Monday, June 27, 2011

Weiner tales: Just Deb's.

This restaurant has closed. Dangit.

SOGGY:  Not a bad thing for Just Debs Italian beef
  • SOGGY: Not a bad thing for Just Deb's Italian beef
Funny how food trends seem to come to the mind. As most of you know, since my visit to Chicago last month I’ve been craving some very specific Chicago-based dishes — in particular, Chicago dogs.
Yes, I found another place that serves them up. However, I found something else there that comes from Chicago — that’s even better.
The place? Just Deb’s, a Chicago foods restaurant in a red building on the main drag through Mountain Home. What caught my eye when we went by was that bright yellow Vienna Beef sign. There we go again.

One thing I’ve learned: if you’re eating these Chicago foods, you order at the counter. My companion was all about the Chicago dog, and that was fine. I ordered myself an Italian beef sandwich and we had a seat.
My photographer struck up a conversation with a couple of older ladies at a table. He was scouting the walls to see if there were Blackhawks and White Sox memorabilia amidst the Cubbies and the Bears and the Bulls. Turns out both ladies are native Chicagoans who have migrated this way. They actually started searching the walls too to find the different team hats and merchandise.
So, “just” Deb’s. I was talking with the girl behind the counter, and she says it started out as Gil and Deb’s, but Gil’s long gone. So, it’s just Deb’s. Fair enough.
Got our food. The Chicago dog ($3.25 with fries) … spot on. The sport peppers were fresh enough that they didn’t smack you in the face with a pepper jolt. Good balance of relish (the good green-blue Vienna Beef style), mustard and tomato. Poppyseed bun. What more could you ask for?
The fries were good too — cut and fried on-site. Crisp. Brown — which as I keep telling people, it’s fine, it’s natural. I was all about those fries.
But moreso, I was all about the Italian Beef ($5.75). Got mine with giardiniera (the mild version, not the hot stuff). I got this packed out beef sandwich on a soaked French roll. It had been wrapped twice in foil wrappers, once in paper and it was dripping wet. Lovely.
That drippy bit was from the dunking. Just Deb’s does it right — dunking the whole sandwich in the jus after it’s made.
So, here’s the thing. It didn’t quite taste like what I’d had at Carm’s up in Chicago. And I thought it was just me. To me… it tasted better. It was a bit saltier, and the beef had more substance to it. The jus soaked in the bread was just utterly delicious. I loved it.
But I thought my spent-time-in-the-Windy-City photographer would get all snobbish about it. He tried it, thought about it, had another bite. Thought about it some more. And then pronounced it the best Italian Beef sandwich he’s had.
Oh, there’s a rhyme and a reason to it. We stopped back by Just Deb’s the next day to have a few questions answered. Turns out Deb doesn’t use the Vienna beef to make the Italian Beef sandwiches. She makes her own, and she makes her own jus. She found that down here people like their beef a little less sweet and a lot more savory, so she adjusted for that. Her beef is boiled and shredded, not sliced and boiled. Get that? I do. Works for me.
Just Deb’s does a large variety of other Chicagoan dishes, such as gyros, Polish sausage (Chicago style and Maxwell style), chicken parm, Italian meatball sandwiches and Italian sausages too. I’ve been told the pulled pork sandwich is da bomb.
You’ll find Just Deb’s at 1610 Highway 62B East in Mountain Home. It’s open for lunch and dinner every day except Saturday. (870) 425-1700 and there’s a Facebook page, too.

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