I said this a month ago when I reviewed the Portillo’s in Crestwood, IL (review HERE). I LOVE PORTILLO’S! The thing I miss the most about Illinois and Chicago cuisine is the Italian Beef sandwich so anytime I get a chance to get one, I make sure I do.
J and I were at her parents before continuing our trip south to my parents for the annual Homecoming celebration. We got in late and had plans to go to a 24 hour restaurant for breakfast, but we were too tired and just went to bed. When we woke up, both of us were starving. After playing Mario Kart Wii with her mom for a while, we got up and went looking for lunch. J asked what I wanted and I said I didn’t care. She knows me all too well and suggested Portillo’s. I thought we were going to the one on Cicero we always go to, but she said there was one closer to her parents place near Christ Hospital.
Unlike most chains (Portillo’s is a Chicago chain with a few locations in Indiana and California), Portillo’s is not a cookie cutter operation. All the buildings are different and they each have their own theme. The Crestwood store has a 30’s & 40’s theme. The store we went to today in Oak Lawn is a 30’s Prohibition theme. The outside looks like an old distressed building and there’s a tower you can see a mile away with the Portillo’s logo.
We opted for the drive-thru on this visit so we didn’t have to get dressed any more than we already were. I knew what I wanted. I never pass up an Italian Beef sandwich when I’m in Chicago. I passed on the fries and I already had a drink at home. That’s me trying to be a little more concisious about what I eat. I still get the beef, but pass on the fries which are just out of the bag crinkle cuts anyway, so I’m not missing much. The beef is piled on the hogaie roll and still dripping with au jus. I passed on peppers and cheese and just went with the meat, which made it a little dry, but still incredibly delicious.
J picked Portillo’s because they have a salad that she really likes. She couldn’t remember which one it was so she asked the lady through the drive thru speaker. It took a couple times repeating to get the information she wanted, but in the end, she got it. The salad she got was the Gourmet Garden salad with fresh romaine and iceburg lettuce, a variety of vegetables and cubed cheddar cheese. She got an oil and vinegar dressing to go with it. When we got home and started unpacking, her mouth started watering. I don’t know how that happens over a salad, but with her it does.
Our total was just over $9 for the salad and sandwich. I was still a little hungry afterwards, but I’m saving up for a BBQ dinner later. The drive thru took quite a while because of the people in front of us, but no worse than when I’ve gone inside at other locations. I would never tell a native Chicagoan that Portillo’s has the best beef in town because they’d shoot me, but I would tell a visitor to find a Portillo’s if they want to experience Chicago style food. You can find better shops scattered through town, but you have to know where you’re looking. There are Portillo’s everywhere and they do a really good job. I’ve always gone to them for convience and I really do love their food. Portillo’s is a Chicago institution that you have to try at least once.