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Here's the Beef (and Sausage)

Jimmie the Beef Guy

8951 Bonita Beach Rd SE #550, Bonita Springs, FL

I love a good regional sandwich. What's a regional sandwich you are probably asking? Think of things like Philly Cheese Steak for ..Philly, duh. Bacon, egg and cheese on a fresh kaiser roll for New York. Same thing but replace the bacon with Taylor ham for New Jersey. New Orleans has the slightly vulgar sounding but delicious muffaletta. Other parts Louisiana have the Po-Boy. In Central and Northern California you have your tri-tip steak sandwich. The oldest restaurants in Los Angeles fight over who invented the French Dip. Southeast Florida has the Cuban (although I really wish they switch it to dijon instead of yellow mustard..possibly my least favorite condiment ever). How can you forget New England's obsession with the lobster roll? There's probably a lot of others, but I'm too lazy to Google, so finally there's Italian Beef from Chicago.

To be completely honest, other than a few episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (don't you dare say anything bad about my blonde homey, Guy. That man is a saint. Go look up some of his very underreported charity and social work) featuring the sandwich, I was not that familiar with it. It seems that you see a lot more Philly Cheese Steaks on menus than you do Italian Beef, despite some similarities between the two. Perhaps it's the marketing of Big Cheese that always gets the cheesesteak the front seat in the Great Meat Sandwich Race.

So when my dog park buddy Joe from Chicago, who happens to be one of the nicest people in all of Naples and a big food nerd like yours truly, ('sup, Joe) told me his enthusiasm for a new Italian Beef joint up in Bonita called Jimmie the Beef Guy, I hopped into the Bitemobile and made the 25 minute trip to see and taste for myself.

The place is in a pretty non-descript strip mall and has been open for a few months maybe. It's impeccably clean with a counter, about three or four sandwiches and three or four sides on the menu, a non-working Donkey Kong game in the corner and a completely random but very cool giant wallpapered picture of Walter and Jesse from Breaking Bad. I'm not sure if the owner is trying to tell us he's spent time in New Mexico, or if we can secure blue crystal meth from him, but he was very proud of the wall.

When you walk in, Jimmie greets you in a very friendly but kind of street Italian vibe that feels very comfortable to me growing up in New York. I told him to pick my order and he initially suggested the traditional Italian Beef with hot giardiniera. I LOVE hot pickled anything so my mouth was salivating already, I mentioned to him that I also love sausage, so he pivoted me to the Italian Beef and Sausage with the hot topping with a side of fries. I worried that it was too much food but he told me "you're a big guy, you can handle it." Manhood challenged, manhood challenge accepted.

The sandwich comes out and isn't massive, but it's crammed with the sausage, then the hot beef on top and finished with the spicy giardiniera (I really need to find another word for that, it's a tough word to type). The bread, the KEY in any sandwich is the bread, sort of like the drummer is the key to a great live band. The bread was pretty good. Definitely up there with some of the better rolls I've had around these parts. Some bread is too squishy on the outside, this has a nice little crisp to it with the juices of the beef making the inside nice and soft..

The beef was very tasty, nice salt to it, paper thin. The sausage had some serious kick to it, as did the hot g (i'm not typing it out again), but there was an issue, and really it's my own fault. Jimmie was SO nice and so effusive about his food, that he let my love of sausage get in the way of really just going for the beef. The problem was that it was almost TOO hot with the spread and the sausage. Like, Aqualung, snot running down his nose, hot. I love heat, don't get me wrong, but it almost took away from my ability to taste the beef, which is the star here.

This is not to say that I wouldn't order the beef and sausage again, I would in a heartbeat, as it's delicious, and giving my money to a guy like Jimmie is money well spent, but I want to really get a sense of this Italian beef. Next time, just beef, just hot g...and some fries. The fries were very good. Crispy salty, as fries should be.

Jimmie is a man who is proud of his craft and he should be very proud bringing a little bit of Chicago flavor to Southwest Florida. I'm still confused about the Breaking Bad thing, but didn't see Gus Fring anywhere, so he's probably just a fan...right?

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