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Portillo’s (Skokie, IL)

January 28, 2023

  • 9400 Skokie Boulevard
  • Skokie, IL 60077
  • (847) 933-0700
  • Website
  • Menu

Two Italian beefs in one week?! I don’t think my week could get any better.

I was back in the Chicago area a couple of weeks ago for a synchronized skating competition. This came just one week after a work trip to Green Bay. On that trip, we took a detour to grab an Italian beef from an Al’s Beef downtown. This trip, we could have done a different Al’s, but Portillo’s always seems like a safer bet for the rest of my family.

We were up bright and early on a Saturday morning to get L on a bus for the team’s trip to Evanston, IL for Synchro Illinois. Everyone was awake by the time J got back from dropping her off so we just decided to get in the car and take our time driving to Illinois. The bus got about a 30-40 minutes head start on us but we pulled up to the Robert Crown Center as the girls were heading in to the venue.

Ice skating is weird to me and kind of a little frustrating. Don’t get me wrong. I love watching my daughter skate. I love watching how happy it makes her to skate. I don’t love that we spend an entire Saturday on the road and drop hundreds of dollars for her to skate for 2 minutes. It’d be like traveling to Chicago for a baseball game only to play one inning. I will do it every single time we need to for her (and eventually my son who’s just as enamored with the sport as she is) though because of how happy it makes her.

My parents live about an hour south of Chicago. They don’t get to see the kids skate very much. They figured since this one was in Illinois, they were going to get over their fear of Chicago driving and come watch her skate.

L skated around 12:30 and when she was done, her team had Portillo’s lunches waiting for them. There were still two other teams from our club that had to skate that day so they were going to be sticking around the rink for a while.

I took my parents up to the area where the team was eating so they could talk to L before getting on the road to go home. We hung out for another half hour or so then I asked if they wanted to grab lunch first. J wasn’t going to leave the arena because she had volunteered to go on a little side trip to the mall as a chaperone for the team so they weren’t just hanging around the rink.

The parking at the Robert Crown Community Center sucks. There’s not nearly enough parking and we had to park on the street. Luckily, we got there early enough that we found street parking right next to the center. My parents offered to just take their car and they would drop us off after lunch so we didn’t lose our parking spot.

The team eating Portillo’s made me hungry. It was about 15 minutes away but I asked my parents if that would work for them.

I chose the Portillo’s on Skokie Road near Emerson Street in the Village of Skokie in Chicago’s northern suburbs. The restaurant is part of a highly commercialized stretch of US-41 running through the village. There’s really not any good signage on the building so I was going by my GPS. The business all run right up the road in this area so there was a large parking lot serving a couple of different buildings behind the restaurant.

We were not the only ones who got the idea to go to Portillo’s from the competition. The place was pretty packed. The 30’s Prohibition themed restaurant had almost every table full when walked in. I headed straight to the order counter to get in line. I knew what I wanted and my parents were pretty well decided too.

I’ve blogged about Portillo’s a few times because they’re all over the Chicagoland area. You order at a counter then they give you a number and you pick up your order from the other end of that counter when it’s ready. My mom offered to pay for the food so I went looking for a table. The only one we could find had three tables pushed together near the pick up area. I took the table on the end furthest from the pick up. Not long after we sat down, a skating club from Wisconsin asked if they could have the rest of the table. We had no problem sharing so it kind of became a community table type situation.

I went with the sandwich I miss everyday I’m not in Chicago. I got the Famous Meal #1 which is a Big Beef, fries, and a drink. I got the beef with hot peppers and dipped. I upgraded the fries and the Coke to a large. I was hungry.

The Italian beef was wrapped up in wax paper and I let it soak as I got B situated with his meal. By the time I unwrapped it, all of that delicious gravy had soaked in to the bun. I always kind of gross my mom out because the sandwich kind of becomes a mushy mess and I am totally ok with that. While Portillo’s isn’t my favorite beef in the City, I do really like it and I am a big fan of their giardiniera mix. The veggies are jalapenos, carrots, and a few other things that have been pickled. It adds quite a bit heat to the sandwich. I always make sure to put the giardiniera that falls off back on. That’s such a regional delicacy that can’t be wasted.

The fries are..meh…at best. This is the thing that really sends Al’s Beef over Portillo’s for me. The beef’s are close enough…I still like Al’s better but it’s not that much of a difference. The fries however, are just frozen crinkle cuts. They’re fine but fries from Chicago sandwich shops are just kind of their own animal. Portillo’s misses the mark here with fries you can get from the freezer section at any grocery store in the country.

B doesn’t really like anything on the menu so I just got him an order of chicken tenders with ranch. He kept saying he wasn’t really hungry but I got him to eat two of the tenders. Like the fries, they’re not really anything special. They’re fine but they’re really kind of “chain-ish.” I ended up taking the leftover tenders back to the arena with me and ate them later.

B was being really good hanging out and watching his sister skate. He skated on a beginner level synchronized skating team this year but the club didn’t enter them in this competition. I know he was kind of bummed he didn’t get to skate but instead of being a whiny butt about it, he cheered on the other teams that competed and complained very little about having to be there. To reward him, I got a slice of chocolate cake…..or at least I thought that was a reward. I always forget chocolate is not his favorite. The cake is super moist and has a thick, sweet layer of chocolate frosting. He picked at frosting and ate most of it off the top. My mom and I gladly helped him finish this once we finished our own meals.

Our bill for lunch was right around $40. My mom got a hot dog and my dad a cheeseburger…which he complained about the whole time but who orders burgers from Portiollo’s? He and my brother had eaten at Portillo’s in Champaign, IL the night before so he wasn’t really in to having a hot dog again.

Portillo’s is pretty much a must for us anytime we’re in the Chicago area…mostly because they are every where. There’s better beef’s in Chicago and there’s better hot dogs…but the convenience factor is undeniable. The food is good. I wish we had one closer than the ones in Sterling Heights or Ft. Wayne. We don’t so I’ll just continue to go out of my way every time I’m in the Chicago area to find the best sandwich on the planet.

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