The Bear might be the best show on TV. If you’re not familiar, it follows a chef named Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto who steps away from the fine dining world to run his family’s Chicago sandwich shop, the Original Beef of Chicagoland. It accurately captures the chaos of a restaurant kitchen along with the sheer beauty of every single ingredient that appears on screen. If you’re like me, you’re counting down the days until the premiere of The Bear season two (on June 22 on Hulu), because life just isn’t the same without any new Carmy content. Obviously, you should prepare for season two by watching (or rewatching) season one. Then, you should bust out this list of Sporked-approved eats—from Chicago’s favorite hot dogs to gravy for your Italian beef—that are perfect if you watch The Bear.
- Vienna Beef Franks
Vienna Beef franks are “Chicago’s Hot Dog.” Seriously, if you order a Chicago-style hot dog in any sandwich shop in the city (The Beef or otherwise), there’s a 99.9% chance you’re getting a Vienna Beef frank. Grab a pack of these (and some sport peppers, neon relish, tomato slices, dill pickle spears, celery salt, yellow mustard, and poppy seed buns) and you’re basically as Chicago as Carmy. Sporked managing editor Gwynedd Stuart, who happens to have lived in Chicago for a few years, had nothing but great things to say about these franks in her ranking of the best hot dogs you can buy: “They’re so uniquely spiced—I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what those spices are, but I’d describe them as “warm,” not to mention complementary to the delicious beef flavor.” Plus, Vienna Beef franks have incredible snap even though they don’t have a natural casing. Watch The Bear like a true Chicago native (ie while eating a Vienna Beef Frank).
Read the full ranking of the best hot dogs
- Yves Veggie Cuisine Veggie Dog
Richie would absolutely yell at you if you asked for a vegan Chicago dog, but I’m a Carmy stan when I watch The Bear, so Richie can kick rocks in this case! In Sporked’s ranking of the best vegan hot dogs, senior writer Jordan Myrick said they planned to use Yves Veggie Cuisine Veggie Dogs to make Chicago-style dogs because “these have a wonderful savory flavor and are hearty enough to stand up to a lot of toppings.” Load these up with a vegan medley of tomato slices, pickle spears, relish, and sport peppers, and get ready for The Bear season two.
Read the full ranking of the best vegan hot dogs
- Knorr Au Jus Gravy Mix
If I made a list of what to eat if you watch The Bear and didn’t include Italian beef, the comments would absolutely obliterate me, so I’m going off-script for this one. Yes, astute reader who I don’t want to yell at me, this isn’t a pick from a previous ranking, but Knorr dominated our gravy mix taste test, so I’m willing to put my reputation on the line to back their au jus mix. Mix up a packet of Knorr Au Jus Gravy and dunk your Italian beef—bread and all—like the Chicagoans do.
Read the full ranking of the best store-bought gravy
- Johnsonville Italian Sausage Sweet
Sausage and peppers are a quick and easy pairing that The Beef sold a lot of, and it’s easily replicated at home because of its simplicity. Sauté some peppers and onions, grill up an Italian sausage, pile it all onto a sandwich roll, and voila. We’re going with the best Italian sausage at the grocery store for The Bear season two, Johnsonville’s sweet variety. Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling named Johnsonville sweet the best of the best because they’re rich and fatty without being oily, and come in a great, snappy casing. These are the secret to making a sandwich so good it’ll rival anything they made on The Bear.
Read the full ranking of the best Italian sausage
- Mezetta Hot Chicago Style Giardiniera
There was a lot of focus on the cans of tomatoes in season one of The Bear, but we didn’t get any shots of what I can only assume is another room completely dedicated to housing jars of giardiniera. You gotta have giardiniera for Chicago-style sandwiches and with the insane amount that the crew is producing on The Bear, this mysterious room must be packed to the rafters with the tangy, pickled condiment. The team hasn’t ranked giardiniera (yet), but we trust Mezetta when it comes to jarred veggies. We love their olives and their capers, so grab a jar of their giardiniera and put it on everything.