Chicagoans are passionate about three things----Chicago style deep dish pizza, the Cubs and Chicago style hot dogs. Here in Orange County, it is possible to find a passable Chicago pizza at places like Tony's in Placentia. Orange County, however, is lucky enough to have one of the outposts of Portillo's, the famous Chicago local hot dog chain, here in Buena Park. Outside of one other location just east of Orange County in Moreno Valley and a new location in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Portillo family has concentrated since 1963 in Chicago and the surrounding areas. Before they opened in Buena Park, many expatriate Chicagoans would land at the Chicago O'Hare Airport, take a taxi or drive to Portillo's, eat and then head to their destination. These days, not only do native Chicagoans flock to Portillo's in Buena Park, but also many Orange County locals, drawn by the delicious food and lively atmosphere. The style of Portillo's, recreating a 1930's Prohibition era restaurant, gives an authentic taste of Chicago.
The centerpiece of Portillo's is of course the hot dog. These come in three styles, regular, jumbo and Polish. It is a flavorful dog, with a decent amount of “snap” to it. The hot dog is made to Portillo's own specific recipe and honors the original dog made in Chicago. Toppings available include chili, cheese, mustard and onions. The dog is also available as a true Chicago dog with neon relish, onions, celery salt, mustard, onions, tomatoes, pickle spear and sport peppers. This is the authentic Chicago dog and has tons of flavors. The sport peppers and neon relish are exactly what identifies it as a true Chicago style dog, the relish providing some sweetness and the sport peppers providing a definite kick. The Polish dog is done as the Maxwell Street Polish dog, grilled and topped with mustard and grilled onions. Portillo's uses their own poppy seed buns which add a burst of flavor and crunch from the poppy seeds.
Another item that Chicago and Portillo's is famous for is their Italian beef sandwich. Portillo's Italian beef sandwich is made the traditional way, with thinly sliced beef piled high on an Italian roll. The roll comes dipped in the gravy that the meat was cooked in, upping the beefy flavor for the sandwich. It is almost a necessity to get the sandwich with their home cooked peppers. These are available either as sweet or hot peppers and really complement the flavor of the beef. For an extra treat, get half sweet and half hot peppers on the sandwich. The beef is tender, slow cooked and then dipped in the gravy. The Italian beef sandwich literally melts in your mouth. The sandwich can be ordered in either a regular or a “Big Beef” size for hearty appetites.
Portillo's also serves the Italian sausage sandwich, another Italian specialty. The sausage is char-grilled and served on a fresh bun. As with the hot dogs, the sausage literally bursts with a snap when bitten, releasing delicious juices filled with Italian flavors. The sausage is also made specifically for Portillo's. An interesting combo on the menu combines the Italian beef and the Italian sausage on one bun. This is a filling, delicious combination.
Also available at Portillo's are chicken sandwiches, grilled fish sandwiches, grilled vegetable sandwiches and hamburgers. A bowl of chili with cheese and onions is available, with or without a tamale. In addition, for the lighter side, there are a dozen different types of salads available. These include their signature “Garbage Salad”, a salad topped with antipasto ingredients such as salami, roasted red peppers, parmesan, provolone cheeses and then filled out with fresh vegetables. Chicken and Caesar salads also make appearances on the menus.
The sides are simple, with crinkle-cut French fries, available either plain or with chili and/or cheese, onion rings, soups and chicken tenders. The fries are cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside and meltingly warm in the inside. Drinks include the standard sodas, coffee, iced tea and lemonade. A nice selection of smoothies such as a mango smoothie is available. To complete the meal, a variety of shakes, including a chocolate cake and a eclair shake are available. Malts are also on the menu. For those who desire it, they have beer available in ice-cold schooners.
Portillo's makes the perfect stop for lunch when you are in Buena Park or dinner after a busy day at Knott's Berry Farm. The food and the ambiance will make you think you are in Chicago. Portillo's has stayed true to their Chicago roots, as can be heard from many Chicago transplants who eat there regularly. To them, it is a taste of home.
Portillo's - Buena Park
8390 La Palma Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Portillo's - Moreno Valley
12840 Day St
Moreno Valley, CA 92553