The recently opened Buona Streeterville is the 20th location for this family owned business. As we checked out the new digs over sips of white wine, martini glass sized portions of the menu began to roll out. The first of those was scrambled eggs?
“We’ve been serving it since we open, It’s a west side catholic thing.” says Director of Purchasing Jim Buonavolanto. “Italian hot dog stands and beef stands during lent couldn’t sell those items, so all the stands started selling scrambled egg and sweet hot pepper sandwiches.”
Lightly seasoned eggs with grated parmesan, it’s served on the same just baked Italian bread as all the other sandwiches. Initially it was only sold on Fridays or during lent. Now its kept on the menu all year long on Fridays.
Joe Buona always wanted a family business, so he started an Italian Beef stand with his five sons.
Buona’s first location opened in Berwyn in 1981. The family does have a relation to the original Mr. Beef. The older brother of Joe Buonavolanto Sr, founder of Buona Beef, started that location.
Uncle Junior was the originator of Mr. Beef and early on he helped with the recipes at Buona so they might be a little similar. When little brother started putting cheese on the beef Junior yelled at him.
But Joe was determined to give the people what they wanted.
The Italian Beef is a definitely a Chicago thing. You could say it’s our regional take on a cheesesteak sandwich.
Gone are the days of making enough beef for the day or the week. Out in Bedford Park the family owns a separate USDA facility that processes, packages then sends beef to all their stores and retail accounts.
High visibility locations like Wrigley Field (Cubs), Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox) and Soldier Field (Bears) have helped the business grow to 81$ million in sales last year. Marianos, Target and Peapod are a few of their retail accounts.
To my surprise there is pizza on the menu. The original three locations are all too small for pizza, but every other location was built with pizza in mind.
Buona Beef is at high end of the quick casual experience complete with beer and wine. Most people only order one round since beefs are eaten pretty quickly. But having the option is nice considering there will be outdoor seating here.
At the launch party chef served dish samples in martini glasses. Sample size items are much easier to enjoy this way.
The expansion to Streeterville has been a natural progression. The family sends down eight trucks and caters to 7000 customers annually in this area anyway so ..it made sense to move down.
Many commuter worker bees feel that despite notoriously expensive rents, this neighborhood is a bit of casual food desert. Expensive dining with long waits and 25$ price points are no good when you have a limited lunch break.
This is the second location in Chicago proper; the other is in Beverly on 107th and Western.
When compared to Portillos, the sandwich here has much more pronounced flavors. The Turano French Bread is lightly toasted so it holds together more.
The new Northwestern University Rehabilitation Institute brings the hospital campus closer to the restaurant. That space sat vacant for years, now it’s an 18 story structure steps from the newest location.
– The Supremo Pizza with sausage, red onions, mushrooms + bell peppers was the unsung hero of the menu.
-Delivery services Door Dash, Grub Hub and UberEats all carry Buona Beef.
-I like my sandwich dipped, not baptized.
-Beer consumption and the flavors available have led to deals with Revolution and Two Brothers. You can expect more in the future, the family keeps partnerships local whenever possible.
-The first location in Berwyn was torn down and a new one replaced it.
-Frankfort and Algonquin are two of their highest volume locations.