Don't come here for the pizza. Come for one of the best Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago.

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[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Scatchell's Beef & Pizza

4700 W. Cermak Road, Cicero IL 60804 (map); 708-656-0911
The Short Order: Thinly sliced Italian Beef with crunchy giardiniera.
Want Fries with That? Average frozen fries.
Want Ketchup? Just for the fries

"Where are you from?" was the first thing that came out of the employee's mouth. Not "How's it going?" or the more practical "What's your order?"

But here my wife and I were in the South Side neighborhood of Lawndale when we were immediately being interrogated as to whether or not I had been born in the city of Chicago based on the way we pronounced sausage. "We call it saahsage here."

I should have known better. As Chicago Slice reporter Daniel Zemans likes to point out, sausage is a special thing in Chicago. A below average pizza in Chicago, like the kind I sampled with Zemans a few weeks ago, can be saved by freshly made sausage.

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This one, however, was nothing particularly special. And though it sat on a crust that had a surprisingly blistered upskirt, it was unfortunately marred by an overly sweet sauce. It's a lot better than I thought it would be, but still didn't help break my personal Chicago pizza prejudice. But you don't really come to Scatchell's for the pizza, or at least you shouldn't. You need to come for their the Italian beef.

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Now that's what you come for.

I'm a fanatic about this sandwich and have been trying, without much success, to properly describe how juicy and delicious this mad take on a roast beef sandwich actually is. It's gluttonous and messy, fiery from the hot peppers, and impossibly tender, yet it's made from one of the toughest cuts of beef on the cow. Scatchell's beef is sliced paper-thin and topped with some of the crunchiest homemade giardiniera in the city. I wish it was a touch spicier, but that's all.

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I wish the fries were better. They are just your average frozen fries, but in a city where even the dumpiest-looking stand hand-cuts their fries, it's kind of a shame.

The same could be said of their Chicago dog.

It's a solid version, but not as good as it could be. It's starting to drive me nuts. I have yet to find a true seat-less eatery that makes a perfect, fully loaded Chicago dog. Scatchell's has every element except they skip on the natural casing Vienna Beef dog. This simple substitution (along with some better fries) could elevate Scatchell's up into the stratosphere of flawless Chicago stands like Jimmy's and Chickie's.

Still, there is no doubt about this Italian beef—it's one of the best versions in the city.

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