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16 spots for Italian beef

Tribune reporter Kevin Pang visited 16 different restaurants in search of a classic Chicago Italian beef sandwich. Below are those locations, with his tasting notes.

Read the full story here.

The Patio

1503 W. Taylor St.,312-829-0454

Tasting notes: Varied textures of beef, some thin slices, some thicker, with mellow seasoning. Tasting a lot of green bell pepper flavors in this sandwich.

Al's #1 Italian Beef

CHEAP EATER FAVORITE

1079 W. Taylor St., 312-226-4017

Tasting notes: Savory and garlicky. Wetter shards of beef, dug the contrast of oily and crunchy celery from giardiniera. Gonnella roll holds up finely. Still the standard bearer 76 years later.

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Max's Italian Beef

5754 N. Western Ave., 773-989-8200

Tasting notes: Flavors of oregano and black pepper coming through, sweet ribbons of red peppers, though beefiness more neutral. Digging the plastic tub of hot giardiniera oil on every table.

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Mr. Beef & Pizza

3917 N. Harlem Ave., 773-283-7444

Tasting notes: They've got the balance here right. Not too spicy, not too oily, well balanced. Resonant beef taste, sturdy bread, flecked with red chili seeds. Unaffiliated with Mr. Beef on Orleans.

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Jimmy's Homemade Italian Beef

7544 W. Addison St., 773-589-2100

Tasting notes: Great bread from Sicilian Bakery on Cumberland รข€” light, crisp, crumbed, not overbearing. First visit yielded better beef than second, when it almost tasted of sliced prime rib.

Jay's

CHEAP EATER FAVORITE

9732 Irving Park Rd., Schiller Park, 847-671-0033 (Also locations in Wicker Park and Harwood Heights)

Tasting notes: Humongous! Need fork and knife. Good toothsome texture to top sirloin butt slices, full flavored. Hunks of sweet red peppers and celery giardiniera provides crunch.

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Scatchell's

4700 W. Cermak Rd., Cicero, 708-656-0911

Tasting notes: Lean sirloin comes in thin sheets, piled on light D'Amato's bakery roll. Hot peppers more vinegary than oily. Jus is terrific, among the better gravies I've sampled.

Bubba's Place

6333 Ogden Ave., Berwyn, 708-317-5100

Tasting notes: Beef cut thicker than at others, more sliced than shaved. Substantial in size, including thicker roll. Enjoyed the slick giardiniera of jalapeno, carrot and celery.

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Johnnie's Beef

CHEAP EATER FAVORITE

7500 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, 708-452-6000

Tasting notes: The most well-rounded sandwich. Beef retains bite, tingle of spicy, crunchy and colorful hot peppers. Bread soaked up ideal amount of jus. Italian frozen lemonade chaser doesn't hurt.

Tony's

4100 W. Madison St., 773-265-9000 (Also at 7007 S. Pulaski Rd.)

Tasting notes: Thicker beef slices, almost like gyro shavings, but with the tenderness of deli roast beef. Appealing, beefy bouquet, with palate afterburn from hot peppers.

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Joe Bostons' Italian Beef

2932 W. Chicago Ave.,773-486-9536

Tasting notes: Beef shavings less moist than others, but flavors are robust. A detritus of spices embedded in meat; tangy hot peppers wake the sandwich up.

Pop's

10337 S. Kedzie Ave., 773-239-1243 (13 other Chicagoland locations)

Tasting notes: You get a lot of beef here, lightly flecked with red chili flakes. Thicker bread provides chew. Whole thick slices of hot jalapenos and soft wrinkled sweet peppers.

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Dukes Drive-In

8115 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview, 708-599-0576

Tasting notes: Dotted with green, red and black spices. Stuffed to brim with finely shredded beef and long strips of green peppers. A sweet aroma to the sandwich, like a carrot-heavy mirepoix.

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Portillo's

CHEAP EATER FAVORITE

100 W. Ontario St., 312-587-8910 (33 other Chicagoland locations)

Tasting notes: Excellent sandwich. Messy but refined. Beef shredded into ragged, moist shards. Hot pepper oil is legit spicy. That fresh, appealingly yeasty aroma of baked (Turano's) French rolls.

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Buona Beef

CHEAP EATER FAVORITE

6745 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, 708-749-2555 (13 other Chicagoland locations)

Tasting notes: Peppery beef on the thicker spectrum of slices. Sturdy Turano bread remains crisp even after dip. Chopped olives are welcome variant to hot and tart giardiniera mix.

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Mr. Beef on Orleans

666 N. Orleans St.. 312-337-8500

Tasting notes: Less moist but nonetheless flavorful sheaths of beef. Even dipped, not as wet and so maintains structural integrity, like a solid roast beef hoagie. Crusty bread adds pleasant chew.

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