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Al’s Combo Beef and Sausage
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Al’s Combo Beef and Sausage

Here marks the time in the Chicago trip when my camera ran out of batteries (it also marks the time where I have to start writing a whole lot more in this first paragraph to make my website layout look cool). Of course, with the amount of photos I was planning on taking this weekend, you’d think I would buy another charger and take care of business. Unfortunately, we were traveling thirty miles for food today and staying within Chicago’s city limits, and we weren’t going past any Best Buys. This was the blue collar, South Side tour brought to you by Chicago’s Proud son of the line, Adam Bufano – Chef at Al’s and friend of my travel companion Lawrence through his attendance at the 2010 Great American Food and Music Festival. Adam grew up in the Southest part of South Chicago, so we were rolling with the authenticity today.

We didn’t get any discounts or special treatment as we went into Al’s, but we did get the best Cheese Fries of our trip here:

I don’t think I’ll ever order regular fries when there are cheese fries on the menu. I just found out that I’m lactose intolerant, but that’s not going to stop me. There’s no reason not to indulge in cheese fries past the lactose intolerance. Maybe others’ reactions are worse than mine, but if they aren’t, and you decide on regular fries over cheese fries, you’re a pussy. Or maybe you just don’t care about food as much as me … or maybe you have a date later on that night. Eh … I haven’t really thought this through. Maybe there are other reasons not to order cheese fries, but I can’t think of too many.

As you can see by this picture of the Combo Beef and Sausage, I couldn’t get control of the white balance on this camera:

See what happens when you’re unprepared? First, you have to shoot in an aspect ratio you’re not psyched about and then you have to try and figure out someone’s white balance that doesn’t work. I took a picture of a napkin next to this sandwich about twelve times before I gave up on it and started eating. Man, this was quite an experience.

There should definitely be more sausage-steak combinations out there. Why this isn’t something everyone does is beyond me. How hard would it be for Subway to roll out an Italian Beef sub? That convection oven thing they have in there has gotta be sufficient for thoroughly heating a sausage (depending on the girth).

Come on, you know you love referring to a sausage’s “girth.” You have a better word? Type it into the comments section.

About the sandwich: the difference between Al’s and Portillo’s is flavor. It’s night and day. The spice profile of the sandwich is much more complex. The beef is juicy, but it doesn’t soak up the bun. The sausage wasn’t the most memorable I’ve ever had, but sufficient to give it a bit of kick. I can’t comment so much on the peppers – they’re sautéed peppers; these aren’t too hard to do well – I don’t remember them being too laden with oil. This was the best beef/sausage combo sandwich that I’d ever had. It was the only one I’d ever had, but it was still the best.

If I didn’t go to Kuma (review coming soon), this would be the Chicago establishment I’d most likely revisit. Kuma has an inventive menu that you can’t possibly try all at once, but Al’s just does it right. They really care about beef. And sausage. And cheese fries (definitely get the cheese fries). When you come, make sure you juice up your batteries and get control of that white balance.

Al’s Beef
1079 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 738-1556

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