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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

When I first heard about Al's Deli, I imagined some kind of kitschy version of a French deli, one with more polish than personality. In fact, it's just the opposite. Al's is the kind of idiosyncratic place that most neighborhood sandwich shops only wish they could be.

Still, it probably wasn't the best idea to take my wife to Al's Deli in Evanston when she was nine months pregnant. (Actually, it was on her due date, but that's a different story.) She was still trying to avoid certain foods, which sadly included soft cheeses and cold cuts—the two things that Al's does extremely well. As we discussed this dilemma in line, a woman behind us joined the conversation, admitting that not only had she eaten the roast beef sandwich from Al's while pregnant, she'd eaten one every single week.

While not terribly sound medical advice, after one bite of the sandwich I did understand her point. As you can see, the roast beef is defiantly rare, and it's liberally covered with the restaurant's homemade blue cheese dressing, which is salty, creamy, and tangy. Even the small details impress. See that gloriously red tomato slice? The crisp green lettuce leaves? They all help add up to one of the best roast beef sandwiches I've ever tried.

Al's Deli

Al's Deli

914 Noyes St Evanston IL 60201 8474759400

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