You've Been Ordering Italian Beef Sandwiches All Wrong

When it comes to food in Chicago, there is undoubtedly one reigning king – Italian beef sandwiches. No offense to the famous deep-dish pizza or the ever-popular hot dog, but there is quite possibly nothing more Chicago than an Italian beef sandwich, just ask late night legends Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon (via NBC), who are obsessed with this meaty masterpiece. Although the Italian beef sandwich's history isn't clear on how exactly this slice of heaven came about, many people attribute its creation to the Italian-American immigrant tradition of the "peanut wedding" (via Thrillist). Nor is the identity of the inventor clear, for that matter, though some say it's Al's #1 Italian Beef on Taylor St. in Chicago. But if one thing's for sure, it's that we're so thankful to whoever came up with it!

Filled with tradition and taste all packed inside a soft French roll, the Italian beef sandwich might seem like there's no art to ordering it. Wrong! For those Chicago natives who are pros at ordering this famed juicy sandwich, you have nothing to worry about here. But for those who have no clue as to the proper way of doing it, here's a lesson or two because, as with all things in life, there are caveats when requesting the life-changing Italian beef sandwich.

The hometown sandwich of Chicago

Before you embark on this journey of flavor – which we're sure your taste buds will never return from – there are a few things you should prepare for your big bite into the classic sandwich, or at the very least consider. First, there are a few distinctions. Although often compared to a French Dip sandwich, the Italian beef is a slightly different ballgame (via The Travel). There's a lot of seasoning, extended cooking times, and a lot of beef required for this sandwich to come to fruition. So when it comes to ordering it, don't ruin it by not knowing what's what.

You might be bombarded with questions like sweet or hot? Dry, dipped, or wet? Yes, the beef is served in a few ways. There are two types of peppers to add: either sweet green (or red) bell peppers or hot giardiniera, which combines pickled serranos, jalapeños, carrots, celery, green olives, onion, garlic, and cauliflower (via The Takeout). Or, you can also opt out of the sweet or hot option.

Order like a Chicago local

Dry sandwiches consist of beef that's taken straight out of the au jus (also known as "gravy") and allowed to drip briefly. Wet sandwiches are juicier than the dry option, as the beef isn't drip-dried and will have more flavor due to the extra au jus on the meat. For the ultimate beef experience, dipped is the way to go. Submerged in au jus, the beef emerges soaked in 100 percent added flavor that will practically melt the French roll and turn into a triumphant soggy delight (via The Takeout).

It's no secret that the beef is a messy sandwich, so don't be surprised if you get au jus just about everywhere. But don't let that stop you from experiencing the beef. If you're up for the challenge, try the "combo," which is Italian beef plopped on top of a whole sausage. A final word of advice: Have plenty of napkins on deck. You're going to need them.