Buffalo is known for two culinary contributions: chicken wings and beef on weck. These days almost everyone is aware of the wings but the beef on weck is less familiar. Its a sandwich of thinly sliced beef on a kummelweck roll, a crusty kaiser studded with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The inside of the roll is moistened with a little natural gravy and fresh horseradish is the usual condiment. Like Chicagos Italian beef, beef on weck is rarely seen outside its native habitat.
I was surprised to hear that Keefers serves a beef on weck. Well not actually Keefer's but at the recently opened Keefer's Kaffe next door. It's a handsome wood paneled room with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out through blinds onto Kinzie. You order at the counter and carry your own tray but you get real plates and utensils.
The sandwich menu seems fairly straightforward but there are little Hogan twists here and there. Bratwurst comes on a nice looking pretzel roll with homemade sauerkraut. The two panini look good and there's a turkey on whole wheat with lettuce tomato, pea shoots, and avocado dressing. Even the obligatory chicken breast sounds and looks much better than usual.
Hogan plays fast and loose with beef on weck. First of all the weck has a glossy egg-wash crown. The right amount of seeds and salt, not overdone. It's a good, substantial roll but not quite a traditional kummelweck. The prime sirloin used is probably better quality than that used at most Buffalo places. That's not a complaint, merely an observation. Finally, the sandwich is dressed with horseradish creme fraiche, something you don't see too often in Buffalo's blue collar taverns. The end result is an excellent sandwich, one I will have again, but not the real thing. Sandwiches are made to order but from already sliced meats. A bag of homemade potato chips comes with each sandwich. These are very greasy, very salty, and very good.
Several soups are offered daily, always clam chowder, chicken noodle, and chili plus a daily special. I had a cup of the chowder and was fairly impressed. The broth had good clam flavor and was very rich with cream but not artificially thickened. Clam pieces, potato chunks, and celery slices were cooked a bit more than necessary but weren't objectionable. I'd be curious to taste Hogan's chili. Not sure what style it is but I bet at least it would be interesting.
They serve alcohol but the beer and wine choices are shockingly uninspired (and not cheap). Heineken and Kaliber are $4.75, a dollar less for MGD or Lite. A glass of Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc will set you back $8, a dollar less for Hess Chard or Echelon Merlot (the non-sale bottle prices at Binny's are only very slightly higher). Mixed drinks are also available.
The only other beef on weck I was aware of in Chicago was at bw-3 (Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck). It turns out that bw-3 has changed its name to Buffalo Wild Wings and no longer serves beef on weck. I guess when you expand to over 175 locations you no longer need to be bothered with what got you there. Interestingly they still have weck, but no beef. Burgers, chicken, or pork can be had on weck or a plain roll. I opted for the BBQ pork sandwich, one of their "signature items", partly for the novelty of being able to order a "pork on weck." It was awful, possibly the worst $6 sandwich I've had. The roll was a mushy, soft Wonder-weck with caraway but no noticeable salt. The pork was worse, a pat of pork puree in a spicy sweet sauce. The sauce wasn't bad but nothing could redeem that meat. A small, limp dill pickle spear was the sole accompaniment. Shockingly bad, they should be embarrassed to serve it. I had their Buffalo wings maybe ten years ago and found them to be okay. I don't know how they are since the reconcepting (Tuesday is 30 cent wing day).
Any other local beef on weck sightings?
20 W Kinzie St
Buffalo Wild Wings [bw-2?]
2464 N Lincoln Av