Is ‘The Bear’ Based on a Real Restaurant?

“The Bear” Season 3 is finally here, with Jeremy Allen White’s Carmy and Ayo Edebiri’s Sydney cooking up a plan to put their restaurant on the map of Chicago’s finest dining.

While “The Bear” has shown its fair share of Chicago’s food scene, is The Bear — formerly known as The Beef — based on a real restaurant? The short answer is yes.

“The Bear” creator Christopher Storer based the FX on Hulu series on Chicago Italian sandwich shop Mr. Beef, which is owned by Storer’s childhood friend, Chris Zucchero. The beloved River North spot was founded by Zucchero’s father Joe, who passed away in March 2023.

To get the full breakdown on whether Mr. Beef is still open, and if Zucchero is involved with the show, see below:

Is Mr. Beef still open?

Yes, Mr. Beef has been in business since 1979, when it first started as a stand. Despite Joe’s passing, Mr. Beef has stayed open and will continue to be.

The restaurant survived financial woes following the recession in 2009. Since “The Bear” launched in June 2022, business skyrocketed for Mr. Beef, with the shop going from selling 300 sandwiches a day to more than 800, per a Los Angeles Times report from August 2022.

Has the owner of Mr. Beef been involved in the show?

Storer consulted Zucchero about the show, though the latter thought it wouldn’t actually happen at first.

The pilot of “The Bear” was filmed in Mr. Beef’s dining room, with the back of house scenes filmed in a separate kitchen. Zucchero can even be seen in the pilot as an extra handing Carmy meat in the parking lot.

Zucchero revealed in an interview with Variety that Mr. Beef catered parties for “The Bear” Season 2, though he admitted he had not watched “The Bear” at the time, citing embarrassment for the attention centering on him.

Is “The Bear” still filmed in Mr. Beef?

By the time the show was picked up to series, a replica of Mr. Beef was created on a set in Chicago’s Cinespace. Since then, the back of house scenes have been shot on set, with outdoor and establishing shots in front of the real Mr. Beef.

Does the Mr. Beef owner have similar fine dining aspirations as Carmy?

While “The Bear” centers on Carmy’s journey to elevate The Beef into one of Chicago’s finest restaurants, his goal could not be further from Zucchero’s aspirations.

“Abso-f—ing-lutely not,” Zucchero told Variety. “Excuse my language. But I would never do that.”

“The Bear” Season 3 premieres Wednesday, June 26 at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on Hulu.

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