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The Al's Beef combo - sausage and beef sandwich - will soon be clogging arteries and warming hearts on the West Coast. | Sun-Times file

It's about time the outside world finally realized what makes Chicago great and steals the secret ingredient - the beef sandwich.

Al's Beef, a Chicago institution for 75 years, is heading west - to San Jose, specifically. The San Jose Mercury News reports that a horde of Midwesterners has been clamoring for hot beef sandwiches for a while and Al's is finally succumbing to pressure:

The first California location will open in meat-loving San Jose on Monday, April 15, with plans for a major Southern California expansion next.

The secret recipe for what's often called one of the nation's top sandwiches was concocted in 1938 by Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli Sr. The shops stayed in the family until 1999, when longtime customer Dave Howey (not to worry; he's half-Italian) bought Al's to preserve this regional specialty.

"When you eat it here, it's going to be just like eating in Chicago," owner Dave Howey says. "The bread is crucial, or the sandwich will dissolve."

The rest of Al's roasted and encased meat specialties will be making the trip as well. So much for that California healthy cuisine thing. But Chicago gets Lagunitas Beer, so it's at least a fair trade. Though, really, you can't have one without the other.

wings_jan29.jpegBy Sun-Times business editor Polly Smith

Super Bowl foodies survived last year's purported bacon shortage. Now comes word there is a new shortage of food that sports fans hold near and dear: chicken wings. This news comes straight from the National Chicken Council in Washington, D.C. who said, via a press release:

"Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices," [council economist Bill] Roenigk said. "Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer's drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol. Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced."

The Council also estimates 1.23 billion (yes, billion) chicken wings will be consumed over Super Bowl weekend with the decrease in chicken wings consumed standing at about 12.3 million fewer than last year (meaning Americans will also consume an estimated 1,156,200,000 fewer calories so at least there's a bright side). As the council points out, with fewer chickens, there are fewer wings but each chicken - of course - only has two wings. Supply can only be further hurt by McDonald's Inc.'s decision to add chicken wings to the menu at 500 Chicago area restaurants to test the market. The council makes no estimate on McD's influence.

Rubbing salt (or blue cheese) in the wound? The price of wings already is up 14 percent from a year ago.

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