Friday, May 14, 2010

Does Portillo's Do the Windy City Justice?

Portillo's Hot Dogs
8390 La Palma Ave
Buena Park, CA 90620

I have been to Chicago once for vacation. The city and food were great. We had deep dish pizza, went to a game at Wrigley, ate a bunch of Chicago Dogs, and of course went up into the Sears Tower. My only regret from my trip is that I never got to sample an Italian Beef sandwich. After watching a show on food network about the famous Chicago sandwiches, I did a little research and found out that Portillo's had opened a place in Buena Park, so that is where we headed.

Portillo's is owned by Dick Portillo, who still owns them to this day. They have 34 units open, and this is one of two in southern California, (the other California location is Moreno Valley). Portillo's has been around for awhile, they began in 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois. Let's see if they have brought great tasting Chicagoland food to the west coast.

Before we get to the Italian beef sandwich, my friend Carol got an order of onion rings. These were pretty good rings, and they came out really hot. Decent start to the meal.

Here is Katie's Italian Beef. She got hers without peppers, but added cheese. At Portillo's you can order your sandwich dry, with extra gravy, or dipped in gravy. The gravy is the broth that the meat cooks in. Kind of like an au jus. She got hers with extra gravy. As you can see from the picture it is still a little to dry for my liking. The bread was very good and stood up to the sandwich well. The meat had a good taste and I liked the sandwich with cheese. $5.25 for this sandwich makes this very reasonable.

This was my Italian Beef with hot peppers added. I had my sandwich dipped. Next time I will ask for it to be doubled dipped. I would have liked it to be wetter. The bread was good and crusty on this one also. The peppers were hot, but did not over-power the taste of the meat.

The last of the sandwiches was this, the Combo Beef & Char Grilled Sausage. I had this one with hot peppers and onions. Both the sausage and meat together made this the best sandwich out of the bunch. Imagine a Philly cheesesteak dipped like a French dip, with a sausage in the middle. There is nothing wrong with that combination! This sandwich was also a steal at $5.69.

Next up are the Chicago hot dogs. This is one with the works. Kind of looks like a salad on a hot dog. This one includes mustard, relish, kosher pickle, tomato, onion, and peppers on a poppy seed bun. I took the tomato off and ate the pickle by itself. The bun was excellent on this. Very soft and it held together nicely. The hot dog had a good snap to it and a great meaty flavor. I wish they would have taken the stem off of the pepper though, but it gave me the opportunity to rip it off and pour the juice over the hot dog. 

Lastly, here is the Chili Cheese Dog. I am not much on chili with beans, but this one was good. They did not skimp on the chili, and the bun, even though it was soft, it handled the chili and did not break apart. The dog had the same snap on this one also. A really good dog.

I liked Portillo's. The hot dogs did remind me of Chicago. The service at this place was also really good. We had just arrived as a school bus with about fifty kids had shown up also. They knocked all of their orders out quick, including ours. Portillo's kind of had a Knowlwoods feel to it. The place was very clean, and big, so there was no problem getting a table. The only weird part about the place, is that they do not have a self serve soda fountain. Not a big deal, but I found that odd.

So out of five Navy Piers, five being best to zero being worst, Portillo's gets three solid Navy Piers.

If you would like any additional info on Portillo's, click here:

Portillo's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon


  1. The Italian Beef Sandwich at Portillo's is fantastic. And the Chicago Dog is very good as well.

    I have to agree about the chili dog; if you have a hankering for a chili dog and you're in the area, you really should go over to Pink's at Knotts Berry Farm. It's about 3/4 of a mile away, it's outside the park, and other than the occasional difficulty in parking, the Pink's chili dog is on another level.

    But that Italian Beef: Oh My!

  2. Goodvibe, I should have thought of going to Pink's. I have been dying to try their chili dog. I will have to go soon. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Back when I was living in Chicagoland, there was a Portillo's about a mile away from my house. The Portillo's in Buena Park is just about as good as the one back there.

    With regards to toppings, to a traditionalist, the Italian beef should be soaking wet and served with sweet bell peppers. That's it.

    As far as the Chicago dog goes, it should just have tomatoes, relish, onions and mustard. Anything else on a hot dog is an abomination.

    There's a little outfit called Chicago's Best in Irvine. It's got good Italian beefs and hot dogs. And, it's closer to where I live.

    Now if I could find a decent pizza! I've been in California for over thirty years now. And, I don't mean a crummy deep dish pizza, bleah!

  4. David from MississippiAugust 25, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    I get the Combo with hot and sweet peppers with extra gravy! That is my favorite sandwich in the world. I have tried other Chicago eateries and nothing compares to Portillo's!

  5. Anonymous- Thanks for the tip about Chicago's Best, I will have to give that a try, it is closer to me also. And when you find that good pizza, drop me a line and let me know where you found it! Thanks for the comments!

    David from Miss.- It is one of my favorite sandwiches too. It is good to know that a chain can move far away from where they were made famous, and still deliever a great product. Thanks for the comment.

  6. As a Chicago native of 42 years I still go to Portillo's because they give you a great meal at a fair price. BUT it is all authentic Chicago. Never a compromise.

  7. Anonymous, I could not have said it better myself. Chicago is a food lovers paradise! Great city! Thanks for the comment.

  8. The absolute best thing at Portillo's is the chocolate cake shake. Trust me, it is awesome!!

  9. Anonymous - Thanks for the tip on the Chocolate Cake Shake, that sounds dangerously good. I am going to have to make a special trip up there for one!