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20 Reasons to Love Portillo's Restaurants

Updated on August 17, 2014

Do You Love Portillo's?

Ah, Portillo's! A juicy Vienna Beef hot dog, crispy onion rings, a cup of creamy, cool strawberry shortcake... It just doesn't get any better.

We no longer live in the Chicagoland area and we miss lunching at 'Tillo's. In fact, when we recently ran an errand to the Chicago suburbs, we planned the trip around finding the closest Portillo's and packed the cooler so we could bring back extras.

If you're lucky enough to live near a Portillo's, you know what we mean. Anyone who's been to Portillo's can tell you, there are at least 20 reasons to love Portillo's.

Photo: scanned image of our Portillo's food bag.

Have you ever been to Portillo's?

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c. bossypants

A True American Success Story

The first Portillo's, called the Dog House, operated out of a trailer parked in a Villa Park Illinois parking lot. Dick Portillo started his business with $1100 in 1963, selling hot dogs out of that trailer. Not only was there no bathroom, his water supply came through a garden hose he ran from a neighboring business.

Fast forward to the present and Mr. Portillo's hot dog empire has grown to 38 restaurants in 4 states.Portillo's also includes a successful catering branch as well as shipping their product anywhere in the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii). Click on any of the links to learn more.

Dick Portillo knows his dogs. The hot dogs at Portillo's are Vienna beef (not to be confused with Chicago red hots). A traditional Chicago Style Hot Dog has all the fixings (except ketchup), but the friendly Portillo's folks will make your dog any way you want it, on a steamed poppy seed bun. I recommend the jumbo dog, for the best dog to bun ratio.

Photo available at AllPosters

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Extended Hours

Although hours of operation may vary by location, most Portillo's restaurants open for service at 10:30 a.m. I found this immensely helpful when I worked in retail. I stopped on my way to work and grabbed a chopped salad to stash in the store refrigerator until my all too brief lunch break.

The restaurants are open until 10:00 or later most nights as well. Thoughtful of them to be there for our late night chocolate cake and strawberry shortcake cravings!

Friendly Service

Whether inside or at the drive thru, you'll always have service with a smile at Portillo's. This has not gone unnoticed and (according to their website) "Portillo's won so many Silver Platter awards (the "Oscars" of the food industry) that the company retired from competition for 5 years to give others a chance."

Weigh in on Customer Service

How important is good customer service in a fast food restaurant?

Good service is always important.

Good service is always important.

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    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Oh yeah, good service IS an important part of any business. I don't care if you're only there for 2 seconds, if you're order isn't right, and you're treated with rudeness, you'd definitely not go back!

    • Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I appreciate good customer service. I really hate when I can't understand the person talking because they either mumble or talk too fast and you can tell they really don't care.

    • Joan Haines 4 years ago

      Good service is extremely important to me. When I receive excellent service anywhere, I come back, and I tell my friends about it too.

    • Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      No matter what....good customer service is the icing on the cake.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Good service is important to have returning customers.

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Good service is essential to ANY business. If I get poor service at a fast food restaurant, I don't go back to that one, but I also let the manager know why I'm not patronizing the place.

    It's just fast food. I'm not there long enough to care.

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      • BrickExpert 4 years ago

        As long as it's not extremely bad, it's no big deal.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Italian Beef

      If you've had beef in Chicago, you know what passes for Italian Beef somewhere else just isn't the same. Heck, in some towns you can't even find a jar of giardeniera -- how can you hope to make Italian Beef?

      Portillo's beef is made the right way and is offered with sweet or hot peppers. The sandwich is served moist but you can ask for it wet, if you want. (And, if you don't know what that means, just stick with the good judgment of the Portillo's folks.)

      What's your favorite fast food entree?

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      French Fries

      Portillo's offers the best crinkle cut fries around. Perfect crispiness surrounds tender moist potato centers. You may well be ruined for other fast food fries from now on.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Efficient Drive Thru Service

      At lunchtime, the drive thru line snakes around the building and through the parking lot at most Portillo's restaurants. And, even though your food isn't prepared until you place the order, you'll still be on your way in no time.

      During busy times, extra staff comes out to take orders and accept payment before you're even in sight of the drive up window, so your food is ready for you when you pull up. Just one more example of Portillo's excellent service.


      is neither affiliated with nor compensated by

      Portillo's Restaurants.

      Just a fan!

      Counter Humor

      When you order your food inside Portillo's, you'll have a short wait while your food is prepared. But you won't be bored. As orders are ready, the servers call out the numbers for pick up with a distinctive Portillo's twist. You'll hear, "number 74, wait no more," "82, it's time for you," and other rhyming witticisms. Every part of Portillo's is fun!

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Period Decor

      Portillo's restaurants come in many flavors. Some, like the one in Downer's Grove, Illinois, feature a 1920s prohibition theme complete with mannequins in period costumes on the balcony. In Elmhurst, Illinois, the outside of the restaurant is designed to look like an enormous juke box, glowing like a beacon to commuters on Route 83. Each restaurant features decor to match a decade theme, but all have the same great food!

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Onion Rings

      Portillo's rings are the perfection of crispy outside and tender sweet onions inside. Never, ever soggy. Onion breath isn't a problem because your sweetie won't be able to resist the temptation to steal one of your rings.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Dining al Fresco

      Many Portillo's restaurants have an outdoor patio area. While Chicago weather doesn't make outdoor dining an option year round, we all know a hot dog just tastes better outside. And, most of the Portillo's patios are pet friendly, so you can enjoy a dog, with your dog!

      c. bossypantds
      c. bossypantds

      Something for Everyone

      Portillo's is nothing if not inclusive. If the usual beef, beef, and more beef isn't your dietary choice, there are other menu options as well. There are several types of chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, and a vegetable sandwich. Salads include a dinner salad, Caesar salads, an Asian salad, and more.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Chopped Salad

      Portillos' Chopped Salad is a scrumptious way to get your vegetables. Don't kid yourself, though, this salad isn't exactly diet food. With prosciutto, Gorgonzola, pasta, and (of course) Portillo's signature house dressing, the calorie count is a little higher than Weight Watcher's would recommend. Add the refreshing lemon poppy seed muffin, and we are talking one happy mouth!

      Scrupulously Clean

      Portillo's employs enough staff to keep up with the incredible crowds they serve. In the dining area, you'll always see a couple of friendly Portillo's folks ready to lend a hand busing your tray to the trash and wiping off tables as soon as a patron leaves. The bathrooms, parking lot, and outdoor dining areas are similarly spotless.

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      c. bossypants

      Strawberry Shortcake

      As you've come to expect, a Portillo's strawberry shortcake dessert is anything but ordinary. Yes, there are juicy sweet strawberries, and yes, there's a delicious tender cake. But, have you ever had strawberry shortcake topped with whipped mascarpone and cream? The result is a rich, thick creamy shortcake dessert that's unmatched. Yummmmm.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Chocolate Cake

      What's the big deal about chocolate cake, you ask? Then you've never had Portillo's Chocolate Cake. Moist and rich, it's a cross between a fudge brownie and the best cake a grandmother ever made. Once you've had it, you'll understand why people buy whole cakes to take with them.

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants

      Chocolate Cake Shake

      Yup, that's how good the cake is. The Portillo's folks will actually blend the cake into a milk shake for you. Where else can you get a cake in shake?

      If you prefer your cake on a plate, then by all means enjoy your shake in one of the traditional flavors, made fresh when you order.

      Would you try a Chocolate Cake Shake?

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      Portillo's serves adult beverages. You can enjoy a glass of beer or wine with your meal. It's a great place to linger over good conversation and there are plenty of choices when it's time for a nibble.

      Photo available at AllPosters


      Portillo's will even come to you! Portillo's offers a comprehensive catering menu which features favorites from their restaurant menu. Condiments and flatware are included and all you have to do is provide the hungry guests. Talk about a way to tempt people to your party!

      c. bossypants
      c. bossypants


      A saving grace! Portillo's will ship their beef, hot dogs, and other treats anywhere in the US (including Alaska and Hawaii). Their care packages have everything you'll need, including condiments, vegetables, whole pickles, buns, dressings and seasonings, and flatware.

      Please leave a comment! - No need to be logged into Squidoo -- all visitors are welcome!

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          Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

          I'd love to visit one!

        • SheGetsCreative profile image

          Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

          Now I'm hungry -- sadly I just did a search and there are no Portillo's within 100 miles of Seattle (not even 1,000 miles!) must start a petition I think based on your pics alone ;)

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          bossypants 3 years ago from America's Dairyland

          @Nancy Hardin: I hope they come to you, Nancy! We keep hoping they'll cross the border and come up to Wisconsin.

        • Nancy Hardin profile image

          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          If they're in Arizona now, it's inevitable, they'll be in Vegas soon! And then I can try 'em out! Oh YUM, sounds like my kind of place.

        • takkhisa profile image

          Takkhis 4 years ago

          It seems to me a good restaurant!

        • CoolFool83 profile image

          CoolFool83 4 years ago

          Looks so good!

        • VictoriaKelley profile image

          VictoriaKelley 4 years ago

          I used to live in Chicago and when I was pregnant with my son Portillo's was a craving! Thanks for the memories.

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          Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

          Yum, I could find something to eat at Portillos!

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          JoshK47 4 years ago

          This all sounds pretty tasty to me - I'd love to check this place out sometime! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

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          MaggiePowell 4 years ago

          yum... now I know where to eat in Chicago

        • Pam Irie profile image

          Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

          They'll ship food to me in Hawaii? YES! Now THAT would probably be the most expensive hot dog I ever ate, but from the descriptive text and the pictures on this page, I imagine it would be worth every morsel. :)

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          My dear, you have got my mouth watering like crazy.

          I like great fast food restaurants, and this must be all that. :)

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          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          Now I have another reason to return to Chicago...(lived there as a child)...loved the street vendors with tamales then. Meanwhile, I'll start a movement to get Portillo's to come to Vegas! YUM! Looking forward to that Strawberry Shortcake!

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          writerkath 4 years ago

          Looks like a great place to visit! We don't have this out in New Hampshire (come to think of it, up north where we live, we don't have a whole lot of restaurants to choose from to begin with! LOL!)