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BeefBelly To Put New Twist on Classic: 'Not Your Grandpa's Italian Beef'

By Heather Cherone | August 31, 2015 2:19pm | Updated on September 2, 2015 10:50am
 The owners of BRGRBelly — once known as Leadbelly — plan to open a third restaurant this fall, this one focusing on Italian Beef.
The owners of BRGRBelly — once known as Leadbelly — plan to open a third restaurant this fall, this one focusing on Italian Beef.
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Flickr/Arnold Gatilano; BeefBelly

JEFFERSON PARK — The team behind BRGRBelly — once known as LeadBelly Burgers — announced Monday it will open its third restaurant on the Far Northwest Side this fall in an attempt to give the Chicago classic Italian beef a new twist.

"BeefBelly will not be your grandpa's Italian beef," said Steve O'Brien, adding that he was inspired by Doug Sohn's upscale take on the Chicago hot dog at the late and lamented Hot Doug's. "We're going to put it on steroids."

The restaurant will take over the former Central Kitchen and Tap at 4800 N. Central Ave. in Jefferson Park, which has been vacant for more than a year, O'Brien said.

BeefBelly will offer 10 kinds of beef, roasted on site, sliced thin and piled high on a fresh-baked roll, O'Brien said.

And while the eatery will offer traditional Italian beef — dry roasted in a blend of spices and topped with gravy and peppers — the menu will also offer beef with flavors from around the world, including Asia, South America, Mexico and Europe, and regional barbecue flavors.

"Chicago loves its Italian beef," said O'Brien, who runs the two BRGRBelly locations in Portage Park and Gladstone Park with his wife, Nicole, who he said is a huge fan of Italian beef. "But it hasn't been enhanced over the years. No one has really played with it. That's what we want to do."

The eatery will also feature BRGRbelly's signature fries piled high with four toppings and dozens of craft beers, O'Brien said.

But like any Chicago native worth his salt, O'Brien knows no meal of Italian beef is complete without a cold and sweet chaser.

Thus, BeefBelly will also offer boozy, homemade Italian Ice, much like the alchohol-infused shakes on the menu at BRGRBelly. In addition, a free build-your-own-sundae bar for children is also on tap, O'Brien said.

The husband-and-wife team's third restaurant is part of their long-term strategy to turn the Far Northwest Side into a "food emporium" and attract diners from all over the area, O'Brien said.

"We're totally committed to the Far Northwest Side," said O'Brien, who just bought his childhood home in Jefferson Park from his mother.

The Portage Park BRGRBelly, at 5739 W. Irving Park Road, was an instant hit when it opened in March 2013 in an area of the Far Northwest Side with few trendy restaurants.

Its burgers have been lauded by Chicago magazine the Reader and Chicagoist as some of the best in Chicago.

A second location in Gladstone Park at 5691 N. Milwaukee Ave. opened in 2014.

Crews are working to remodel the former Central Kitchen and Tap, and the finished BeefBelly will have a rustic look with reclaimed distressed wood panels. The centerpiece of the eatery will be a 7-foot-wide fiberglass cow transformed into a work of art, much like the 1999 Cows on Parade public art exhibit Downtown.

The menu and restaurant decor also will reflect the owners' love of classic rock, O'Brien said.

The restaurant plans to fill catering orders for parties and events, O'Brien said.

"We want to have some fun," O'Brien said. "Right now, we feel like we are Aerosmith, and we want to be the Rolling Stones."

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