Everybody loves a taste of home.
Living in Sarasota is great. For a city our size, we have a fantastic array of food choices before us each and every day. People should be jealous.
Obviously, being right on the water has its culinary advantages. Fresh gulf shrimp, stone crab, grouper and the like are available daily. It’s a seafood wonderland.
So here’s the rub. A majority of people who live in Sarasota started out their lives in other parts of the country. There are some real Sarasota natives here, but, they are certainly outnumbered by the transplants. We all have food favorites from the cities we grew up in. New York or New Jersey pizzas, Maryland crab cakes, Beef on a weck, Texas BBQ, you get the idea.
Each of us has been teased with the prospect of actually getting our favorite home grown food without having to endure any of the reasons we left home to begin with to get it.
Here’s how it typically plays out. You’ve got a couple of buddies from Cincinnati. You get together to grab a beer. One says to the other, “Hey, did you hear about this new place opening up on 301 that’s going to serve REAL Skyline Chili Dogs? The other one says, “Are you kidding? Don’t even start with me! Followed by, “No, it’s true. I heard it from…” And so it goes.
We’ve all been down this road before, only to be bitterly disappointed by what lays at the end. You know what will happen, but, you still cant help yourself, you have to check it out. In the case above, you may indeed get a chili dog, but, certainly nothing that could pass for or even come close to the original. Skunked again!
So what does a guy from the Windy City do when he’s jonesing for a true Chicago beef sandwich? Until recently, the answer was to hop a plane north (expensive) for a trip to Al’s #1 Beef or call in an order to Portillo’s for a FedEx delivery (just as expensive!). All that has changed.
Enter Tony’s Chicago Beef Company located in the Gulf Gate neighborhood.
Its not much to look at from the outside, but, what really counts is whats going on inside. With a Chicago beef stand décor, Tonys is serving up some authentic, Chicago style grub.
Photos and other memorabilia line the walls. Theres Mayor Daley (Richard J. & Richard M), the Riverview Amusement Park, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox and even (I hate to say it) Cubs photos. The customers cover a wide range from construction workers to suit and tie types. But, the setting levels the playing field for everyone. Its everything you would expect (if you were from Chicago).
Looks are nice, but, what comes out of the kitchen thats behind the sit down counter is more important.
Heres a peak at their headline attraction, the Chicago Beef Sandwich.
The day I was at Tonys it was busy. Thats the way I like my beef places. Step up to the cash register and place my order. One beef, wet, with hot giardiniera. A can of coke and a bag of Jays chips complete the picture. (For those uninitiated, giardiniera is a pickled vegetable mixture in oil or vinegar, great stuff!) You can buy Tonys giardiniera right there. They have bottles for sale.
Now theres a million and one ways to order a Chicago beef. Some people like cheese, some dont. Some like sweet giardiniera, some hot or none at all. What about the juice? Should the sandwich be wet, dry or just the tips dipped? You can also add an Italian sausage for a combo. You begin to see the picture. Arguments are constant and sometimes heated about the best way to serve a beef.
Five minutes after my order was in, they were calling my name. Seating can be an issue at Tonys. They have two counters. One faces the kitchen and the other one faces the wall. Each has about eight to ten seats. They also have a separate table for four. Watching (and commenting) on the action in the kitchen works best for me.
Tonys cooks their own beef and you can really taste the garlic (which is great). The roll is nice and soft and the beef is perfectly thin sliced. This Chicago beef was a knockout. Closest to the real thing Ive had outside of Chicago. It even came in a plastic basket with a piece of white paper in the bottom!
The Bottom Line: All in all a great Chicagoesque experience. Tonys is highly recommended for those of us who want some of the perks of living in Chi-town, but, are tired of shoveling. Theres no tease here, its the real thing.
FYI If you cant make it over to Gulf Gate, the Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB) also serves a great Chicago beef made with real Vienna beef.
6569 Superior Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34231