If The Bear taught us anything—besides what a French brigade system is, the name of the Cubs’ first baseman, and that our new sexual fantasy involves Joel McHale telling us how worthless we are while we sweatily murmur “Yes, chef” and chop onions—it’s how an Italian beef is served. For many of us non-Chicagoans, the show was our first introduction to the sandwich and its unique nomenclature: you can get it dry, wet or, the aficionado’s choice, dipped into its own braising liquid.
That third option might seem counterintuitive. After all, didn’t the Earl of Sandwich himself intend his invention to be the ultimate handheld, portable meal, a purpose it’s unable to fulfill if the bread is drenched to the point of disintegration? Yet whether covered in gravy or salsa, eaten in Chicago or across the pond, there’s no denying the perverse pleasures of a soggy sandwich. Grab a handful of napkins and take a dip into this exhaustive guide.