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Portillo’s Hot Dogs (Oak Lawn)

May 20, 2018

  • 4020 95th Street
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60453
  • (708) 425-1600
  • Website
  • Menu

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a while.  Every year I get together with my dad, my brother, and my best friend from grade school to go to a White Sox game.  Work has been tedious lately and I’ve been counting down the days until we could get away from Kalamazoo for a little weekend getaway.

Well…that weekend getaway is turning into an extended weekend due to some family business we have to attend to that popped up at the last minute.   I was still able to do do my baseball game on Saturday night but now we’d be in town for almost six days instead of the planned three….that means you’re going to see some more blog posts from the Chicago area over the next few days.

We did our favorite pizza joint for dinner on Friday when we got to town.  On Saturday, before heading to the game, I got to grab another one of my favorite Chicago foods…and Italian beef.

We chose to pick up lunch from Portillo’s on 95th Street just west of Pulaski Road in Oak Lawn.  We go to this Portillo’s quite a bit but I haven’t blogged about it since 2008.

I have a love/hate relationship with Portillo’s.  They are the quintessential Chicago food joint.  They do beef.  They do dogs. They do ribs.  Portillo’s is the Chicago hot dog place everyone knows.  It’s the place tourists flock to when they get to town and it’s the place locals go to because they know they’re going to get a delicious meal every time.

The hate part of the relationship comes from me feeling like I’m cheating on my favorite Italian beef.  Like any regional foods, there’s an intense, passionate debate over who does it best.  I don’t think Portillo’s beef is the best…it’s not even in my top three…but Italian beef is so damn good if done right it doesn’t even matter to me.  I get beef’s so rarely I’m excited when J says, “let’s do Portillo’s” for lunch.

I got on the Portillo’s website to see if they had online ordering.  I’ve always just gone there in the past with a piece of paper with everyone’s orders.  It’s kind of a pain and online ordering would make it so much simpler.  Turns out, they do have online ordering now and even offer delivery.

I put in everyone’s orders and paid online.  The computer told me it would take about 13 minutes for the order to be prepared.  I was about ten minutes away so I just left right away to go pick up the food.

It doesn’t matter which Portillo’s you go to and what time of day it is, the place is always packed.  It’s hard to find parking at this one because the parking lot is sort of tucked in next to the building which is part of a larger shopping complex with a Target and a Home Depot.  Somehow, I got the last spot in the parking lot so I could go in and pick up my order.

The other cool thing about Portillo’s is the way they do drive through.  Instead of queing all the cars in a long line to yell into a speaker box, they have employees out in the dual drive through lanes taking your order then using headsets to call it in.  You pay the employee in the lot who has both a card reader and one of the old timey coin belts to hold change.  They stick an order number under your wipers and you proceed around the building.  When you get near the pick up window, another employee takes the number then goes to the window for you to pick up the order.  It’s such an efficient system for a drive through that is usually packed.

Each Portillo’s location has a theme.  This store in Oak Lawn’s is 30’s Era Prohibition.  There are black and white pictures from the era hanging from the ceiling and artifacts and trinkets from the 30’s are used to decorate.  All of the stores use the same black and white or red and white checkered table cloths and a large, open industrial feeling space in the dining room to contain the theme.

Internet orders have their own pick up window away from the in-store pick up which usually has a crowd around it waiting for their food.  I saw the sign across from the main entry door as I walked in.  There was no one else waiting so I walked up and gave the clerk my name.  She put together two bags of food that was waiting for me and I was on my way.  In less than five minutes I was in and out with a bag of delicious food.

There is little doubt what I’m going to order when I go to a Portillo’s, but this time I did something a little different.  I ordered a Combo Beef and Char-Grilled Italian Sausage sandwich.  I still get my insanely delicious beef but tucked underneath the layers of tender, oregano-spiced beef, and spicy giardiniera is a grilled spicy Italian sausage.  All of this food is held together by a crusty Italian roll which I asked to be dipped in the Italian beef gravy which made it a delicious soggy mess of a sandwich.  There seriously is no better sandwich in the world than an Italian beef.  There are so many flavors in this Combo that should compete with each other but instead work in harmony to embody everything that is great about Chicago food.

I got a large order of fries to go with my sandwich and this is really where Portillo’s disappoints me.  The fries are simple, frozen crinkle cut fries.  Nothing at all special about them.  They’re fine and they taste ok, but for all the love and care they put into the beef, it be cool if they did the same for the fries.

We got the kids a six piece chicken tenders.  Like the fries, there isn’t much special about these, but they are tasty.  The kids split the order of tenders which came with sides of ranch and BBQ sauce.  Again, the tenders are fine but they’re just frozen tenders dumped out of a bag into the deep fryer.

One of the things J likes about this particular Portillo’s is the salads they offer.  If you actually order in-house, you can see a separate counter where the salads are made fresh right in front of you.  She ordered the chopped salad which comes with ditalini pasta, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, gorgonzola, green onion, and red cabbage on a bed of iceberg and romaine lettuce.  The salad comes with a house dressing and a slice of bread.  J really likes the salads from Portillo’s which isn’t really place I would ever think of for a salad.  While I go overboard with the meat, she’s being a little more responsible with the salad and enjoying every bite.

J’s mom also got an Italian beef with hot peppers on it but she does hers a little drier than I do.  I love having the bread dipped and creating a huge mess when I eat it.  There’s so much flavor in that gravy, but not everyone likes it that way.

The bill for lunch was a little over $30 and the online ordering made it so easy to get everyone’s order right.

I have always been a big fan of Portillo’s and eat there almost every time I come home.  There are better Italian beef places in the city, but none of them have the presence that Portillo’s does.  I grew up about an hour south of the city and to this day, Portillo’s is still the place that my friends and family crave when they go in to the city for something.  I always tell them I can find them something new, different, and maybe even better but no one cares.   Portillo’s is synonymous with great Chicago-style food for a reason.  They’ve built an empire centered around these unique to the region foods and have consistently served up mouth watering meals for over 50 years.

Portillo's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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