CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, speedy drive-thru service and a long history in the suburbs — we’re undoubtedly talking about Portillo’s.
The first Portillo’s was a hot dog stand, run by Dick Portillo in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park. It eventually expanded to a restaurant, which was also located in the west suburban neighborhood.
“He was ahead of his time in, both, what was inside the restaurant — the nostalgic elements, the visuals where you could see everything going on — and, really, had the look and integrity of the food, because you knew how that hot dog was being made or how the beef sandwich was being made,” said Portillo’s CEO Keith Kinsey.
Kinsey said he thinks that added to the sincerity and the authenticity of what Portillo was building for his brand.
Today, the American restaurant chain has over 50 restaurants, offers nation-wide shipping and recently added a delivery service. Furthermore, it’s not unusual to see a line of cars moving through the drive-thru lanes at nearly all hours of the day.
“As Dick has always said, ‘long lines are fine as long as they’re moving.’ And that’s our philosophy, and that’s what we teach our team,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey said the restaurants’ success lies in its people, its service and its food — originating with their infamous hot dog, and what he calls the “snap,” thanks to the natural casing dogs from Vienna Beef.
He sums up Portillo’s this way: “There’s restaurants and food, but there’s restaurants and legends, and this is a legend.”
Pop quiz! If you order a Portillo’s hot dog with everything, what does that get you?
Answer: Mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun.