ELMWOOD PARK, Ill. — When WGN News Now asked where is the Chicago area’s best Italian beef sandwich, we received nearly 200 recommendations. After narrowing down the list of potentials, and putting those to a vote, you decided Johnnie’s has one of the best beefs in the area.
Don’t expect much in the way of frills or decore when you walk into the original Johnnie’s location in Elmwood Park. This cash-only restaurant’s team focuses on their food craft and little else. In fact, current owner Frank Sompanto tells the Johnnie’s story in much the same way.
According to him, the restaurant was opened in 1961 by his father-in-law, Johnnie, with a family recipe in hand. After some minor tweaks, and the addition of Italian ice, the sandwich stop customers know and love today was born.
Stompanto credits the shop’s success to their secret blend of seasoning and the devoted customer base who have come back time and time again over the last 62 years.
Many of those devotees wrote in to WGN to express how much they love a Johnnie’s beef.
This beef is the best there is. It is a small place Cash Only. Anytime you go there, there’s a line that goes around the outside of the building. It’s a delicious mess of beef and gravy on perfect French bread.Diana M.
The beef has great flavor, peppers are always soft and flavorful, and when dipped (like a beef should be) it’s juicy heaven. It’s always mad well with good customer service. The restaurant itself has your classic dive feel in an historically Italian part of the area.Matthew D.
The beef is perfect. The gravy is perfect. The buns are perfect. The giardiniera is perfect. They just do absolutely the best job and their sandwiches are delicious every time. Don’t forget to order it ‘juicy’ (dipped). It can be a messy sandwich but worth every stain on your shirt.Pat M.
The Elmwood Park location is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. while the Arlington Heights location is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Also, while Elmwood Park is cash only, the Arlington Heights location does accept credit cards.
Note: the locations will each periodically shutdown for holidays and staff vacations. Checking the Facebook page for each, as linked above, appears to be the best way to confirm if they’re open.
Want to continue your Chicago area food adventures? Check out our other two polls: Chicago’s top 5 hot dogs and top 5 tacos from our previous coverage.