Where’s the Beef? Answer: Patio Beef

Don’t have a cow — Edgewater establishment Patio Beef has all the hamburgers your heart desires, all within a five-minute walk from campus.

Despite its vintage posters, retro faux wood panel seating and wall of dollar bills from around the world, this eccentric establishment isn’t an antique store — it’s family-owned restaurant Patio Beef.

Located at 6022 N. Broadway St., a five-minute walk from Loyola’s Lake Shore campus, Patio Beef serves the signature beef sandwich for which they’re named as well as typical diner fare like hamburgers and hot dogs. More distinctive dishes like tamales and kabobs dot the menu.

The restaurant adds to the city’s historic Italian beef scene, a tradition since the early 1900s, according to the Chicago Tribune. The signature sandwich recently found fame in Hulu’s “The Bear,” which follows a chef struggling to maintain his late brother’s Italian beef restaurant.

The restaurant’s owner, Leo Diantzikis, founded Patio Beef in 1982, 20 years after immigrating from Greece. Now, he is joined by his three daughters, who work alongside him at the Edgewater joint. (Hunter Minné | The Phoenix)

Founder and owner Leo Diantzikis, who was born in Greece, said they offer “all kinds of foods” due to their diverse customer base.

The restaurant is in Edgewater, bordering Rogers Park — one of the most diverse areas in the city, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Diantzikis lives in North Park but said he spends so much time at the business he might as well live in Edgewater.

“I love Edgewater,” he said. “It’s one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago.”

Diantzikis said he immigrated to America in 1968. He worked at the chain Mister Donut for 11 years before founding Patio Beef in 1982 to provide for his wife and three daughters, who now work there.

One Edgewater resident, Robert Wise, said he’s been eating at Patio Beef since 1997. He said he doesn’t go to many restaurants but when he does, he wants to spend his money where he’ll know it’ll be appreciated.

“They cook your burger exactly the way you want it, and they remember it, too,” Wise said. “And the gyros, they’re very good here. Not too fatty, not too spicy.”

The restaurant is known for its retro, eclectic decor, some of which was acquired from left over belongings from customers. (Hunter Minné | The Phoenix)

He said at one point, the city planned to use the entire block just for the neighboring Edgewater Branch of the Chicago Public Library, which would’ve meant shutting down Patio Beef. However, the residents rallied for the restaurant and stopped the plan.

“They’re a neighborhood institution,” Wise said. “The community, everybody loves this place. You’re not getting rid of Patio Beef.”

If the funky furnishings don’t draw customers in, then the prices will — a tamale is just $1.25, a hot dog served with a generous helping of fries is $3.45 and a plain hamburger is $3.55.

Patio Beef owes some of its signature stylings to their customers, Diantzikis said. A large, carved figure of an owl perching in the corner came from a customer who bought it at a retail shop and accidentally left it in the restaurant. They also showcase a collection of international currency, with some dollar bills coming from as far away as Qatar, Egypt and Nigeria, given by regulars who return from vacation and want to share a piece of their travels with the restaurant.

Customer Mason Sang Lee said he likes having Patio Beef for dinner after studying at the library or after a long day of preaching at a nearby church.

Lee said he came to the United States from South Korea in 2004 and retired last year after working as a pastor specializing in outreach to homeless people.

Lee said his friends and family would often come for the cheap dinner and stay for the coffee.

Despite the low prices, Patio Beef offers high quality cuisine. The fries are hot enough to fight off the final frosty days of the Chicago winter. The Greek salad comes with their very own pita bread and a bit of olive oil perfect for dressing, dipping or both.

“I try to keep everything original,” Diantzikis said. “Service, the preparation of the food, we keep it original. People like it.”

One wall showcases a set of signed celebrity photographs, such as Brian Urlacher and Bob Saget, which Diantzikis said he got through email correspondence, though he said only three or four of them have actually eaten there. Plants hang overhead in the rooms, warmed by homely lamps lighting wall-to-wall windows. He said the different trinkets and tchotchkes of the restaurant happened naturally with him not wanting boring, bare walls.

Patio Beef’s decor is a welcome counter to the recent trend towards monotonous, minimalist branding, aptly called “blanding,” according to Bloomberg. Sans serif fonts and plain patterns may be popular right now, but Patio Beef has kept its loyal customer base and doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon, Diantzikis said.

“We serve them nice and respect them,” Diantzikis said about the regular customers. “It goes from there.”

Patio Beef is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

featured image courtesy of Hunter Minné

Mao Reynolds

Mao Reynolds