- Food and Cooking
20 Reasons to Love Portillo's Restaurants
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?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.