Four years back I wandered into Eataly on Ohio and couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing there. I’d been there once before, as a guest of my friends Ryan & Michelle on her birthday. They ordered oysters, salty Italian meats and wine. I recall it being a truly marvelous evening. But that was an expertly guided experience. Now, I was on my own. I wanted something quick, but this place was fancy and hard for me to navigate. I felt out of place.
That’s when I ran into a dude from high school, Teel. Teel was the last guy I’d expect to run into at a old world European marketplace. He’s a full-on sleeveless-T American. Friendliest fella you’ll ever meet while proudly rough around the edges.
“Grease!” Teel exclaimed. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“I was about to ask you the same question, Teel.”
“Dude…the prime rib sandwiches,” Teel nodded – as if I should’ve known all about ’em.
“Prime rib, eh?”
Teel was floored that I never tried one. He provided me with specific directions to the proper counter and promised I wouldn’t ever look back.
“You won’t be disappointed, Grease. Trust me,” Teel assured me. He even prodded his wife to back up his claim with a “Right, honey?”
She nodded emphatically. Sold on the Teels recommendation, I bid them addio (Italian for goodbye. I just looked that up now. I didn’t really say bye to Teel like that. That would be pretentious and plain wrong. It was probably something more like “Later, bro. Good to see you.” or “Take it easy, Teel.” To which he probably responded “Later, Grease. Hope you still have that We Got Wood shirt.” Background: Kerry Wood was such a phenom his rookie year that vendors sold shirts outside Wrigley reading ‘We Got Wood’ – I bought one of course. I wore it to a fire pit party in our friend Drew’s backyard and Teel got a huge kick out it. So much so that he still references it to this day.
As I ascended the escalator, my eyes followed Teel as he ambled out of Eataly. I pondered my options. Should I follow in Teel’s prime rib footsteps? He did seem content.
I made my final approach to the carving station and I knew my life was about to change forever. When I finally tasted the juicy prime rib on Italian bread, this strange sensation coursed through my veins.
Over the years I’ve sung the praises of the prime rib, even forcing it on co-workers who’d brought their own lunches. They all agreed it was jaw-dropping, but also nap-inducing. A second half of your day-ruiner. Doing an afternoon radio show, I couldn’t really afford to incapacitate myself in such a manner. I avoided the sandwich I loved for a long, long time.
Then we moved to NBC Tower. Once in a while I’d drive and use SpotHero to find cheap parking – including at the lot across from Eataly. One day, I succumbed to temptation and revisited the carved meat station. And, alas, they’d added to the daily menu with a carved turkey sandwich! It’s still a gut-buster with some gravy & aioli – but it’s white-meat turkey. You can shake off turkey in ways one can’t recover from beef. There’s no such thing as turkey sweats. Sure, it can make you sleepy. But a Pepsi counteracts that effect plenty. So, I’m back in the Eataly game whenever I’m down in River North and still have to accomplish tasks after noon.
I’ve recorded a video to show you the route, once you’re inside Eataly. Because there’s a false panini stand right inside the doors. Don’t be lured. The real sandwiches are on the 2nd level.
I’m going to give you the choice I never had: Whether or not to become addicted to these sandwiches. The man who turned me, Teel, directed me toward the carved meat stand. If you don’t want eternal sandwich lust, don’t watch the following video. That way, you’ll just get lost when you’re in there and end up at the pizza place.