As “first time visitors” to Chicago (I would count a 2o-year hiatus as equivalent to having never visited), we felt the need to try some well-known and famous Chicago classics.
Chicago's known for many things, such as its deep dish pizza (or stuffed deep pizza!) and the Chicago Dog. One of the most famous places to get the Chicago-style hot dog is at Portillo's, a 50+ year old business that started out as a single hot dog stand shaped like a dog house (it was called "The Dog House") back in 1963.
The restaurant has now grown to almost 50 locations, mostly in Illinois but a couple around the rest of the U.S.
Lines can get long, so try to show up early if you don't feel like waiting too long in line. We showed up around 11AM and the line was pretty manageable at that time.
The space inside is colorful, themed, and super fun. You feel like you are outside even though you are inside. The neon lights, checkered tablecloth, and antiques definitely make the place feel like it's from another era.
The classic Chicago hotdog ($2.99) has a beef Vienna hot dog inside a poppyseed bun filled with green relish, yellow mustard, fresh tomatoes, raw onions, a Kosher pickle, pickled hot peppers, and celery salt.
The Char-grilled Maxwell Street Style Polish hot dog ($4.29) is grilled in the traditional way it was done on historic Maxwell Street and prepared with mustard and grilled onions.
The Chili Cheese Dog ($3.49), which comes with onions, is gloriously messy to eat.
Italian Beef Sandwich ($5.75), self proclaimed as "Chicago's #1 Italian Beef Sandwich", is served on baked French bread and made according to Portillo's own "famous recipe."
If you're really trying to be healthy, you can order a variety of salads, including the Gourmet Garden Salad ($5.09), which is fine, fresh, and healthy, but nothing particularly special.
In general, Portillo's is a fun place to visit. Yes, a bit touristy for sure, but full of character. I had fun walking around and just looking at all the crazy scenes on the walls. I enjoyed the hot dogs as well as the Italian beef sandwich. All in all, food is great and we had a fun and enjoyable lunch. Prices are reasonable and the line moves quickly.
It's no wonder this place is as popular as it is.
Portillo's Hot Dog Chicago
* Multiple Locations *