Though a relatively new addition to North Ave. (it opened in 2007), Jay's Beef actually has some serious history behind it. This is actually the third outlet for the Italian beef stand, which has been serving the Harwood Heights community since in 1976. This explains why you can purchase a Jay's Beef t-shirt along with your food. I held out on the apparel, and instead went with the Italian Beef ($5.80) dipped and hot.
At first glance, the beef looks like sandwich I had recently at Mr. Beef. That's especially true of the giardiniera, which features big and crunchy slices of celery, lightly dressed in oil. It's not my favorite version out there, lacking the shock of spice, but the vegetables are a nice textural counterpoint to the meat.
But unlike Mr. Beef's extra meaty and black pepper-laced gravy, Jay's Beef is missing that extra edge that distinguishes my favorite places. But while it might not the beefiest version in town, the thin slices are tender and genuinely juicy, setting it apart from the vast majority of Italian beefs in the city. Plus, it's markedly better than any beef in the immediate neighborhood, and that definitely counts for something.