Initial Visit: August 22nd, 2016
Description: An icon of Illinois indulgence.
It wasn’t until a few years after I started traveling that Portillo’s was mentioned to me. My friend Chad is the one who brought it to my attention and once he started talking about it, he would not stop. He told me every time he stopped there with his family and made it out to be the best thing he’s ever had. That’s some hype that I was going to put to the test as some point.
My girlfriend and I were up in Chicago for a Luke Bryan concert, I think, and stayed overnight. During the drive home, I mentioned Portillo’s and she was on board. All I had to do was tell her about these cake shakes they are known for. Since Portillo’s is centrally located around Chicago, we made plans to hit up on that was just outside the city to avoid traffic and large crowds. We found one in Arlington Heights that was perfect for our requirements.
We were able to find it easily with the help of our GPS. We both got giddy to try out this legendarily-hyped place. As we entered, it was an assault on the visual senses. It seemed that every inch of the walls were holding some kind of poster, case, pictures, etc. On top of that, there was stuff hanging from the ceilings. It was a lot to take in but it didn’t stop there. After visually decoding where we order, we stood in the area while letting others pass so we could see how you properly order since it seemed a bit different than your normal place. You tell the cashier exactly what you want and then walk down this line doing… something that I don’t recall. Maybe telling the cook how you want your meal prepared. I believe everything is plain until you customize it. They write on your bag what you want and how you want your food prepared from what I remember. Then you wait at the end of the counter for your food to come out. Maybe they bring it to your table but my girlfriend snagged a spot to sit while I waited for the food.
I hauled our bit tray of food to the table and we both had a look of ‘where do we begin’ on our faces. The sheer volume of food that we had was overwhelming. We may have bit off more than we could chew when we ordered. We slowly dug in to our food. I know I got a chili dog of sorts, some fries, a soda and possibly a burger. My girlfriend got a cake shake along with what she ordered so we could both try that out.
We set about trying to put the food down but in the end, the food won. We couldn’t finish it. Which is a blessing in disguise as we still had 2 hours to drive. No one wants to drive 2 hours on an overstuffed stomach.
Did it live up to the hype? For the most part. The cake shake was better than I could’ve imagined while the food itself was great. Worth the praise but maybe not worth driving 2 hours to get. So, yeah, Chad hyped the place up and it pretty much matched the hype. The only thing I didn’t care for was the ordering process and the waiting. It seemed to take forever to get our food despite there not being many people before or after us in line.
If you want to see something even more unique about Portillo’s. Watch their drive-thru line. They have a person outside before you pull up to the menus to order. What’s the purpose of this? I have no idea but it’s fun to watch for some reason. I’ve seen it quite a few times at the newly-opened Peoria location and it’s always amusing to watch for some reason.
806 W Dundee Rd
Arlington Heights, IL 60004