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Restaurants & Bars 42

Chicago Blues Cafe in San Leandro has Italian Beef Sandwiches

P. Punko | Feb 10, 200809:52 AM

Took a ride on the first Slurpee day of the year over to the East Bay to try a newish little cafe, Chicago Blues, in San Leandro. They had been mentioned previously on the board as having Chicago-style hot dogs and BBQ. It is in a funky little building in the Palmas Plaza on E. 14th near a Popeye's, Starbucks, Walgreens and Ono Hawaiian BBQ place.

I want to be as fair to these guys as possible:

What they have:

1) Full Vienna Beef Brand Chicago food, quarter pound all beef Vienna Beef natural casing hot dogs prepared in the Chicago style- steamed dog on steamed poppy seed bun, green relish, tomato, onion, pickle spear, mustard, hot sport peppers. They give a choice of yellow or brown mustard. 4 bucks.

2) Maxwell St. Polish hot dogs, served with grilled onions or sauerkraut.

3) Vienna Beef Brand Italian Beef sandwich. Exactly as Melanie has described for the one served at Hot Dog City in Santa Rosa.

Long discussion about Italian Beef here:

Chicago Blues serves theirs with sweet red peppers and has giardiniera (hot pepper and vegetable mix) available at 50 cents extra. The menu says the sandwiches are served "dipped" which means they get dunked in the natural gravy/au jus. I always get mine on the side. Vienna Beef Italian Beef is sliced very thin.

They also have the Italian Beef and Sausage combo, which I ordered. Comes with a hot italian sausage. This version of Italian Beef is definitely standard Chicago style and properly prepared. Vienna Beef is not my favorite brand of Italian Beef, I like the jus to be a little beefier and the giardiniera to be a little spicier. I also prefer a mild sausage to a hot, sometimes mild italian sausage has more flavor than hot. Maybe 7.99 for the combo. Pricey, but it's a big sandwich.

4) BBQ- brisket, tri-tip, chicken and baby back ribs.

They we out of brisket and ribs when we went. So people don't go and then are disappointed, I'm gonna just describe the BBQ and you can decide if it is up your alley. This is meat that is heavily sauced. They have five sauces available, but you get once choice for your platter. They are called if I remember "traditional, southside, southside hot, chicago fire" and I can't remember the 5th. Most of the sauces tasted like straight ahead sweet midwestern BBQ sauce. I think the "southside" variations had more bite from vinegar, while the "chicago fire" had visible crushed red pepper in it. The try tip was labeled as "sliced" on the menu, but came as large chunks that fell apart with on the fork into shreds. The meats are all smoked for "16 hours" and had the consistency of being cooked in that fashion. The chicken was dry-ish but fell off the bone and the try tip was very tender and fell apart. There was no smoke taste in evidence. The primary seasoning evident under the sweetness of the sauce was black pepper. 1,2,3,4 meat plates available in lunch and dinner portions- dinner plate has two sides and a roll, lunch plates have one side and a roll. Didn't seem to offer BBQ meat sandwiches.

I thought the BBQ tasted very much like that at BBQ Man in Menlo Park. It is what it is, but is not liable to satisfy many of the tastes present on this board.

The sides are made in house, but I think are liable to disappoint. They have yams, potato salad, cole slaw and maybe mac and cheese. The yams were standard boiled yams with marshmallow topping. Cole slaw was standard.

5) Fries and onion rings and other things- these are not on the menu, but are on the take out menu. We ate outside and got some fries at the Popeye's next door. Our server mentioned they had fries and I pointed out that we saw this on their take out menu after the fact, and that it wasnt on their display menu.

6) Full coffee shop. I think this place must have just been a coffee shop before they added the kitchen/menu.

They were kind of busy when we went and service was definitely scattered as I think they don't have a lot of restaurant experience and are relatively new at it.

Some people will like their BBQ, I suspect that if you like sauce-on-the-side, thick smoke ring traditional BBQ, this isn't the BBQ you are looking.

All the Chicago stuff is prepared exactly as it should be with good quality Vienna Beef brand components shipped from Chicago. So if this is what you are jonesing for, or would like to try, this is a place to get it.

I want this place to stick around because you just can't get Italian Beefs in the Bay Area outside of the West Side Cafe (former Gumbah's) in Vallejo and Hot Dog City in Santa Rosa. Places not exactly close to South Bay/Peninsula.

Hot Dog City
631 4th St Ste 1, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Hot Dog City - CLOSED, moved
804 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Gumbah's Italian Beef (see West Side Cafe)
138 Tennessee St, Vallejo, CA 94590

Chicago Blues Cafe
13802 E 14th Street, San Leandro, CA

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