- 101 E. Fort Lowell Road, Tucson, AZ, 85705
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
What we ordered: one 4-inch combo sandwich ($5.50) with cheese and hot peppers (40 cents each), one Chicago dog ($4.60), one side of fries ($2.25) and a medium soda ($1.50) for a total of $14.65 before tax, well under our Cheap Eats goal of $20 for two people.
Comments: It’s almost unknown to us, but there really is an institution of Italian beef out there. The sandwich, which is similar to what we know as a beef dip, is a serious thing for Chicagoans. I found one Web site with 39 identically composed pictures of Italian beef sandwiches posted side by side with ratings for taste, presentation and ambiance. On the site, they all look the same: roast beef, sub roll, massive green peppers.
But in reality, an Italian beef is a multi-faceted thing. Its Wikipedia page claims the sandwich is often soaked with a gravy or au jus, but others look dry. Others still come with a giardiniera—a Chicago condiment—of tiny “sport” peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and assorted vegetables marinated in various oils. Some have cheese, some come with sausage, and some come soaked in juice without beef at all and are called “gravy bread” or “soakers.”
And all this time, I was expecting New York deli…
Food: But upon walking in to Little Luke's, my lunch partner and I were assaulted with the eccentricities of Chicago. Memorabilia junk was all over the walls, every table had old food caked onto it and the entire place was full of blue-collar worker types chomping down on caloric abominations. Best of all, everything was cheap cheap cheap.
Catching on quickly, we decided to order a combo sandwich of Italian beef and sausage and an infamous Chicago hot dog. It’s hard to say which was better. Both contained flavors I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted, and I eat dried fish on a regular basis.
The Chicago dog was much different than its Tucson companion, the Sonoran. In the latter, all the mushy ingredients meld together to make a sort of ultra-sauce. But in this one, each ingredient stood out. Besides the kosher beef, we got large slices of tomatoes, neon green relish, chopped onions, mustard, spicy "sport" peppers and an entire pickle quarter just resting on top
It was extremely hard to get everything in one bite but, in hindsight, that might not have been the point. Perhaps for a Chicagoan, the tangy vegetables and fruity tomatoes are substitutes for a three-course meal. It’s fattening enough to be, anyway. The crinkly French fries, which came wrapped up with the dog, were excellently crunchy and potato-y at the same time.
The combo sandwich was insane as well. There was just so much going on there—almost too much. We decided to add on cheese and the giardiniera mix, which took the focus off the meat itself and shifted it to the whole package. The sandwich was drier than what you might expect, but the giant, chunky spiced sausage and flavorful beef was enough to make up for it. The giardiniera, which was bursting out the sides, gave it a garden-like spicy kick.
Service: You order at the counter. But beware, the employees can be gruff. I heard one complaining that he had to bus a table because the people didn’t throw anything out. But when he bussed it, he never wiped it down!
Bar: They serve beer.
Bottom line: In all honesty, this place was awesome. And ever since Greasy Tony’s on Speedway Boulevard closed down to become an “upscale taco shop,” we need it more than ever. Bring on the beef, the beers and “Da Bears!”