A taste of Chicago on the South SideDecember 7, 2012
Written by Dan Gigler
That juicy and delicious thing you're looking at is an Italian Beef sandwich and the bloke preparing it is Karl Horn.
A staple of the Windy City, the sandwich is a relative unknown here in Steel Town. Mr. Horn hopes to change that from his small 16th Street storefront on the South Side -- Tooties Famous Italian Beef -- that opened just four weeks ago on Sunday.
Chicago Italian Beef is something of a distant cousin to Buffalo's Beef on Weck or L.A.'s French Dip. Mr. Horn's take is comprised of shredded beef that’s been slow-cooked for up to a day in a family secret recipe of 12 spices and three vegetables, with pepperoncinis for a little zing, served on a hoagie bun with provolone.
"It's my mom's recipe. She's been making it my whole life," the 33-year-old entrepreneur said.
That would be his mother, Carol, a.k.a. "Tootie," for whom the shop is named.
The meat is so tender is practically liquefies in your mouth; so juicy if you don't wolf it down the bun becomes a disintegrated sponge. It’s kind of like a pot roast sandwich. Prices range from $5.95 to $12.95, depending on the size of the sammie.
A native of Mattoon, Ill., Mr. Horn landed here a few years ago to get his MBA at Duquesne University (he also teaches at the university's business school). He most recently worked in health-care consulting before realizing corporate America is not for him.
"I got tired of emails and texts on Saturday night asking, 'Where is my report?' … I'm thinking, 'Dude, you don't need it until Monday.' "
Besides, Saturday night is a great time to be making Italian Beef sandwiches. They're proving popular with the late-night Carson Street crowd and Chicago expats in the area, and catching on with the locals at lunchtime.
"The guys from the Boilermakers Union discovered me the other day and I had to close early," Mr. Horn said. "They ate almost everything."
Dan Gigler photo