As I believe that the Italian Beef Sandwich is the greatest thing going between two slices of bread and have driven to Chicago just to eat one on a Saturday whim, I was excited to hear that there was a new option in Maplewood called BJ's Hot Dog Shoppe. It is located in a strip mall with no view from the street so if you go, make sure you map it out or you will have a hard time finding it. That's too bad because it's the best one in this town right now going.
BJ is one of the most outgoing guys you'll ever want to meet and frankly worth the trip alone. He's from Joliet, IL so he knows what's what when it comes to the food. The Italian beef itself was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of heat. My wife said the giardiniera reminded her of Portillo's in Chicago. The bread comes as you order it which has to be wet for my tastes and you have your choice of other condiments like cheese, onions, etc. Compared to some others in town, this is as close as you are going to get to the Windy City. All of his desserts are also handmade by his wife.
This isn't the Windy City. BJ rests his meat in the juices versus cooking to order. This can lend it to being slightly overdone around the edges. Plus, the meat absorbs so much liquid that the wet bun can't handle it and it falls apart. He ran out and cooked my wife's to order which allowed her sandwich to stay together much better than the other two. If he started cooking these to order, look out. All of the great Chicago beef shops cook to order just to avoid this pitfall.
BJ's also has a full range of hot dogs varieties (didn't confirm, but 95% sure we're talking Vienna Beef) and makes his own chilli (too much cumin for my taste, but your mileage on that may vary since I'm not a cumin guy). For a true Chicago experience here in the Twin Cities, BJ's is as close as you are going to get and far outperforms Chris & Rob's in this CH's opinion.
BJ's Hotdog Shoppe
1990 Surburban Avenue, Maplewood, MN 55119