I normally stay away from chain restaurants. I am a one-of-a-kind, local, Mom & Pop Restaurant kinda girl. There are some rather very good restaurant chains that I do enjoy, but I never thought I would write about them. Never say never… There are always exceptions to the rules.
My kids and I often take a summer road trip to see my family in Oshkosh, Wisconsin all the way from Fayetteville, North Carolina. This is a very long 18 to 22 hour drive depending on traffic and detours. We have one tradition that we have been carrying out for years. No matter what time of day it is, or if we have already ate; we stop in Chicago have a Chicago-Style Hot Dog. It could be 7:00am or close to midnight depending on when we left, but we ALWAYS grab that tasty, spicy, juicy, fatty, yummy Chicago Dog.
Last year we found Portillo’s for the first time and we fell in love. It was soooo good we have been craving it ever since. My son insisted we stop again on our recent trip to Wisconsin, and of course we did! I have to say that so far they have been our favorite Chicago Dog and it is well worth the detour drive to get there.
Portillo’s began in Villa Park, Illinois, as a hot dog stand in a little trailer with no running water and a garden hose from a nearby building . It has now grown into over 50 restaurants across country and added a catering and shipping business. Food is prepared fresh and in-house, with a focus on quality and consistency. Their menu has largely grown from the original hotdog menu to an extensive menu of items such as burgers, pasta, salads, sandwiches, milk shakes; and if you have room Chocolate Cake, Eclair Cake, and Strawberry Shortcake!!
We sought Protillo’s out for their prized Chicago-Style Hot Dog that is just simply called “Hot Dog” on their menu. We order it just as it comes: mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. OH BABY is this dog GOOD!! I mean killer GOOD! I would give anything to have one now. It is perfect. The hotdog is good quality meat. The bun is soft and tasty. And the toppings tie everything together like magic. If you have never had a Chicago-Style Hot Dog, I highly recommend it. When I make them at home, I add a little celery salt. But the Portillo’s Hot Dog is perfect just the way it is. My kids loved them. They go ahead and order two dogs when we visit.
The first time we went to Portillo’s we were newbies and ordered the Hot Dog, fries, and a milkshake. The fries and milkshakes where fantastic. But I was intrigued by the Italian Beef Sandwich on their menu. Therefore, this past go-round I added the Italian Beef Sandwich served on French Bread with both the hot and sweet peppers for the kids and I to “taste” and “share.” OH MY GOSH! This sandwich now ranks as one of my favorite sandwiches ever. I am talking taste buds doing fire works in your mouth good. It was messy. It was juicy. It was dripping everywhere. And it was freakin AWESOME! The kids and I just kept passing it around saying,”Oh my gosh!” I am sure to the every day locals that were watching us we were quite amusing. They must have thought we have never ate before.
The Italian Sandwich was so delicious, I went back in line to order to-go sandwiches for later. That was when I learned about their “Shipping Business.” You can order their Italian Beef, hot dogs, ribs, and tamales. They come with all the special little trims to make it the perfect meal. My to-go Italian Beef was fabulous. But I will say, it isn’t quite the same as eating it there. But it WAS good enough that I will be ordering their meals to be flown here as a special surprise to my kids. They will love it, and of course, so will I!
On the next go-round, I would like to try their Tamales and the Char-Grilled Maxwell Street Style Polish Dog. If it is as good as the other items, I will be in big trouble. As the saying goes,”If you build it they will come.” Portillo’s if you want to build it in the South, we will come! We love you Portillo’s!!!