Portillo’s Perfects Chicago Hot Dogs

By Connie Lay-Ngo

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Portillo's hot dog and fries

If the jazzy music and the overpowering smell of french fries from the parking lot doesn’t entice you, Portillo’s various entrees, ranging from their famous Chicago-style hotdogs to their even more famous chocolate cake, definitely will.

Portillo’s is located on Dempster nearby Lutheran General Hospital and Home Depot; a strangely quiet location. The restaurant has an old-school diner atmosphere with its bar tables, bright neon signs, and checkered table cloths. One thing I appreciated about this establishment was their friendly employees as it is rare to see workers who actually appear to be happy at work. Their menu consisted of different kinds of hotdogs, burgers, and sandwiches, along with Italian beef.

When I went, I ordered their famous Chicago-style hot dog, fries, a strawberry malt, and their chocolate cake, all for $8.77. The portions were a bit small, but their rich and savory flavors compensated for their size.

The hotdog had mustard, tomatoes and onions on a poppy seed bun. One bite made me understand why Portillo’s hotdogs were so popular. The hotdog itself was succulent and would put Hillshire Farms to shame. It was exactly what Chicago dogs are about: No ketchup, lots of onion, and a dill pickle on top. 

The crinkle cut french fries were also very good as they were lightly salted, but not greasy. My mom had ordered the Italian beef sandwich and shared some with me. The beef was extremely tender with a spicy kick from the pickled peppers on top.

The strawberry malt was thick, but smooth enough to drink with a straw. The taste of the malt was around the same ballpark as McDonald’s strawberry shakes, but the quality was much better at Portillo’s as it didn’t water down or melt as quickly as McDonald’s.

Portillo's chocolate cake

Now, onto the best part: dessert. I knew what I was getting into when I ordered Portillo’s famous chocolate cake. My mom had ordered the whole cake two years in a row for my birthday, and now I didn’t have to wait another year to dig into it’s rich, chocolatey goodness. The cake is so sinfully delectable it could make angels cry. It’s one of those desserts where you think that eating the whole thing will widen your thighs, but its taste makes you think hitting the gym afterwards will make it all worth it. This is the cake that all chocoholics, like me, dream of. The frosting is very rich and thick, while the cake is a bit lighter with a spongy texture. You can’t even come to the restaurant without ordering it as there are monitors displaying its deliciousness, calling you into its chocolatey temptation.

Portillo’s is definitely a place to check out. The service is quick, the menu is decently priced, and the chocolate cake is to die for. It is a very clean, family-oriented place with lots of places to sit and practically no crowding. This is a place I will be returning to again for sure.