What looks to be a rural fast-food shack awkwardly situated on a busy stretch of Broadway is actually Edgewater's best kept secret. Ominously located across from a health-food store, Patio Beef is a den of blue-collar camaraderie. The menu displays a solid understanding of Chicago's four food groups (cheese, meat, bread, potatoes), making this little mom-and-pop joint the best of the grease-laden lot.
The drill is easy: strain your neck choosing from the giant menu, order it up, go fill your fountain soda, and wait the short-order three minutes for your meal. Wet or dry, the Italian beef is done particularly well here, as is the everything hot dog. Be sure to order a side of perfectly crisped and salted fries. If you're feeling particularly feisty, ask for the Cajun fries, a side that's usually unlisted on the menu, but always available. With most entrees under the $5 mark, a reasonable person would expect this place to be filthy. Not so. The main dining room resembles a hospital cafeteria, with tiled floors clean enough to eat off of. Brick walls and a row of plants separate the tiny annex, which features benches with enormous patio umbrellas; while not exactly practical interior decor, the umbrellas are a charming ode to the joint's name. Colorful benches are built right into the outside of the building, right next to a sizable parking lot. Usually packed around lunchtime, Patio Beef is a fast-food destination that's perfected the simple pleasures of American fare—an accomplishment that's garnered it many loyal customers.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe