Listen Up Leno: Save the Beef.

My husband is from Chicago. Evanston, actually, and when he first showed me around his childhood home, he felt the need to take me to all his “haunts.” Each of them was about food.

There was Sarkis, the Greek greasy spoon, where Mr. Sarkis himself sweat all over me with an overzealous introduction. I think I’m still full from the omelet I ate there 25 years ago.

Next was Poochies Hot Dog Stand in Skokie. I never was a big fan of hot dogs, but the fries were good. And the satisfaction that dog gave my old man was something to behold.

There were others, but my favorite was Mr. Beef. Located on Orleans in Chicago, I not only had the best beef sandwich I’d ever eaten, but also had a highly memorable experience. This eatery is nothing fancy and at the time, they didn’t have a dining room. We stood in a cafeteria-style line while the owners, Joseph Zucchero and Michael Genevese, impatiently demanded our order.

With our backs to them, we used a long, narrow bar counter as our dining table and looked at all the black and white celebrity photos on the wall. This was before Jay Leno mentioned them on TV and I can’t remember if we saw his photo. I do remember one of Robert De Niro and pointed it out to Mike.

I didn’t think anyone had been paying attention to our conversation or that I’d noticed De Niro’s photo until I heard one of the beef-cutters behind me call out, “Yeah that’s Bobby. He’s a good kid.” 

Now, whenever I see a De Niro film, I find myself hankering for a beef.

Today we heard from our Chicago buddy, Jake, that Mr. Beef is facing foreclosure. Reportedly the owners have failed to pay some $650,000 in loans to Midwest Bank. The owners insist the restaurant (and a partner restaurant) are successful and are currently seeking a new loan.

Leno? De Niro? Are you out there?

We spend summer is Northern Wisconsin, a six hour drive from Chicago. Jake is a regular visitor and he rarely shows up without a pound of the beef from our beloved Mr. Beef. I can’t imagine a weekend visit with him if the house doesn’t smell like celery seasoning.

Someone, please help save the beef!

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