpress.com)