It's only been open for a few short days, but the Addison outpost of Chicago's legendary Al's #1 Italian Beef is already making waves. And for good reason: There are only a few of the gravy-dipped sandwiches on menus across town, and none of them have the authenticity and pedigree — not to mention the Mike Ditka endorsement — that Al's brings to town. The combination of thinly sliced beef, gravy, and hot giardinera on soft, pillowy bread has proven just too difficult for Dallas diners to resist.
If you've never ordered an Italian beef before, it's important to know the lingo. Al's Italian beef sandwiches are served in three sizes: "little," "regular," and "big." Even if you're really hungry, the "big" size may still be too much. Sandwiches are served "dry," with just a little gravy ladled onto the beef, "wet," with even more gravy, or "dipped," which is exactly what it sounds like. Your sandwich will get a bath in delicious, beefy, herby gravy before making it out to your table. To have your sandwich topped with the restaurant's secret-recipe hot giardinera, a classic Italian beef condiment, just say "gimme a beef, hot."
Besides Italian beef, Al's also offers Chicago-made Polish sausages with snappy casings, served with traditional fixings including the mandatory sport peppers and relish. Vienna Beef franks are also on offer, served equally traditional with mustard, relish, tomato, and of course, sport peppers. There are also loaded french fries with gorgonzola cheese, a surprisingly good char-grilled burger, and "Chicago-style" tamales that bear little resemblance to the Mexican versions that Texans hold so dear.
Clearly, the minds responsible for Al's expansion to Dallas underestimated the demand for their thinly sliced beef. In the days following the sandwich shop's opening last week, beef-loving Dallasites flooded the restaurant, causing it to run out of food almost daily. On its first day of business, the restaurant sold an entire semi truck full of beef, running out at about 8:30 p.m., a half-hour before the scheduled closing time. A Sunday evening drive by the restaurant in search of cheese fries and sandwiches revealed that Al's was locked up tight, a sign on the door reading "Sorry Dallas... We are out of food. Sincerely, Al."
During peak lunch and dinner times last week, throngs of people were queued up outside of the restaurant, seemingly indifferent to the cold, rainy weather. If they made it to the register before the meat was all gone, though, their hard work and perseverance was surely rewarded. The Texas iteration of Al's Italian Beef was declared "almost as good as the original" by the Chicago expat I brought along with me.
If your hunger for Italian beef doesn't quite outweigh your dislike of long lines, you may want to go in the off-hours, like early evening or late afternoon. On the weekends, Al's is open until 2 a.m., which makes it a very solid addition to the area's drunk food options. Soon, Al's Italian Beef will even start to offer delivery to the surrounding areas, making it quite possibly the best gift that Addison has ever received from the Midwest.