Portillo’s has been serving Hot Dogs and associated street foods to the good people of Chicago for over 50 years. Established by Dick Portillo in 1963, it now has around 42 other sites across the states. The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” opened in 1963 on North Avenue. By 1966, “The Dog House” was a success, it was remodelled, and renamed “Portillo’s”, a name that continues to this day.
As this is a Chicago institution I felt that it would be a little rude if I did not seek out one of those 42 resturants to pay my respects to the history and tradition, and oh yes I really really wanted a hot dog! But hold on a minute 42? Is that not the answer to ‘life, the universe, and everything’ from the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Admas?
OMG my fate may well be in the hands or buns of a Hot Dog. So that may well be the answer, but what is the question?
Well on this occasion it would be; “Can I have a hot dog please?”
I had one of my personal favourites from the Chicago Hot Dog genera, a Maxwell Street Polish. This particular one was excellent, a perfect mix of simple ingredients, firstly the topping of grilled onions, wide, chunky, and crunchy with a super sweet and savoury tang. There was a really nice char bite to the dog itself, in fact on the first bite I could have sworn that the sausage was wrapped in a thin crunchy layer of bacon. It wasn’t but that was just how good a bite and flavour the dog was. The Mustard to Onion ratio was just right and the poppy seed bun was firm and solid and a great bed for the polish dog to rest within.
All in all this is worth seeking out at anyone of the Portillo’s joints. I went to the one near to River North at 100 W Ontario St, leaving the red line at the Grand station and walking East away from the lake. But I would be certain that any of the others would be equally decent.
Check out their other locations here: http://www.portillos.com/
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Why does everyone tout Portillo’s as a Chicago institution, given that even now, there are still only two Chicago locations, the first of which didn’t open until 1994, 31 years after the Dog Stand was launched and 27 years after the first store began doing business under the Portillo’s name? It may be known for “Chicago-style” hot dogs and Italian beef, but the chain was established, and made its name, via suburban operations.