For this episode of Dining on a Dime: Chicago, host Lucas Peterson brings along a very special guest — his dad! When Lucas was growing up, his dad used to take him to Carm’s, a local Italian beef and hot dog joint in the Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago, near the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Carm’s, which opened in 1929 as an Italian ice stand and grocery store, serves a sandwich that is distinctly Chicago: the Italian beef sandwich. Something like a French dip, the Italian beef sandwich has slow-roasted, thinly sliced beef layered onto an Italian roll and drenched in its own natural juices. The most common toppings are sweet peppers or hot giardiniera. Lucas and his dad enjoy some local Chicago comfort food and reminisce about going to Carm’s when Lucas was a boy.
Born from Maxwell Street, among other things, were the Chicago Blues and the Maxwell Street Polish, a spicy, garlicky length of Polish sausage served with mustard, grilled onions and hot peppers. Jim’s Original, established in 1939 on the corner of Maxwell and Halsted Streets, was the first to peddle this sandwich. While it no longer stands on that corner, it lives on in its current incarnation on Union Avenue, where it continues to sell this quintessential Chicago street food 24 hours a day.