Portillo’s: Another great Chicago dog

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If dog is man’s best friend, then a Portillo’s hot dog must be a Chicagoan’s best friend. The relationship started in 1963 when a hot dog stand opened in Villa Park, Illinois. Named “The Dog House,” this first stand was little more than a 6′ x 12′ trailer with no running water. Owner Dick Portillo saw marginal success, until he started buying his ingredients at wholesale cost and earned enough money to pay back his brother’s investment in the first five months. Portillo himself had invested $1,100 dollars into his new venture. Six years later he opened multiple free standing locations, changed the name to Portillo’s and soon gained local celebrity status.

Today, Portillo’s is comprised of 46 units, as well as a catering and shipping division with over 3,700 employees. The modern-day Chicago location is a far cry from a hot dog stand — in fact, its appearance would suggest it’s from a whole other era. The two-story, half city block building serves as Dick Portillo’s ode to Chicago. Inside soft jazz plays with an intentionally “tin can” sounding twang. Old fashion street lamps greet you, a 1920’s roadster suspends from the ceiling and the 1938 Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup banner from the Chicago Stadium is draped on the wall.

Although the decor is quite alluring, the food is the main attraction. The smell alone will have you singing how much is that doggie in the window? And just saying the name Portillo’s to a Chicagoan is enough to stir up cravings for a hot dog with everything, a tamale, cheese fries, or an Italian beef — or all of the above! Not to mention their famous chocolate cake or their old-fashioned malt milk shakes. And if you’re out of town and feeling a little homesick, why not have mom ship Portillo’s right to your door? Their customer service surpasses any fast food chain, because during peak hours Portillo’s employees don’t rely on the traditional drive-thru system. A handful of employees physically take customers orders, collect money, and run food out to corresponding vehicles.

With mouth watering food, flamboyant decor and exceptional service, it’s no surprise that Portillo’s has so many Silver Platter awards that the company retired from competition to allow others a chance. And that’s not even their crowning achievement, the Portillo Restaurant Group is the largest privately owned restaurant company in the Midwest! When it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs and really good fast-food, Portillo’s comes out as top dog.

About Natalie Scheid

When Mattel manufactures your idol and your nickname is Barbie life can get pretty unreal. My favorite activities include cheering on the White Sox (I’ve been converting Cubs fans since 1986), meeting new people and writing on the rooftop with the skyline as my backdrop. You might be able to find me at the opening of a new hot spot, soaking up some culture at a local museum or art show, or enjoying one of the cities fabulous festivals. So…. catch me if you can!

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