Mr. Beef: Chicago's Italian Beef Sandwich Shop that Inspired Netflix's The Bear

Inside of Mr. Beef in Chicago, Illinois

Netflix's The Bear has everyone craving one thing: an authentic Italian beef sandwich. If you've found yourself salivating at the sight of it, you're not alone. We're diving into the heart of Chicago's culinary scene to savor the flavors and story behind the iconic eatery that captured the world's attention. Whether you're a first-timer in the Windy City or a regular food enthusiast, this guide is your ticket to a taste experience and the vibrant history of a humble Chicago sandwich.

Unraveling the Italian beef saga

The Italian beef sandwich has long been a staple of Chicago's gastronomy, an iconic dish steeped in tradition. Originating in the early 1900s, the sandwich is a medley of roast beef sliced razor-thin, nestled in a crusty roll, and drenched in savory au jus. The evolution of this meal mirrors the city's diverse roots, with layers of Italian and American flavors that melt in your mouth. Let's explore the roots of this culinary legend and its journey to becoming a must-try on the list of every food connoisseur.

Brief history of Mr. Beef (more than just an Italian beef sandwich)

Tucked away in one of Chicago's bustling neighborhoods, Mr. Beef offers more than a dining experience; it's a sensory journey. A waft of mouthwatering aromas welcomes you, while the sounds of clinking utensils and jovial chatter create an atmosphere you can almost taste. The menu is a love letter to all things Italian beef – from the classic to unique seasonal specials, each prepared with passion and a slice of the shop's history. Venture with us as we discover the shop's ambiance and its delectable offerings that inspired The Bear and captured the audiences' palates.

The connection between Mr. Beef and Netflix's hit show The Bear

The Bear goes beyond ordinary food-centric TV. This Netflix special intertwines the heartwarming tale of a family-owned eatery with the unmistakable allure of Chicago's Italian beef sandwich. This show stirred a sensation and brought the famous Chicago eatery's (Mr. Beef's) legacy to life, and the colorful characters in The Bear embody the true spirit of Chicago and its beloved food culture.

Where is Mr. Beef in Chicago?

Located right in the heart of Chicago's River North neighborhood, Mr. Beef sits on N Orleans Street. It's pretty much a no-frills kind of spot, but that's the charm. The place is a stone's throw away from some of the city's hottest tourist spots, which means you can get your cultural fix and then pop in for an Italian beef sandwich that'll knock your socks off. Plus, the easy-going vibe of the place makes everyone feel like they're part of the Mr. Beef fam from the moment they step in.

Mr. Beef address: Google Maps

Crafting the Italian beef sandwich: How to order at Chicago's Mr. Beef

No one likes to fumble when it comes to ordering a masterpiece. To get the full Italian beef experience, you'll want to come prepared. Here are a few tips to make sure you order like a true Chicagoan:

  • Introduce yourself to the sandwich-makers. These aficionados assemble your meal with years of seasoning and a dash of local know-how – a little chit-chat could lead to a perfect sandwich tailored to your taste.
  • State your "wetness" preference loudly and clearly. Whether you like it "dipped", "wet", or "dry", your au jus experience is in your hands. The famous Mr. Beef way is dipped and trust me, it's the way to go.
  • Don't skimp on the peppers. When ordering you choose from either "hot" or "sweet" Giardiniera (a mixture of peppers and other veggies). This is a must to round out the famous Italian beef sandwich's full taste.

The iconic Mr. Beef way is to order the sandwich dipped. I was skeptical at first because a soggy sandwich didn't sound very appealing, but trust me, dipped is the way to go. The broth gives the entire sandwich a warm, full flavor that is the definition of comfort food. Pair these delights with their iconic fries and you've got one of Chicago's best meals.

When is the best time to visit Mr. Beef

Smooth sailing through Mr. Beef's doors might require a bit of strategy. As with most popular eateries, timing is key. Weekdays within the first couple of hours that the shop is open offers the best chance to avoid the lunch rush. This is when you can savor your sandwich in relative peace and even grab precious moments to engage with the staff. If you enjoy the buzz of busy restaurants, go during peak time – just be prepared to wait a little longer for your foodie masterpiece.

Keep in mind that Mr. Beef is only open for lunch and the shop is always closed on Sunday.

Hours: Monday - Saturday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Mr. Beef, Chicago

Mr. Beef's impact on tourism in Chicago

Netflix's The Bear has shed a new spotlight on Mr. Beef and has generated a hunger for Italian beef. It has steered a new wave of travelers to Chicago, eager to taste the rustic decadence of this renowned sandwich as seen in The Bear. The shop's newfound fame has propelled it into the limelight, setting the stage to showcase not only the flavors of the Italian beef but the hardworking community that continues to make it a culinary cornerstone. Mr. Beef's legacy is etched in the hearts and stomachs of those it has fed, adding another chapter to the ever-evolving story of Chicago's rich and diverse food culture.

F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions)

Does Mr. Beef take credit cards?

Yep, technically they sure do. However, like many of the best time eateries in the USA, Mr. Beef much prefers cash. We used cash to pay and we did overhear that there was an up chagrge for using a card so we recommend going prepared with cash in hand.

What restaurant is The Bear based on?

The Bear wasn't directly based on any one restaurant; it's more of a love letter to all those family-run Chicago eateries that've been serving up mouthwatering Italian beef for generations. That being said, it's pretty clear Mr. Beef with its quirky charms and legit sandwich creds provided more than just a pinch of inspiration for the show's vibe and setting. Netflix filmed the pilot episode of The Bear inside the real Mr. Beef spot and the restaurant in the show strongly resembles Mr. Beef, too. So, while you won't find a real-life Carmy's kitchen, popping into Mr. Beef is about as close as you can get to walking onto the set.

What is Mr. Beef most famous for?

Mr. Beef's claim to fame is their Italian beef sandwich. We're talking about an icon in the sandwich world, with tender, juicy slices of beef, lovingly cradled in a soft, fresh Italian roll. It's all about their secret-seasoned beef, simmered to perfection, and that magical dip in the savory au jus that transforms a great sandwich into something you'll dream about for weeks. It isn't just a sandwich; it's a bite of Chicago history.

Is The Bear a based on real restaurant?

Netflix's The Bear is said to be inspired by many family owned and operated Italian beef kitchens throughout Chicago. However, Mr. Beef is where they filmed the pilot episode of The Bear and the interior and feel of the place is very similar to that of the restaurant seen in the show.

What is Italian beef?

Italian beef is a classic Chicago sandwich that's all about thinly-sliced, seasoned roast beef, simmered and served with its cooking broth (known as au jus), usually heaped into an Italian-style roll. It’s like the Windy City crammed into a sandwich – full of history, flavor, and the kind of love that only comes with a family recipe passed down through the ages.  

Is a trip to Mr. Beef worth it?

Absolutely, yes! During our five days in Chicago, Mr. Beef was the only food establishment we went to more than once. We went the first day we were in Chicago and then swung by to grab a quick lunch there on our way out of town. I'm not usually a big beef eater and I thoroughly enjoyed the Italian beef sandwich at Mr. Beef!

Italian beef sandwich from Mr. Beef, Chicago, Illionois
Italian beef sandwich from Mr. Beef in Chicago served dipped and sweet

Final thoughts

As much as we love to share stories of food, the ultimate satisfaction comes from experiencing it for ourselves. The invitation to visit Mr. Beef is an invitation to partake in a tradition, an adventure, a neighborhood, and the very heart of Chicago. So, grab your appetite, loosen your belt a notch, and prepare your taste buds for a slice of history enveloped in a Chicago-style bun. Your journey, like many before you, awaits in the deliciousness that is the Italian beef sandwich at Mr. Beef.

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Hi! We're Chris and Sara a husband and wife video making, storytelling, travel loving duo with a passion for sharing travel tips, tricks, and inspiration with others.
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