All around Chicago you’ll find vendors slinging the city’s beloved version of a hot dog: an all-beef frankfurter with yellow mustard, relish, chopped white onions, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt, all perched on a poppy seed bun. But of all the many hot dog joints in Chicago, there’s one chain that has stood out for more than 50 years: Portillo’s.
And even though the Chicago dog is the bread and butter of Portillo’s, the other main attraction is Chicago’s beloved iconic sandwich, the Italian beef. Comprised of roast beef and spicy giardiniera on French bread, this regional favorite is best when it’s ordered “wet,” meaning fulling submerged in beef gravy. “If you’re eating an Italian beef dry, you’re not from Chicago,” says one Portillo’s follower. Whether you love Portillo’s or feel lukewarm about it, there’s definitely a strong sense of nostalgia around this Chicago institution.