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Portillo’s Hot Dogs (Fort Wayne)

December 17, 2021

  • 295 W. Coliseum Boulevard
  • Fort Wayne, IN 46805
  • (260) 704-9770
  • Website
  • Menu

Did you know there was a Portillo’s in Fort Wayne? Yeah. Me neither.

When we’re in Chicago, we can argue all we want about who has the best Italian beef. Portillos. Al’s Beef. Mr. Beef. Johnnie’s Beef. Buona. Joe Boston. Whatever.

When we’re outside of Chicago, there really is only one place to get an authentic Chicago Italian beef. That’s Portillo’s.

A co-worker and I were coming home from a job assignment in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago. It was a late assignment so we stayed the night. Unfortunately, there was something going on in Indianapolis and hotel capacity was pretty dang close if not 100% full. The closest we could find that wasn’t too far out of way was in Muncie near Ball State.

We got up around 9:30 Sunday morning to head back towards Michigan. Co-worker asked if I wanted to stop for breakfast. I said we could hit a coffee shop or something but I’d rather try to make it back to Fort Wayne and get lunch.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs in Fort Wayne is in the Glenbrook Square shopping near the corner of Coliseum Boulevard and Lima Road on the north side of Fort Wayne. It’s a stand alone building outside of the mall surrounded by other large national chain restaurants.

All Portillo’s restaurants have a theme. This location is diner themed pulling inspiration from 50’s and 60’s diners. There are vintage looking ads on the walls and the black and while tile floor gives it that throwback feeling. The decor is localized with a mural of the Fort Wayne Daisies…a team from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball league in the 1940’s and 50’s

I know exactly what I wanted so I went straight to the order counter without ever stopping to look at the menu. I picked my usual. Large Italian beef with hot peppers and baptized, a large fry and a large Coke. The cost was right around $15 then I moved to the other end of the large counter over looking the kitchen to wait for my food. It was 11:00 in the morning and the restaurant wasn’t busy at all so it only took a few minutes for my number to be called.

I grabbed a table while my co-worker was waiting for his food. He had never been to a Portillo’s and only experienced Italian beef from a place in the Grand Rapids area so he was really excited to dig in to this Chicago original.

I started with the fries so I could let my sandwich soak in it’s own juices a little longer. One of the biggest reasons I choose Al’s Beef over Portillo’s when I have the choice is the fries. Portillo’s are just…blah. They’re simple, frozen crinkle cuts. They’re fine and pretty filling but they’re not unique and not a “Chicago-style” fry (yes, that’s a thing).

The thing that makes Portillo’s beef a little different from it’s smaller competitors is the bread used in the Italian beef. The delicious French roll is a little hearty and a little denser. Even when the sandwich is “baptized” (dipped and held in the gravy until it’s totally soaked through), it doesn’t fall apart as easily as other breads do. This both good and bad. It’s an easier sandwich to eat but I really like it when there’s so much of that oregano heavy au jus that the sandwich becomes something you have to eat with a knife and fork. I always order my Italian beef with just hot peppers (hot giardiniera). The spicy pickled vegetables really make or break any Italian beef. Everyone has their own combination of veggies but Portillo’s, while not as spicy as some, have a good mix of the crunchy vegetables.

This Portillo’s location has been open since late 2019 and somehow we missed it earlier t his year when another colleague (a Chicago native that knows his hot dogs) and I traveled to Fort Wayne for an assignment.

Portillo’s is probably the best known Chicago hot dog brand. Just like with pizza, there will always be fierce fights over who has the best beefs and dogs. Chicagoans, including me, will point you to a smaller joint over the large chain, but with Portillo’s expanding, including a recently opened store in Sterling Heights near Detroit, most people will associate Portillo’s with Chicago-style sandwiches.

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