Lunch was difficult in Chicago. I was so conflicted, being torn between Pizzaria Uno, which we opted for (and you can read HERE) and Portillo’s, Chicago’s famous hot dog joint. How excited was I that when we arrived back in Champaign-Urbana that they opened a new location right there in town!! Deep dish Chicago style pizza and Chicago style hot dogs all in the same day? Yes please!
The first Portillo’s opened as a hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park right in the heart of Chicago. Owner and founder Dick Portillo invested $1,100 into a 6′ x 12′ trailer without a bathroom or running water. To get the water he needed, he ran a 250 foot garden hose from a nearby building into the trailer.
In 1967 they renamed to “Portillos” and moved into their first building. 1983 they opened their first drive thru, and soon became known for their drive thru speed and efficiency. Now they boast over 50 locations all across the US.
All I know is I had to get me one of those dogs. The drive thru at this location was what looked to be a mile long, and the parking lot was packed. This location has become a favorite of the “fighting Ilini” and it is always packed with college students and families alike.
It is laid out sort of cafeteria style, where you place your order, move down the line, pick out your beverage, and move down to the cashier who gives you your “number”. You then proceed to patiently wait while order after order is carefully filled and delivered. Once I finally got my order, we sat down to enjoy our dogs. Chicago dogs are different than what we are used to here in Michigan. Get a Chicago-style hot dog with everything and it will includes mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. Chicagoans call this “dragging the dog through the garden.”
The hot dog did not disappoint. It had everything a hot dog should. carefully steamed bun, crisp snap of the skin, and crunch of the pickle. Accompanying this masterpiece was krinkle cut fries, similar to Ore Ida, which I kinda have a weird love of. If you ever have gotten fries from White Castle, they are very similar.
All I can say is if you are in Chicago, visit Portillo’s. There is a location right in the heart of the city and if you opt for the tour bus like we did, it drops you off right in front. May I just say though, make sure you order everything you want the first time through. Going up later because you decided you wanted say, more fires, well that is a time consuming task. Get dog, get some fries. Get a second dog, because the lines get long. Enjoy and happy eating!