Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Portillo's is a chain of fast food restaurants in the Chicago area. It's birth in 1963 occurred in an $1100 trailer known as "The Dog House," a small hot dog stand in Villa Park. Over the many years, it has expanded into a a small chain of Chicago-style fast food restaurants. More history can be found in a video here. There are 31 locations in Illinois, clustered mostly in the Chicagoland area. We made a pit stop at the Schaumburg location during the lively Saturday lunch hour.

Each Portillo's has a different motif, Schaumburg's is the 1950s. The large retro mess hall also includes an ordering station for one of the owner's other concept restaurants, Barnelli's Pasta Bowl.

The place was humming with patrons, so I questioned their ability to promptly feed us. As soon as we stepped into line, a worker penciled our order on a a to-go bag. It was a lot of pressure to order so quickly, and I panicked a bit. If I had more time to pore over the menu, I would have noticed the enchanting Chocolate Cake Shake, but that's something to look forward to for next time.

At the counter, we gave our bag to the cashier and paid.
Then we hustled down the long assembly line of surprisingly cheerful workers to the food pick-up area.

Despite the massive wall of people waiting, we had our hot chow in about 5 minutes. Seating was not hard to find, as most of the restaurant is crammed full of booths and tables. No foot of floor was spared a table or chair.

Richie ordered the combo sandwich. A combo sandwich is comprised of a spicy Italian sausage gently swaddled in a juicy blanket of Italian beef. Customers can choose hot or sweet peppers; Richie chose HOT. I noted that he actually savored it, opting not to hoover it down as usual.

I ordered a charbroiled chicken breast on a croissant, with a side of cheese fries. Though my sandwich looks a bit bland, blame the lighting, it was actually the best I've had at any fast food or sit down restaurant. The chicken is very nicely seasoned and has a bit of kick to it, almost to the point of inducing nose running. The lettuce was crispy and the tomatoes were bright red and juicy. Portillo's is certainly no McDonald's.
The cheese fries were crinkle cut, to which I am partial. They provide crispy edges with a good filling of potato. The cheddar was served in a small container so I had full control over the amount of golden goodness I wanted to ooze off of each fry.

Richie also felt his sandwich was spiced well and very flavorful. The bread was a good chewy consistency and a nice bedrock for the moist beef and sausage.

The atmosphere was energetic and loud, but it was fun to people and food watch.
Next time I am within range of a suburb lucky enough to host a Portillo's, I will be visiting and finally sucking down that Chocolate Cake Shake I've been dreaming of.

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