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Everything You Need to Know About Chicago's Gym Shoe Sandwich
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Everything You Need to Know About Chicago's Gym Shoe Sandwich

Picture of Kelsey Grace Pfeifer
Updated: 5 October 2017
It’s undeniable, Chicago is a weird city when it comes to food. It’s home to a diverse amount of cultures and cuisines, and with sandwiches like the jibarito, it should be no surprise at all that there are even stranger sandwiches in the city. Sure, this midwestern hub is the king of hot dogs and deep dish pizza, but it is also the home to the utterly unique Gym Shoe Sandwich. Read on to discover the story behind it.

Italian beef in Chicago is almost as exciting to locals as those hot dogs and deep dish, so the search for an Italian beef sandwich is something that nearly all of them have experienced. Enter, the Gym Shoe.

Gym Shoe
Gym Shoe | ©Courtesy of The Ruin Daily

No one quite knows the origin of this delicacy, other than that it came from the South Side, along with most of the amazing food in Chicago. To most, it literally looks horrendous, but to those willing to brave it, the sandwich is totally worth it. It’s delectable in all the right ways, and has a Man V Food feel, eating such a large and outrageous meal.

So here’s the breakdown: the sandwich is made up of beef (either corned or roast and sometimes both!), gyro meat (a Greek lamb delicacy), onions, cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, tzatziki (yogurt and mint dip) and giardiniera (pickled veg) from a jar. The ‘from a jar’ part is very important. When all put together, it’s a hot mess of amazing flavors that will leave even the heath buffs salivating.

The sandwich can be found in numerous venues on the South Side, usually anywhere that serves sub sandwiches. However, it can often be made to order, even if you don’t see it on the menu, so be sure to ask the owner. If they can’t provide you with one themselves, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

If your travels aren’t taking you to the South Side, visit The Ruin Daily in the West Loop. There, Chef Bino Ottoman elevates the sandwich without compromising its integrity by making little changes such as using lamb shoulder instead of gyro meat.

But it doesn’t matter how you make it – a gym shoe is a gym shoe, and if you’re ever in Chicago, it is absolutely a must-try dish. But, make it a big deal – go into the restaurant famished and leave completely satisfied.