Is The Bear Based On A Real Restaurant?

By Ellie Smith

1 week ago

The Beef was inspired by a real-life Chicago joint

The hotly-anticipated third season of The Bear is on its way, which means Carmy, Sydney, Richie and the gang are back for another dose of high-octane drama. Hulu’s series has been widely lauded – not just for its stellar cast, but also for its honest depiction of life working in a restaurant, with many chefs saying it paints a painfully accurate picture of the stressful kitchen environment. But is the restaurant at the centre of the show real? And is the plot inspired by a true story?

What Was The Inspiration Behind The Bear‘s Restaurant?

Is The Beef A Real Restaurant?

The first season of The Bear sees Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) taking over a struggling beef sandwich shop in Chicago called The Original Beef in Chicagoland, simply known as The Beef. But is it real? 

The Beef is a fictional venue. However, the concept is based on a real-life restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighbourhood called Mr. Beef. Founded in 1963 by Carl Bonovolanto and Tony Ozzauto, Mr. Beef began its life as a food stand, and was later bought by Joe Zucchero, who gave it a permanent home. Although Zucchero died last year, the no-frills restaurant remains in the family, serving classic beef sandwiches just like we see in The Bear.


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A post shared by Christopher Zucchero (@mr.beefchicago)

Was The Bear Filmed At Mr. Beef?

Parts of the pilot of The Bear were shot at the Mr. Beef restaurant, but after that most of the restaurant scenes were filmed on a set. Exterior shots of Mr. Beef, however, are used throughout seasons one and two of the show.

Mr. Beef’s current owner, Chris Zucchero, has been friends with The Bear’s creator Christopher Storer since childhood. Speaking in an interview with Variety, Zucchero said Storer came to him a while back with his initial idea for a TV show. ‘Years ago, he said, “I’m gonna write about Mr. Beef. I can guarantee you that.”

‘Then one day, while I was living in Minnesota, I got a call from the restaurant and it’s Jason, my right-hand man. And he was like, “I got this notice from a location company called ‘The Bear’ and it’s some sort of pilot.”’

‘Two weeks went by and I came back to Chicago and out of nowhere I see this huge charter bus pull up. All these people come walking out looking like Hollywood suits people, and then I see Storer walking off the bus and he’s like, “Remember I told you I was gonna write about this place? Well, we’re going to do it. I got this pilot and it needs to be done here at Mr. Beef. Are you okay with that?” And I was like, “Yeah, absolutely. Knock yourself out.” I didn’t realize the gravity of it all then.’

Richie in The Bear

Is The Bear Based On A True Story?

No, The Bear is fictional. However, elements are inspired by Storer’s life, growing up in suburban Chicago alongside Zucchero. ‘He was my first friend I ever met,’ Storer said in an interview with Esquire. ‘I wrote a lot of the show hanging out with Chris in what they call the elegant dining room of Mr. Beef, which is actually just an added-on patio.’

Storer also drew inspiration from conversations with chefs – including Matty Matheson, a real-life Canadian chef who stars in the show as Neil Fak. Co-showrunner Joanna Calo told Entertainment Weekly: ‘We were very lucky in that we had access to a lot of chefs and had them come in, and specifically Matty Matheson really gave a lot of himself. The stories are insane, not only about what people are willing to put themselves through, but just the work ethic and the ways in which that ethic can both soothe and sort of help you evade any emotional processing, which kind of was perfect for our show.’

Can You Visit Mr. Beef?

Yes, the restaurant remains open today – albeit often with big queues and fans outside taking pictures. The key question is: what to order? ‘The Italian beef – hot, sweet and juicy,’ says Zucchero. ‘That’s the Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers, which is the giardiniera, sweet peppers, which is bell peppers, and dipped. That’s the way to get it.’

The address is: 666 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654, United States.


Season 3 of The Bear will arrive exclusively on Disney+ on 27 June.